What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the body’s bloodstream and cells. It is naturally created in the body by the combination of a lipid (fat) and a steroid. Contrary to popular belief, not all cholesterol is bad. It plays an important role in many functions of the body including the formation of cell membranes and hormones (including estrogen and testosterone). It also helps to produce vitamin D and the acidic bile that aids in the digestion of fats. High cholesterol affects nearly 45 million Americans and causes diseases such as atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Sources of Cholesterol
The liver produces about 80 percent of the body’s cholesterol. The rest we have to obtain from our diets. Foods that contain cholesterol include meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products. Meat, especially organ meat, contains high amounts of cholesterol. Most plant foods do not contain any.
Types of Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol in the body. High density lipoprotein (HDL) makes up about one-third of all blood cholesterol and is known as “good cholesterol.” It prevents heart attacks and arteriosclerosis. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly known as “bad cholesterol.” When too much of it flows through the blood, it can cause plaque to build up in the walls of the arteries causing a condition known as arteriosclerosis. HDL cholesterol particles can prevent this condition by pulling LDL out of the artery walls and eliminating it through the liver.
What is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk is a fiber that is made up of complex carbohydrates. It is derived from the seeds of the Plantago Ovata plant, which is native to North Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean. This herb has been used for centuries in remedies to treat diseases of the digestive system and especially the colon (large intestine). It is rich in soluble fiber and is commonly used as a gentle laxative to treat constipation.
Psyllium husk has been shown to be important for many reasons. It contains carbohydrates and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, it can not only be used as a laxative but can also help to relieve the discomfort of diarrhea and ease the pain of hemorrhoids. It has been used to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and as an aid in weight loss, to treat yeast infections, to help maintain blood pressure levels, and to treat Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome. It has also been proven to be of benefit to those who suffer from diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, it can help to improve the control of lipids.
The FDA has also recognized psyllium husk for its use in reducing blood cholesterol levels. They have stated, “3g to 12g soluble fiber from psyllium husk seed, when included as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Studies have proven it to be effective in lowering low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”) levels.
How to Consume Psyllium Husk
It is essential to drink plenty of liquids before and after consuming psyllium husk. Consuming it on its own can cause digestive issues and dehydration. The powder of this herb can be mixed with almost any food or non-alcoholic drink. Examples are fruit and vegetable juices, soups, shakes, milk, or water. A good source of psyllium husk fiber is Metamucil. It is a fiber supplement that contains 100% natural psyllium husk fiber. It helps to absorb cholesterol and also acts as a gentle laxative.
American Heart Association
Food and Drug Administration
Brill, Janet. Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs. New York, NY: Three Rivers P Publications, 2006.
Rinzler, Carol A., and Martin W. Graf, MD. Controlling Cholesterol for Dummies. Indianapolis, IN: For Dummies Publications, 2008.