Psyllium Husk Review: Capsules vs Powder (Now Foods)
As someone with celiac disease and IBS I have never had a great digestive system. For most of my life it wasn’t much of an issue though as I could usually avoid unpleasant symptoms by just eating clean however for the past few years I have started to experience constipation which has brought a whole new set of issues.
For a while stool softeners were my saviour. When I would go days (or sometimes more than a week) without a bowel movement they would always fix the issue. At least partially. My bowel movements didn’t return to what they used to be. I didn’t know why. Was it because of my conditions combined with aging? Was it because of my depression? Maybe because I had resorted to a very sedentary lifestyle due to different reasons (work, depression, etc.)? All I knew I wasn’t fixing any underlying problems and I started to become even more concerned about stool softeners being my only solution.
IMPORTANT! I’m not a doctor. Before using any type of supplements or medication you have to ask for your doctor’s advice/approval/opinion. In this article I’m sharing my own experiences. Something that might have benefited me might be harmful for you!
Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber
There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Healthy diet contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Psyllium husk is soluble fiber but what’s exactly the difference between the two?
Soluble fiber absorbs water creating a gel-like substance which then regulates softness/hardness of your stool. It has other benefits too but more on that later.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t mix with water but it does work as a bulking agent and appears to help stools pass faster and easier.
Psyllium husk benefits
If your stool is too soft and watery (diarrhea) psyllium husk absorbs it and bulks it up. On the other hand if it’s too hard (constipation) it makes it softer.
Psyllium husk does have other benefits too: Various studies have shown it can lower blood sugar and cholestoral levels which in effect provides a long list of other benefits. Psyllium husk also reduces appetite when take before meal and has prebiotic effects allowing good bacteria in your large intestine to proliferate.
Does Psyllium Husk Work?
Did psyllium husk fix my constipation? Yes. My bowel movements are better than they have been in years (probably as good as they ever were) and I never have to use stool softeners again (Well, technically it’s a stool softener too but it works in a natural way and is generally considered healthy to use everyday whereas stool softener medications are recommended to be used as rarely as possible).
Being able to having multiple bowel movements every day has been extremely liberating to me after having sometimes to endure more than a week without any.
When my constipation issues started I would also often experience abdominal pain. I’m not entirely sure whether it was cause by constipation (most likely option I guess), IBS or celiac disease however that pain is gone now too!
Psyllium husk: Capsules vs Powder
Initially I purchasedNow Foods Psyllium Husk Capsules that contain 700mg of Psyllium Husk and 50mg of Apple Pectin (also a soluble fiber). I decided to buy capsules for various reasons:
I thought they will be more convenient to use than powder.
They contained Apple pectin fiber which regular powder doesn’t (I thought it might make it more effective).
I saw some comments about the terrible taste and texture of powder and that scared me off.
Directions said to take 2 capsules, 1 to 3 times daily with 8-10 oz. (240 to 300 mL) of water or juice so that’s what I did. I would take 2 capsules, 2 or 3 times a day. I noticed improvements in my bowel movements within 2 days. It certainly worked but not as well as I hoped – there were still days where my bowel movements were less than ideal (I would still sometimes have mild constipation or have days without any bowel movement).
Eventually I decided to try taking 4 capsules twice a day. I would take the 4 capsules with a cup of water and then drink another cup of water few minutes later (it’s vital you take enough water with psyllium husk as otherwise it can make you even more constipated or even cause blockage).
The new approach worked even better for me (Reminder: before using psyllium husk ask for your doctors opinion and follow his directions)! Finally I was experiencing bowel movements I had hoped for – at least twice a day with no signs of constipation.
However there was 1 thing I did not like about capsules. They were quite big (about 2.5 centimeters long and 0.8 centimeters wide or 1” x 0.32” inches) and sometimes I had trouble swallowing them. To be fair it might not be an issue for you as I sometimes have a hard time swallowing even small capsules.
All of a sudden I remembered reading many comments on internet where for some people capsules didn’t work but powder did, or capsules worked but powder did even more so. This made me consider trying the powder version too.
I started comparing the two and noticed that you get a lot more fiber per serving with powder than with capsules. The capsule bottle label says that serving size is two capsules which contain 1 gram of fiber total. I was taking 4 capsules (so 2 grams of fiber) twice a day which is a total of 4 grams of fiber a day.
