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The “Skinny” Fiber That’s Helping Women Heal Their Guts and Lose Weight

“We have been led astray from the real type of fiber we need for weight loss," says Steven Gundry, MD

Women of a certain age likely remember their moms taking Metamucil (with its main ingredient psyllium husk) to stay “regular.” Health experts are now realizing our elders were on to something by supplementing with psyllium. And they aren’t alone. Social media influencers are driving the renewed popularity of this ingredient for its role in improving digestion and speeding weight loss. But is psyllium right for your diet? Read on to learn how a psyllium husk weight loss could be in your future, and how it helped one woman shed 208 pounds.

Understanding psyllium husk

bowl of psyllium husk; psyllium husk weight loss
olgakr/Getty Images

Psyllium husk comes from the seeds of a plant that grows natively in India and is known around the world for being rich in dietary fiber. Unlike insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, psyllium’s soluble form is a powerful but often overlooked type of fiber.

“Advertisements target women into thinking ‘fiber is fiber,’ which is clearly not the case,” contends Steven R. Gundry, MD, author of Gut Check. He sees many patients have sensitivity to gluten-laden insoluble grains. And he believes soluble fiber is a better route. “We have purposely been led astray from the real type of fiber we need for weight loss: soluble fiber,” he says. The good news: Psyllium husk is the perfect way to get enough of this weight-loss-promoting nutrient.

What psyllium’s soluble fiber does for the body

Unlike insoluble fiber, only soluble fiber feeds “good” bacteria that live in the gut. This helps protect against a type of gut damage commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Without the right microbial diversity, our gut can become overgrown by “bad” bugs that feed off sugar, leading to cravings and weight gain.

Psyllium husk’s superstar health accolades

Researchers have identified psyllium husk as the only fiber supplement on the planet known to treat five major health concerns: It lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar, restores digestive regularity, triggers weight loss and reduces blood pressure.

Related: Is Your GI Upset IBS or IBD? Doctors Reveal How to Tell — And Which One Can Be Serious

The psyllium husk weight loss connection

Think of psyllium as the Swiss Army knife of diet foods because it works like a multi-purpose tool to whittle away unwanted pounds. Just look at the many ways it can fix our weight issues…

1. Psyllium husk reduces appetite

This soluble fiber turns to gel in liquid to fill the stomach, creating the sensation of fullness. It also helps our healthiest gut bugs produce compounds like butyrate, which speeds fat burn and tames carb cravings. Dr. Gundry explains, “Feeding gut bacteria, or ‘gut buddies,’ soluble fiber makes them send messages to the brain that their needs are met, so you don’t need to look for any more food.”

Emi Hosoda, MD, agrees. She recommends that her patients take a psyllium capsule before meals. “That really helps with leptin levels,” she says, referring to the appetite-suppressing hormone that is secreted from fat tissue.

2. Psyllium husk has virtually zero calories

Michael Greger, MD, author of How Not To Diet, points out that soluble fiber stays undigested until it is excreted from the system. So psyllium calories are essentially zero calories. The ingredient also slows digestion, allowing the body to better absorb nutrients, improving blood-sugar control.

3. Psyllium husk slashes inches and pounds

Research at Kings College London finds consuming 2 Tbs. of soluble fiber like psyllium husk daily can reduce trapped gas, helping women lose inches in three days. How? Unlike grains, psyllium is a nonfermentable fiber, so it ensures that no gas builds up during digestion. Plus, in a study published in the journal Nutrition Today, dieters who consumed just under 2 tsp. of psyllium per day lost 1,550% more weight over six months than those in the control group.

4. Psyllium husk detoxes the body

As this fiber gels, it acts like a sponge, soaking up toxins and transporting them out of your system. “Psyllium can reduce excess estrogens by flushing them from the body,” says nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of more than 35 books, inlcuding Radical Metabolism.  She adds, “Since women over 50 can be estrogen dominant [a condition that can trigger bloat, fatigue and weight gain], fiber that flushes out excess estrogens is a big bonus.”

Another waste compound psyllium removes from the body is bile acids, which play a role in fat breakdown. This signals the liver to make more fresh bile, which it does by pulling cholesterol out of the bloodstream. The result: “Bad” LDL cholesterol drops by up to 24%.

5. Psyllium husk can reduce the need for medication

Another benefit to lowering cholesterol is the need for less medication. In one study, consuming psyllium spurred cholesterol reductions equivalent to doubling a prescription statin dose — without the side effects. And an economic impact study found that if patients living with high cholesterol ate around 2 Tbs. of psyllium daily, the savings in healthcare costs could tally $870 million. That’s like a Powerball jackpot!

Who is using psyllium husk for weight loss?

Psyllium fiber has been used in Asian diets for 5,000 years and in American diets for decades to help with digestion. But now it is becoming increasingly popular as a weight loss tool. Low-carb dieters use psyllium as a recipe binder in place of breadcrumbs. Gluten-free eaters use it as an affordable alternative to almond flour. (The instant oatmeal­-like ingredient can cost just 9 cents per teaspoon.) Even people who are turned off by pricey prescription drugs like Ozempic are giving psyllium another look. (Related: Click to learn if Ozempic is right for you.)

