Isabgol: A Lot More than a Remedy for Constipation

Mehak Shah

May 10, 2022

Isabgol is the seed husk of the plant called Plantago Ovata. Isabgol is the Hindi name for the thin white membrane on the concave side of Plantago Ovata’s seed. It is also called “blonde psyllium” in English. Psyllium is helpful as a laxative. According to a study, India exports this lucrative plant, for which the country earns foreign exchange worth INR 1.2 billion. There are various benefits of Isabgol. Contrary to popular belief, isabgol does a lot more than treat constipation. 

Plantago Ovata is an indigenous annual herb from the Mediterranean and West Asia, encompassing Sutlej and Sind in western Pakistan. Isabgol is a digestive that cools your body and aids weight loss. In addition, it has a gluey, oily texture and a sweet, astringent taste. 

There are differences between men’s and women’s anatomy. According to a recent study, women took substantially longer to digest food than males—33 hours for men versus 47 hours for women. In addition, women produce fewer stomach acids and the food moves slowly through the digestive tract. As a result, it empties at a slower pace too. The pace and overeating otherwise can lead to bloating, dysentery and constipation. Therefore, women must include Isabgol to treat these disorders. In fact,, Isabgol addresses several digestive issues in men as well. 

Isabgol finds its roots in two Sanskrit words, ‘Asp’ and ‘Ghol’. Interestingly, it means horse flower, which refers to its unique shape. On the other hand, psyllium positively impacts the heart and pancreas, according to a study.

Nutritional Value of Isabgol

As per USDA, 100g of Isabgol contains: 

  • Energy: 350kcal
  • Protein: 0g
  • Carbohydrate: 80g
  • Fibre: 70g
  • Calcium: 200mg
  • Iron: 18mg
  • Sodium:100mg

Advantages of Isabgol

Helps Treat Diseases

Isabgol helps treat various diseases. Although every illness’s dosage and usage differ depending on the patient’s condition, it plays a role in controlling these diseases.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndromes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Urinary issues
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Haemorrhoids 
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Hypercholesterolemia, and more.

A research article states that around 25.2 million adults worldwide have Impaired Glucose Tolerance and hence are at significant risk for diabetes. China ranks first in the global ranking for diabetes with 77 million patients. India ranks second. While the numbers are intimidating, as mentioned above, Isabgol effectively treats diabetes. Therefore, consuming Isabgol can reduce these numbers with the proper administration. 

The C.D.C. reports that 94 million people aged 20 and older in the United States of America have high cholesterol levels. Isabgol can combat this global problem as it has shown promising performance in reducing cholesterol in people.

Isabgol’s Gastro-Intestinal Healing Properties

Isabgol can absorb and retain water. Hence, it is called a bulk-forming agent. A study states that, upon absorption, its volume increases up to 40 times its weight. This result helps to check diarrhoea by giving more substance to the loose stool. It is helpful in dysentery caused by Entamoeba Histolytica. Isabgol contains a viscous polysaccharide substance that is highly soothing. It calms the ulcerated intestine mucosa of a diarrhoea patient. It protects the lining from irritants.

Moreover, this vicious mucilage can absorb all toxins from the G.I. tract. The fibrous nature of Isabgol then aids in exerting these toxins.

Isabgol for Piles

Piles are a result of prolonged constipation. Isabgol makes the stool bulkier and easier to excrete. Therefore, it helps people with piles. In addition, it provides relief by reducing bleeding associated with piles. It also treats excessive stretching of the anus during passing stool and fissures. It also reduces the risk of rupturing healing wounds. 

Prevents Diabetes

According to some research, fibres like psyllium can assist people in maintaining an excellent glycemic balance. One can find out if they have diabetes by checking their blood glucose level in a blood test.

Once diagnosed with diabetes, patients can also keep a regular tab on their blood sugar levels with an at-home kit. This kit only requires patients to prick their fingers with the lancet in the equipment. Then, the patient will drop the blood from the finger onto the test strip. The device soon displays the blood sugar level on the screen after a few seconds.

Having high blood glucose for a long time can cause nerve, blood vessel, and organ damage. Type 1 diabetes can cause an accumulation of acids in the blood. This process is called ketoacidosis. On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes can cause conditions where the body cannot process sugar. This process is known as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome. It is commonly known as HHNS. Patients experience frequent urination, which decreases until the urine becomes dark. Eventually, the patient becomes highly dehydrated.

Regulates Blood Sugar

In a study, Isabgol proves to reduce blood glucose in Zucker rats. This variety of rats is susceptible to diet-induced obesity. A study showed that upon including Isabgol and aloe vera in the diet of diabetic patients, the fasting and postprandial blood sugar levels in diabetic patients decreased significantly. When using Isabgol to manage diabetes, it is best to monitor the blood glucose level to ensure safety closely.

