It’s complicated.
Credit: HandmadePictures

I recently went on the keto diet for a few weeks, and while it had some real benefits, If found it difficult to get enough fiber.

Since fiber is super important for gut health, I ended up looking for some alternative, keto-friendly ways to boost my intake. That's when stumbled upon something I’d never heard of before: Psyllium husk.

Psyllium (pronounced "silly-um") may sound like something from Star Trek, but it’s a natural, soluble form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata seeds. It’s most commonly used as a bulk-forming laxative or gentle stool softener (fun fact: it’s the main ingredient in Metamucil), but it’s also a prebiotic that helps balance the good bacteria in your gut.

Psyllium husk isn’t anything new, but it seems to be experiencing a resurgence in recipes such as smoothie bowls and seeded breads. Gluten-free bakers love it because it’s a good way to bind baked goods (like bran!) without using flour or drastically altering the taste, and many people who suffer from IBS or Crohn’s disease use psyllium husk as a natural treatment.

Recent research shows it may help reduce inflammation in the gut. It may also help balance blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. It also keeps you fuller for longer, so it can help with weight loss over time.

However, Psyllium husk is considered an added fiber, which doesn't work the same as the fiber you get naturally from whole foods, especially since they don't contain the same nutritional benefits as whole foods. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, fiber supplements can cause bloating and gas, and can interfere with some medications. So it's best to talk to a doctor first, especially if you have intestinal problems.  

The bottom line: It’s pretty hard to eat too much fiber, and psyllium husk probably won’t hurt, but you're still best off boosting your daily intake from real food and produce such as leafy greens, berries, beans, and whole grains.