Is the Indian household staple Psyllium Husk a natural substitute for Ozempic?

Nutritionists decode the truth!

27 September, 2023
Is the Indian household staple Psyllium husk a natural substitute for Ozempic?

Over the last year, a lot has been said about Ozempic and Wegovy (a.k.a the weight-loss pens). Most of the information that we’ve heard floating about has caused us to raise our eyebrows up high in suspicion, but they have allegedly taken over Hollywood. It seems like, nowadays, everyone is looking for easy solutions to curb hunger in a bid to shed some pounds quickly. 

Ozempic and Wegovy are typically designed to treat type 2 diabetes. They also aid in rapid weight loss, thanks to their active ingredient—semaglutide. This works by mimicking a natural hormone. As those hormones seemingly rise, your brain is tricked into believing that you’re full and satiated. It also slows down your digestive system by ensuring food takes longer to leave your body. The thing to note is that these drugs are created for diabetes management and weight loss is just a common side effect that is being used and abused. It’s the new weight loss fad on the block.  

However, both Ozempic and Wegovy don’t come cheap and can only be acquired with a prescription. And so, creative minds around the world are using a product found in most Indian homes as a cheaper and more readily available substitute. We’re talking about psyllium husk. You might know it as isabgol or ispaghula. Surprised? We were, too. This is why we went directly to two nutritionists to decode whether psyllium husk is worth the name—the poor man’s Ozempic—as it is being called all over social media. Before we get into that though, let’s understand what psyllium husk is and how it works. 

What is psyllium husk? 

Psyllium husk is a type of soluble fibre that is derived from the seed of plantago ovata, a shrub-like herb that is commonly grown in India. These seeds are processed and turned into a powder, which is then primarily used to treat digestive problems like constipation. This soluble fibre is fermented by the bacteria in the gut, producing short-fatty acids that promote bowel regularity and improve various digestive issues.   

Mahima Pahuja, nutritionist and holistic health coach, says, “It's a type of fibre that helps to bulk up your stool and thus, acts as a laxative. In this way, it helps in clearing your stomach smoothly. It promotes gut health and that supports the entire gastrointestinal system because it helps you clear your stomach and your intestine properly.”  

psyllium husk

On the other hand, Geetika Bajaj, nutritionist and lifestyle management consultant, adds that while psyllium husk relieves constipation, it’s not a cure for severe gut issues. You can’t cure acute gut issues by only consuming it on a daily basis. She says, “A lot of times, excess fibre also leads to gut issues and so, no one should take it blindly on a daily basis. It’s not a long-term solution.”  

Its other benefits also include cholesterol and blood sugar management. But again, psyllium husk alone is not the cure. Both these experts agree that psyllium husk should only be taken at night before bed by mixing it in lukewarm water. Occasionally, it can also be mixed in yoghurt or cereal to increase the fibre content. 

Does psyllium husk lead to weight loss?  

According to a 2016 study, 10.2 grams of psyllium before breakfast led to a significant increase in the feelings of fullness, helped keep hunger pangs at bay, and reduced the desire to eat between meals. However, another study in 2020 found that psyllium husk had no impact on BMI or body weight. 

So, if you’re looking at achieving drastic results, psyllium husk is not your answer. Neither are the weight-loss pens but that’s for different reasons. 

Bajaj says, “Psyllium husk is not a weight loss agent. Body weight will never reduce with these things. It’s just that when your gut is clean, you will always see a change in your weight. And if you aren’t able to poop, then obviously you’ll see the weight increase. But it doesn’t reduce your body weight.” However, she agrees that it curbs cravings and hunger, but it's not a long-term weight loss option. She adds, “It’s fibre and fibre has that effect. A whole apple or cucumber will also have the same effect.”    

psyllium husk

Having a healthy eating pattern and making certain lifestyle choices is a better way to lose weight. Psyllium husk can help you maintain your weight and eat smaller portions but just consuming this supplement into your regular diet is not enough to shed kilos. 

Pahuja says, “Psyllium husk can be a part of a well-rounded diet if someone wants to lose weight and make sure they consume enough fibre. It can be given as a part of a balanced diet, but not as a substitute or an appetite suppressant.”  

Are there any drawbacks or side effects of psyllium husk? 

While both experts agreed there are no drawbacks or side effects of consuming psyllium husk as frequently as you need, nothing in excess is ever good. And if you are using psyllium husk as a catalyst in your weight loss journey (or to help with constipation), Bajaj encourages you to drink enough water as less water and excess fibre in your body will mess up your digestive system. 

The bottom line is, while psyllium husk may give you the feeling of being full and satiated after eating bare minimum food, it is not a substitute for the infamous Ozempic or Wegovy. There are no shortcuts when it comes to weight loss. You must exercise and eat a balanced meal. However, we advice you to consult a health professional before attempting any fitness fads you see on social media.