An 8-week treatment done in a study showed a reduction in Fasting Blood Sugar (F.B.S.). It has also been seen that psyllium has the potential to control glucose fluctuation. Furthermore, it recorded excellent tolerance of Isabgol. 

Isabgol’s potential to reduce blood sugar is a boon for diabetic patients. Research suggests reducing patients’ dependence on insulin and other diabetes drugs. Another study suggests that if one consumes psyllium and insulin together, it may be necessary to reduce insulin dosage. 

Reduces Bad Cholesterol

High cholesterol is not easily detectable as it has no symptoms. Many people are unaware of their elevated levels of cholesterol due to this. A simple blood test to check one’s cholesterol levels can do the job. High cholesterol can be detrimental to a person’s well being. It can increase the risk of heart disease, the first leading cause of death. Elevated cholesterol levels can also increase the risk for strokes, the fifth leading cause of death.

A study suggests that Isabgol’s embryo contains an oil, a hypocholesterolemic agent, which means that it can reduce cholesterol levels in the body. The study further indicates that it is more effective than safflower oil. Research has recorded a 5% decrease in cholesterol in patients with hypercholesterolemia upon introducing Isabgol into their diets. In humans, research recorded psyllium decreasing the presence of LDL cholesterol and absorption of cholesterol. When diabetic patients took Isabgol and aloe vera, significant decrease in total serum cholesterol, serum triglyceride, and total lipids was observed. 

According to another study, psyllium can reduce and even remove the need for lipid-lowering drugs in patients with increased LDL cholesterol levels. 

Researchers have also used psyllium to develop functional foods to reduce patients’ total serum and LDL cholesterol levels. 

Weight Management

Many people, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, are concerned about maintaining a healthy weight. Psyllium may help you to reduce weight and it is an excellent food to maintain your heart health. Also, because psyllium absorbs liquid in your body, one may feel satiated for long hours. It can assist you in limiting the amount of food you consume. If your doctor has recommended that you lose weight, discuss the option of using psyllium with them. The fibre content of Isabgol helps in controlling weight. In addition, it makes you feel satiated and curbs your appetite. 

Useful in Pregnancy

Research states that psyllium-containing drugs are class C-2 drugs in pregnancy. It means that they appear to be safe during all trimesters. During breastfeeding, it is a class C-1 or C-2 drug. That is, it is secure during breastfeeding. Isabgol is beneficial to pregnant and breastfeeding women. It aids in the relief of gastrointestinal disorders such as indigestion and constipation that might occur during pregnancy.

Possible Side Effects of Isabgol

The following are some of the possible adverse effects:

  • If not taken with the proper amount of fluid, it can cause blockages in the throat and oesophagus. There can also be rare reactions such as vomiting and difficulty swallowing and breathing after taking blonde psyllium. Therefore, the physically weak and the elderly should take Isabgol under medical supervision.
  • Due to possible drug interactions, consuming Isabgol a few hours after taking any medications is advisable.
  • Research also indicates that long-term use of Isabgol may reduce the absorption of several nutrients such as iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and vitamin B12. In addition, another study shows poor absorption of carbohydrates from food and delayed gastric emptying time due to psyllium consumption.
  • Abdominal cramps and agony
  • Diarrhoea/gas 
  • Sluggish bowel movements
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Stomach discomfort, nausea, and vomiting

Furthermore, Isabgol is associated with bloating and flatulence. However, flatulence subsides in the course of the treatment. Powdered psyllium shows allergic reactions in some people, as seen by research. Some of these allergic reactions are in the form of rhinitis and asthma attacks.

Studies suggest consuming two to three heaped spoonfuls of Isabgol twice per day for a few months. According to the survey, this will relieve all effects of chronic dysentery and remove Entamoeba histolytica, a primary anaerobic parasite, from the body.

A study elaborates on this dosage according to the age of the patient: 

  • Elderly, adults, and Adolescents over 12 years of age:- 7 to 11 g in 1 to 3 doses. 
  • Children of 6 to 12 years of age:- 1/2 to 2/3 of the adult dose (3 to 8 g) daily

People can consume Isabgol with a minimum of 150 ml of water or any other fluid. If not taken with adequate fluid, it can cause choking in the throat and oesophagus. Choking can happen due to excess swelling without the needed water to help push it along the G.I. tract.

Duration of Action

Isabgol commonly acts within 12 to 24 hours upon consumption. However, sometimes the full effect can only be seen after 2 or 3 days.

