On Bloating + Blood Sugar: A Nutritionist Weighs In On An Under-Rated Superfood
WE RECENTLY BONDED with Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD over our shared obsession of psyllium husk powder.
Weird, right? For us — not really! We’re well aware that our everyday conversations about wellness and nutrition are a bit outside the norm — and we’re okay with it. Our team is just short of obsessed with one of our recent partners, Bellway Fiber. When Brigid shared that the research around psyllium’s benefits went deep and she thought that psyllium was an under-rated superfood, we asked her to try Bellway and give us her feedback.
Here’s Brigid’s take on the product, the benefits of psyllium and the best way to take it daily…
In my experience working with thousands of nutrition clients, I am constantly taking inventory of the foods that lead to the best patient outcomes. And in my experience working in academia teaching future healthcare practitioners, I am continually honing in on foods that are backed by strong research.
When it comes to patient outcomes and strong research, there is one commonly overlooked food in particular that I recommend to most clients, and that food is psyllium (pronounced with a silent ‘p’ — “silly-em”).
Psyllium is an overlooked superfood with an ability to impact digestion, blood sugar and heart health — and in some instances, I’ve found it be nearly as effective as drugs!
Psyllium husk powder (from the seeds of the herb plantago ovata) is known for its high soluble fiber content and is a great way to increase your fiber intake along with consuming a whole foods diet. Here’s the down-low on how this superfood functions and all of it’s benefits…
SOLUBLE FIBER Soluble fiber is a form of fiber that is water soluble, meaning that after you consume it, it draws in water to form a gel-like substance. This gelatinous mass is incredibly beneficial to your body to slow down glucose absorption, bind with excess cholesterol, and improve bowel function.
It also provides nourishment for the good bacteria in your gut, which then allows them to produce beneficial substances called short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids can help lower inflammation and reduce appetite.
On Bloating, Blood Sugar + Heart Health
REDUCED BLOATING In my virtual functional nutrition clinic, gut health is at the core of everything that we do.
With diets that lack nutrient-density, especially fiber, and are filled with refined grains and sugar, it’s easy to become backed up and gassy, leading to that six months pregnant look. As many of our clients can attest to, having a distended belly is no fun.
This is where psyllium (and a whole foods diet) comes in. Since it is so good at absorbing water, it forms a bulky mass, drawing in waste and stimulating your intestines to contract. As your intestines contract—a process known as peristalsis—they expel excess gas and stool, effectively reducing your bloat.
In fact, psyllium has been shown to be more effective than popular stool softeners such as docusate sodium, found in brands such as Colace.
These research findings translate to what we see in our nutrition programs as well. In starting your psyllium regimen, be sure to slowly increase your intake and consume plenty of water to improve tolerance and ensure that enough water is being drawn into your colon to prevent any blockages.
BALANCED BLOOD SUGAR Did you know that fiber is an essential ingredient for keeping blood sugar more steady and controlled throughout the day? Psyllium is an incredible addition to the diet of anyone struggling with blood sugar control because it helps slows down the absorption of glucose in the body. This leads to less dramatic spikes in your blood glucose levels.
This is something that we see in monitoring client’s continuous glucose monitors as well. In one study they found that patients who did not even change their diet but started taking psyllium twice per day before meals had significantly lower fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c, a marker of 3-month blood glucose control. This is key for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes but for everyone since maintaining balanced blood sugar is key to improving energy, reducing cravings, and even supporting longevity.
To best balance your blood sugar with psyllium, take one scoop of psyllium powder in 8 oz of water 15-30 minutes before eating. If you’ve never used it before, try starting with 1 tsp and working your way up to one scoop gradually.
IMPROVED HEART HEALTH Step aside, oats! There’s a new heart healthy superfood in town. Similarly to how oats have been shown to improve heart health due to their soluble fiber content, psyllium shows similar benefits but unlike oats, doesn’t have the additional carbohydrates.
In patients with high cholesterol who maintained their same diet, taking psyllium for eight weeks
was shown to reduce total cholesterol by almost 15% and LDL cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol—by over 20%. Even when taken in conjunction with a heart healthy diet, patients saw increased reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and other markers of heart health such as ApoB. It is important to note that participants in both of these studies did not report any negative side effects which can be common in popular cholesterol lowering medications.
Psyllium has also been shown to reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension when taken over a six-month period. Participants in this study also saw reduced blood triglyceride levels, a marker that is helpful in determining risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to Add Psyllium to Your Diet
To add psyllium to your diet, mix a scoop of psyllium husk fiber in 8 oz of water before meals. Start with one glass per day and work your way up slowly to improve tolerance. Be sure you’re consuming enough water along with this fiber—about half of your body weight in fluid ounces—to ensure that you are moving your stool along.
Look for an organic psyllium powder that does not contain any bulking agents or artificial additives. Bellway psyllium powder is a favorite, because it contains no sugar, chemicals or additives — just psyllium and fruit juice. If you’ve ever struggled with the bland taste of plain psyllium, this brand is for you! Bellway makes several different flavors that truly taste like lemonade! My favorite way to consume is in a blender bottle with water and 1-2 scoops of psyllium. Shake it up and drink!
Psyllium is a great source of fiber and provides so many benefits, as noted above. Remember, however, that you can never supplement your way ‘out’ of a processed food diet. Eating a whole foods diet, full of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, high quality proteins, and legumes, is a non-negotiable for vibrant health and to ensure you’re getting all of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need.
Try our team’s personal obsession and Brigid’s top recommendation for daily routines that benefit your health on many levels. Shop Bellway for an exclusive 20% off using code TCMSUMMER20. Let us know what you think after a couple weeks of trying!
This story is brought to you in partnership with Bellway. From time to time, TCM editors choose to partner with brands we believe in to bring our readers special offers. The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.