Psyllium Husk 101
What Is Psyllium?
How Does Psyllium Work In Your Gut?
Benefits Of Psyllium
Is Psyllium Husk For Constipation Or Diarrhea?
Outside of the world of IBS, psyllium is most widely used for aiding in constipation relief. However, psyllium is said to have a “stool normalizing” effect, meaning it softens hard stools in constipation but also firms up loose stools in diarrhea.3
Its primary mechanism for softening stool and acting as a laxative is its gel-forming and water-holding capacity. This increase in the stool’s water content can ease stool evacuation in constipation.1
And while psyllium has been shown to help with firming stool in diarrhea, studies are sparse, and results are mixed.4567
Does Psyllium Husk Work For IBS?
It’s pretty much universally agreed upon that psyllium can be used as an effective treatment for IBS.
- For instance, the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG) recommends psyllium for treating IBS8.
- While other organizations, like the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) or the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), recommend ‘soluble fiber’ for treating IBS – when you dig deeper, the studies referenced are actually based on psyllium.9
- These organizations came to this conclusion based off the evidence, as psyllium is one of the most studied fiber supplements in IBS.
- Most recently, 2 meta-analyses concluded that psyllium has a positive effect on IBS symptoms and can be helpful with treating IBS symptoms1011. If ‘postive effect’ sounds a little vague, it’s because it is.
While psyllium is one of the most researched fiber supplements in IBS, it’s still difficult to make specific recommendations for who should take it, how it may help, or how much you should take. This is because the individual studies have used different methods for measuring symptom improvement, different inclusion criteria, and different dosages, in addition to not studying psyllium’s effect on specific subtypes of IBS.
Even with all that, we can still pretty confidently say that psyllium will improve IBS symptoms in one way or another. And for those of you interested in the specifics, individual studies have shown that psyllium effectively improves things like global IBS symptoms, bowel habits, and constipation.121314
Is Psyllium Husk Recommended For IBS-C?
Although psyllium hasn’t been studied specifically in IBS-C, giving psyllium a try may be a good place to start if you are suffering from constipation 10due to the efficacy seen in non-IBS patients and the evidence that psyllium can improve ‘global IBS symptoms.’
Interestingly a 2009 study did a subgroup analysis of their study subjects who predominantly suffered from constipation and said that 10 g of psyllium had a positive effect, but did not state if it reached statistical significance.18
How To Use Psyllium For IBS
When it comes to dosing psyllium, study amounts have varied from 4g 12to 30 g/day15. Most psyllium supplements offer around 5g of fiber per serving. Our suggestion is always to go slow and drink plenty of water whenever increasing fiber in your diet to decrease the chance of any unwanted GI symptoms. The BSG suggests increasing fiber by 3-4g/day and increase gradually from there16. Of course, whenever starting a new supplement, always talk to your doctor first.
Ultimately, there is very little risk in trying psyllium when used as directed, as study subjects reported few adverse events throughout the various studies. 17So while psyllium may or may not help relieve your IBS symptoms (regardless of subtype), trying it offers a generally safe and easy way to add a low FODMAP fiber source to your diet.