Isabgol: Usage

Apart from the standard usage, you can have it:

  • In smoothies
  • Add them to the flour for roti for more fibre.
  • Add them to baking ingredients. 
  • Make keto-friendly dishes
  • Use soaked isabgol as a substitute for eggs in vegetarian baking recipes.

Industrial Usage of Isabgol

  • Ice Cream Industry
  • Cosmetic Industry
  • Printing Industry
  • Breakfast Cereal Industry
  • Instant Beverage Industry
  • Bakery Industry, and more

The Bottom Line

Isabgol is beneficial for several health concerns, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and haemorrhoids. It is instrumental in treating diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. In addition, due to its bulking property, it is often valuable for the ice cream industry. However, it is also beneficial in other sectors, such as the cosmetic and healthcare industries. 

Patients experience vomiting, increased pulse, excessive thirst and hunger, vision issues, and weight loss, among other symptoms when having diabetes. In addition, increased blood sugar levels can lead to nerve, blood vessel, and organ damage. Life with diabetes can be tough to manage. Hence, it is crucial to improve the condition.

Hypercholesterolemia is an impairing life condition. It increases the risk for heart disease, the number one cause of death in humans. It also increases the chances of stroke in patients, which is the number five cause of death in humans. However, consistent care can reduce this condition. 

Isabgol’s association with diabetes and cholesterol is encouraging. Patients of both these conditions can experience significant improvement when using Isabgol. For example, Isabgol reduces fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. Similarly, introducing Isabgol to the diets of hypercholesterolemia patients reduced their total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.

Research proves that Isabgol can reduce diabetic patients’ dependence on insulin and hypercholesterolemia patients’ reliance on cholesterol-reducing drugs. Experts suggest taking two spoonfuls of Isabgol with 150 ml of water twice a day for optimal results. When people do not drink sufficient fluids upon having Isabgol, they can experience blockages in their oesophagus. 

You must consume Isabgol with care and caution for it to work effectively like any other supplement. People with asthma should avoid consuming Isabgol.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is Isabgol used for?

A. Isabgol is primarily used to relieve bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation in stomach-related troubles. Isabgol also helps treat diabetes and cholesterol. It is also an ingredient used in the ice cream, cosmetic, printing, breakfast cereal, instant beverage, and bakery industries.  

Q. Is taking Isabgol daily harmful?

A. Taking Isabgol daily is not harmful as long as one uses it to treat a condition. However, upon completing the treatment, consuming Isabgol should be stopped as its long-term use links to poor absorption of nutrients.  

Q. What are the side effects of Isabgol?

A. Some of the side effects of Isabgol are rhinitis and asthma attacks. Suppose you do not use enough water with Isabgol. In that case, it can cause one to vomit, having difficulty breathing and swallowing due to blockages caused in the throat.  

Q. How long can Isabgol be taken?

A. It is best to take Isabgol until the problem one is treating subsides. Long term use of Isabgol can reduce the absorption of several nutrients. The dosage that adults should follow is two heaping spoonfuls of Isabgol with 150 ml of water twice per day. 

Q. Does Isabgol cause gas?

A. At the beginning of treatment with Isabgol, one can experience gas. However, this subsides during the treatment.  

Q. Can I take Isabgol with lemon?

A. Yes, one can consume Isabgol with lemon juice. However, one should mix the lemon juice and Isabgol in 150 ml or more of water for consumption. 

Q. Can Isabgol reduce weight?

A. Isabgol can improve excretory processes and digestion. It also has detoxifying properties, which can aid in keeping the body lean. However, there are no sufficient studies that suggest its weight loss properties. 

Q. How does Isabgol help in reducing weight?

A. Isabgol may help reduce weight by increasing the satiety value, if one feels full for a longer duration he or she tends to eat less. Similarly, it will reduce bloating and hence give a leaner appearance. 

Q. Can I have Isabgol during pregnancy?

A. Isabgol seems to appear safe during all three trimesters of pregnancy. In addition, Isabgol containing drugs are rated as C-2 drugs, hence, safe. 

Q. Is Isabgol a laxative?

A. Yes, Isabgol is a laxative. It has bulking properties because it absorbs water and becomes 40 times its weight in volume. In addition, it’s a detoxing agent as its mucilage absorbs toxins and irritants in the G.I. tract and expels them from the body.

About the Author

Mehak holds masters in foods and nutrition from Amity university, Noida. She has a keen interest in public health and nutrition and has been in charge of various projects with milestone NGO. She has worked with people over the globe to bring out the changes in their lives and has always been working towards lifestyle modifications via good dietary practices. According to her a healthy lifestyle is not about the destination but all about the journey.

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