Psyllium could have indirect benefits on the liver thanks to its high fiber content. Indeed, Psyllium is a plant whose teguments have been used for a long time in a therapeutic context. These benefits are regularly observed at the digestive level since fibers are essential to intestinal health. Nevertheless, they have other interesting intermediate roles. Indeed, fibers allow to decrease the absorption of nutrients, including fats that can accumulate in the liver in the case of overweight and obesity. In addition, it could promote the feeling of satiety. Satiety is defined as the absence of hunger between two meals. Thus, Psyllium could have interesting indirect effects on the liver thanks to its high fiber content. This article reviews all the knowledge related to the benefits of Psyllium on the liver.
An unbalanced diet can lead to fat accumulation in the liver. The nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD: Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) is precisely a pathology characterized by an accumulation of fat inside the liver cells, when the latter should contain very little. This is the reason why it is also called the "fatty liver" disease. The latter is favored by a metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension) and a lack of physical activity. It can worsen by forming inflammation in the liver, increasing the risk of cirrhosis, liver failure (liver) or primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). In this way, hygienic-dietary measures should be adopted: implementation of physical activity, better choice of lipids, increase in fiber-rich foods, limitation of simple sugars and alcohol.
Thus, one study evaluated the effect of psyllium on body composition and liver enzymes in overweight and obese adults with NAFLD. The latter concluded that a weight loss program supplemented with psyllium, along with increased physical activity, may be helpful in preventing the development of NAFLD, and delaying liver damage. This would be due to the fact that psyllium contains soluble fibers. These are able to form a gel that decreases the absorption of nutrients. They will swell in contact with water, and will form a gel that will decrease the contact surface between the intestinal villi (absorption role) and the food. As a result, they limit the absorption of fats.
At the same time, the gel formed by the soluble fibers delays the arrival of food from the stomach to the intestines. Thus, they limit the increase in blood sugar. An increase in blood sugar levels leads to a parallel increase in insulin secretion in order to get the glucose into the cells. If glucose was brought in in excess, it will be converted to fat in the cells. Therefore, psyllium helps delay the arrival of food from the stomach to the intestines and thus limits the rise in blood sugar, which reduces the formation of additional fat.
Thus, by its high soluble fiber content, psyllium helps to form a gel limiting fat absorption and reduces its accumulation in the liver, slowing the progression of NAFLD and liver damage.
Another indirect role of psyllium is to help improve intestinal permeability. Indeed, the gut barrier is characterized by tight junctions of cells to ensure that harmful molecules do not enter the bloodstream. It prevents harmful substances (bacteria, toxins, food waste, parasites) from entering the bloodstream. However, an unbalanced diet promotes intestinal hyperpermeability, which means that the intestinal barrier is damaged. This means that these junctions are more spread out, and allow larger molecules to pass through than those normally allowed (bacteria, toxins). These can travel to the liver via the portal vein.
This is because the portal vein brings nutrients and harmful substances directly from the intestines to the liver so that the liver can either use them or order their elimination. Nevertheless, the arrival of many harmful substances can limit the functioning of the liver, which can become overloaded. This overload of toxins can lead to liver failure and liver disease.
In this context, it is wise to favor dietary fiber intake in order to fight against this intestinal hyperpermeability. In this sense, psyllium can help play this role since 15 g of psyllium provides 12.6 g of fiber, which is equivalent to almost half of the daily needs estimated at 30 g minimum by the ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety). Nevertheless, it is important to specify that psyllium has not yet proven its benefits on the improvement of intestinal permeability.
Thus, psyllium should be included in a balanced, varied, fiber-rich diet to optimize the work of the intestinal barrier and, thereby, limit the arrival of harmful molecules in the liver.
Psyllium also plays a final beneficial role for the liver thanks to its beneficial role on satiety. Indeed, the fibers it contains are considered as satietogenic nutrients. Because of this, they lead to a reduction in the volume of meals because they help to reach the sensation of satiety more quickly. This decrease in meal volume is related to a reduction in caloric intake, and therefore in fat, which limits the accumulation of fat in the liver. We can therefore conclude on the fact that psyllium has an appetite suppressant role, which optimizes liver health.
Moreover, psyllium can play an interesting role in weight loss, which is judicious in the context of "fatty liver" disease. Indeed, as seen previously, overweight or obesity can promote the accumulation of lipids in the liver, leading eventually to non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis. Because of this, psyllium can be used in a weight loss perspective to promote the elimination of this excess fat in the liver.
Thus, the psyllium allows, thanks to the fibers it contains, to limit the accumulation of fats in the liver thanks to its role of appetite suppressant.
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