The label on Now Foods Psyllium Husk Powder says that serving size is 1 level tablespoon or 9 grams of psyllium husk which amounts to 8 grams of fiber. I was surprised by the difference but now I understood why for some capsules didn’t work as well.
I did some quick calculations and realized that powder is more cost efficient. I was already expecting that but what surprised me was the difference. With capsules I was paying 3 times more per every gram of fiber than with powder (the ratio might be different for you as prices vary).
I didn’t expect any difference because capsules were already working great however powder does work slightly better, well, kind of. With powder I consume at least twice the amount of fiber than I did with capsules so it’s not really fair to say it works better – I’m just consuming more.
So should you buy Psyllium husk powder or capsules? I really can’t answer this question as I believe it comes down to personal preference. What I can say is that both worked great for me.
Which do I like better? I expected to have a preference for capsules but eventually found out I like powder more, unless I’m traveling, then capsules are more convenient.
Despite many comments on internet I was pleasantly surprised that neither taste nor texture are unpleasant after mixing psyllium husk powder with water (especially since I’m a very picky eater). There is some taste to it but it’s very mild and not unpleasant at all. The change to texture is very miniscule too however it will get thicker if you let it sit (you shouldn’t).
This made me wonder why there are so many complaints on internet from other people about taste and texture – why don’t I have any issue with them? Well I have some theories:
Perhaps those who complained used Whole Psyllium Husks Powder which is less fine (essentially ungrinded product) than what I use.
Perhaps those who complained used a different brand of Psyllium Husk (I haven’t tried others so this is just a guess).
I use a shaker bottle to mix psyllium husk with water which might have allowed water to absorb psyllium husk much better than with other methods.
I use a bit more water than instructions indicate which might reduce flavor and texture.
How I use Psyllium Husk Powder
Now Foods Psyllium Husk Powder instructions say you should vigorously mix 1 level tablespoon of Psyllium Husk powder with at least 12 ounces of water or juice and consume immediately.
This is how I do it (you can discuss my method with your Doctor and find out what he thinks about it. Don’t try to repeat anything without consulting with a professional first):
I fill shaker bottle with 12 oz (350 mL) of water and then add 1 level tablespoon of Psyllium Husk. I insert strainer, secure the lid and shake the bottle vigorously for 20 to 40 seconds. The end result is not visually pleasing. Psyllium husk and water mixture looks a bit like dirty water which makes you expect it to taste bad, but it doesn’t.
Then I add another ~7 oz (200 mL) of water and shake the bottle vigorously for another 20 to 40 seconds (Sorry, I read some horror stories about not taking enough water with Psyllium Husk so I try to play it safe).
After that I immediately drink everything. It does look like a dirty water but it tastes just fine to me.
After a while (~10 minutes) I drink another glass of water. This might seem like a lot of liquid to consume in such a short period of time and it might be. I am used to drinking a lot of water as I try to stay well hydrated so it’s not an issue for me (but might be for others).
Metamucil vs Psyllium Husk Difference
Metamucil and psyllium husk are almost the same thing. The main ingredient in Metamucil is Psyllium Husk however the powdered verison of Metamucil I have seen also contains some ingredients for taste and texture. If you want to use Psyllium Husk powder but dislike the taste of it then Metamucil might fix this issue for you.
As far as I know there’s no difference between Psyllium Husk capsules and Metamucil capsules.
Psyllium Husk vs Chia Seeds Difference
Psyllium Husk worked wonderfully for me. Chia seeds did not (increased my bowl movements slightly but my stool was rock hard and painful to pass). Take my experience with a grain of salt as I have read comments from people who had different experience (chia seeds worked wonders whereas psyllium husk didn’t).
Psyllium Husk Possible Side Effects
In some people psyllium husk can produce side effects especially if you started using it recently. Some of the possible side effects include:
Nausea and vomiting
Some people can have allergic-like reaction (if you experience this call your doctor and/or ambulance immediately!)
It’s also important to take plenty of water with psyllium husk (and keep doing it during the day too). If psyllium husk doesn’t have enough water to absorb it can dry your intestines and make you more constipated.
Out of those possible side effects I have experienced very mild nausea once. I’m not sure if it was caused by Psyllium Husk but since I just had started using it and took larger dose than usual I suspect it was.
Psyllium Husk is amazing! It might not work or be suited for everyone (consult with your Doctor before trying it) but it worked great for me. I just wish I had found out about it sooner – would have saved me many years of struggle and stress.