Psyllium is the husk of the seeds of the Indian Desert wheat (Plantago ovata) plant. Native to the continental India, this plant family has 200+ members including many different varieties of plantains.
For centuries psyllium has been a staple in Indian Ayurvedic medicine used as a herbal remedy.
Psyllium is grown also grown in the US southwestern states, specifically for the husk of its seed.
Benefits and Uses of Psyllium
Since mid 1930s, the psyllium husk has been used to treat constipation, as a laxative (Metamucil).
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Fiber is indigestible complex carbohydrate. There are two subclasses of fibers based on their water-holding capacity:
Soluble fiber (also called mucilage) can absorb and hold water.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb or hold water.
Psyllium seed husk is high in dietary soluble fiber!
While it is generally accepted that "fiber is good for you," the associated health benefits result only from the viscosity of the soluble fibers when they are hydrated (gel-forming). As the soluble fiber found in psyllium passes through the GI tract, it swells, it turns into a thick gel and traps some nutrients and body fluids, which are then transported out of the body trapped in this soluble fiber-formed thick gel, and without being digested. When soluble fiber is consumed as part of a complex meal containing glucose, some glucose gets entwined trapped in the soluble fiber-formed thick gel, and is excreted without affect on the body. Some portion of the glucose escapes and is absorbed into the blood stream, but at a much slower rate than it would be absorbed if no soluble fiber was present.
is an antimicrobial agent,
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is used as skin treatment for poison ivy, mosquito bites, and boils, and
Pysllium Husk for Blood Glucose, A1c and Insulin Sensitivity
When taken regularly, psyllium husk may be an effective, natural option for improving blood glucose levels.
In an 8 weeks 2005 study, researchers gave diabetic patients, 5.1 g psyllium husks 20-30 minutes before the morning meal, and determined that the fasting glucose levels of the patients were reduced by 52.6 mg/dl (2.9 mmol/l) besides achieving an average 1.6% reduction in A1c levels – pretty impressive results!
A 1999 study found similar results when diabetic men were given 5.1 g of psyllium twice per day for a total of 8 weeks, they experienced improvements in all-day and lunch postprandial (post-meal) blood glucose levels, 11.0% lower compared to the placebo group.
In children and adolescents with altered carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, psyllium husk supplementation reduced their postprandial glucose levels between 12.2% to 20.2%.
In a 2017 study, researchers gave type 2 diabetes patients 7 g of psyllium powder along with a moderate carbohydrate diet, and observed that the patients experienced significantly increased insulin sensitivity after the study.
In another 2016 study, type 2 diabetic patients were given 7 g psyllium 15 minutes before lunch and 3.5 g 15 minutes before dinner, and researchers found that fasting blood sugar reduced by 43.6 mg/dl (2.4 mmol/l) and A1c reduced by 0.6%.
To summarize, psyllium is a powerful tool for improving glucose and cholesterol. It may also help with weight management and appetite control since it is high in fiber. Fiber helps to make you feel fuller sooner and longer resulting in fewer foods consumed.
Using Psyllium in Ketogenic Cooking
Psyllium husk is a favorite keto ingredient for baking bread, muffins, cakes, pancakes, etc.. Psyllium husk works its magic inside and makes light air pockets like in traditional sourdough.
Not only does psyllium add blood sugar and cholesterol-lowering benefits, it also helps reduce carb content of your baked goods significantly.
Psyllium husk is also the crucial ingredient in gluten free baking. It acts as the perfect binder (great substitute for gluten; gel-forming when hydrated), and it gives gluten free bread dough the ideal elasticity, flexibility and extensibility so you can actually knead and shape the keto dough with ease. It is also a thickening and bulking agent.
The whole psyllium husks are great and when baking, or you can use the psyllium powder to achieve a smoother texture.
Here is a simple, yet great recipe for a delicious keto "Psyllium Husk Bread":