How much psyllium husk do we need?

The recommended daily allowance for total fiber is 25 grams for women. But there’s no set guidelines for what form — soluble or insoluble — that fiber should take. Some experts suggest that about 25% of your daily total should come from soluble sources like psyllium, oats or dried beans. Dr. Gundry, however, is even more passionate about the subject and recommends, “Almost all the fiber you eat should be soluble!” (Click to learn more about how much fiber you need for weight loss.)

Ready for your own psyllium husk weight loss success?

Metamucil products contain psyllium fiber, and you can get the perks by mixing ground psyllium powder into water or recipes or by taking psyllium capsules.

Here are 3 easy, tasty ways to get more psyllium fiber into your diet…

  • Stir 1 Tsp. psyllium husk into a bowl of oatmeal or soup
  • Mix 1 Tbs. whole psyllium husk into a batch of meatballs or meatloaf
  • Press 2 Tsp. psyllium husk powder into homemade pizza dough

Mix up ‘Healthy Coke’ using psyllium

Bebe Istrate / 500px/Getty Images

We know psyllium husk feeds good gut bugs. But adding psyllium to another gut-supporting food like fermented balsamic vinegar significantly increases our population of slimming gut bugs, finds a Stanford School of Medicine study.

Try Dr. Gundry’s recipe for ‘Healthy Coke’: Combine 1 Tbs. of psyllium husk, 8 to 12 oz. of water and 1 to 2 Tbs. of balsamic vinegar. (If desired, sweeten with all-natural allulose.) Enjoy once daily. “It’s great to drink it in the morning as an appetite suppressant,” says Dr. Gundry. “It will make for the best breakfast your gut buddies could ever ask for.”

Related: Study: Women Who Use Allulose Burn 1,134% More Belly Fat Than Those Using Sucralose

Psyllium tip #1: Start slowly

Psyllium affects digestive regularity, so it’s best to ease into a higher fiber diet slowly. Start by using as little as 12 Tbs. of psyllium husk or 12 tsp. of more concentrated psyllium husk powder mixed with 8 to 12 oz. of water. Gradually work up to 1 to 2 Tbs. of husk or 1 to 2 tsp. of powder a day.

Psyllium tip #2: Seek out safe sources

There have been concerns in the past that some psyllium supplements contain a dangerous amount of lead. So we consulted the experts at Consumer Lab, who conducted extensive tests to find the safest brands. The winners: Yerba Prima Psyllium Whole Husks (Buy on Amazon, $17.71 for 78 servings) and NOW Psyllium Husk Capsules (Buy on Amazon, $10.35 for 200 capsules). You can find psyllium in grocery stores near digestive aids or supplements, or in health-food stores.

Psyllium husk success story: Rondi Korven, 52

before and after of Rondi Korven, who lost 363 lbs with psyllium husk
Adam Moser/Delmar Photo

Knowing she could no longer fit into a single airplane seat, Rondi Korven begrudgingly bought a second ticket so she could attend a reunion. I love to travel, but I’m frugal, she thought in a mental tug-of-war. She admitted, I have a better chance of losing weight than all of a sudden being able to spend gobs of money…

As an emotional eater, Rondi reveals, “The combination of sugar and butter was my nemesis.” And over time, she developed a waist larger than a seamstress’s 60-inch measuring tape. Rondi also suffered from chronic heartburn, gas, bloating, joint pain and insomnia. She admits, “I was a walking pharmacy of over-the-counter drugs—painkillers, antacids, sleep aids—you name it, I probably had it in my purse.”

Rondi’s secret to slim

Ready for relief, Rondi started making changes to “harness the hangry.” She found fruit smoothies didn’t satisfy her hunger, so she added 1 Tbs. of unflavored psyllium husk to the recipe. It kept her feeling full for hours. And all that soluble fiber was basically calorie-free since it wasn’t absorbed.

Rondi began making smoothies in batches, freezing them and enjoying one daily like ice cream. As she lost up to 6 pounds a week, she noticed her pain vanish. She slept better, controlled her blood sugar and had improved digestion. Her heart rate even lowered from 80 beats per minute to an optimal 52.

In two years, Rondi dropped 208 pounds eating plant-based fiber, which she’s maintained with the help of advice from Michael Greger, M.D. (Her husband Darryl lost 80 pounds!) Rondi also melted off an estimated 29+ inches in her waist. Her pant size changed from a 28 to an 8. Now, confidence is her constant travel companion. “I’ve eliminated much of the self-defeating internal dialogue that has plagued me for most of my life!”

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

For more on the benefits of fiber, keep reading!

Getting More Dietary Fiber Can Work Better For Some Women Than Antidepressants, Says MD

Women Over 50 Are Losing 100+ lbs With This “Super Fiber” — Without Feeling Deprived

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