What Is Psyllium Fiber?
Psyllium fiber is soluble dietary fiber, produced from the covering (husk) of seeds of Plantago ovata plant. When added to food and ingested, it absorbs water from the bowel, and thus makes the stool bulk and therefore easy to excrete.
Psyllium Fiber Content
100 grams of Psyllium husk contains about 60-70 grams of soluble fiber, namely mucilage.
Benefits of Psyllium Fiber
Psyllium fiber can be used in treatment of constipation, mild diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids. Other effects, like lowering LDL cholesterol, or prevention of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, have not been firmly confirmed so far.
Synonyms for psyllium fiber: flea seeds, isapgol, ispaghula, isphagula, ispaghula husk, ispaghula seed, natural vegetable laxative, psyllion, psyllios, psyllium husk, psyllium seed.
Psyllium Husk Supplements
Psylium husk fiber is available over the counter in a powder or granular form, which can be mixed with water or other fluid or added to food. Psyllium capsules, wafers and bars are also available. Amount of soluble fiber in each product should be noted on the product label. Supplements containing Psyllium husk:
- Colon Cleanse®
- Laxative Natural®
- Prodiem Plain®
- Yerba Prima®
Risks of Taking Psyllium Fiber
- Psyllium husk, when not taken with sufficient fluid, can form a hard mass within the bowel and cause bowel obstruction. People with known intestinal obstruction, intestinal hernia, ileostomy, colostomy, rectal bleeding, anal fissure or anatomical abnormalities of the gut should not take Psyllium.
- People with diabetes, fructose malabsorption or hereditary fructose intolerance should check if fructose, HFCS, sorbitol or other sugars are present in the product
- Psyllium supplements should be always taken with recommended amount (check product label) of water or other fluid and never as a dry powder alone.
- Psyllium supplements should never be used more than seven days without doctor approval.
Side Effects of Psyllium Fiber
Possible side effects of Psyllium fiber:
- Serious allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, rash
- Choking, difficulty swallowing
- Nausea, vomiting
- Bloating, when taken in excess.
- Severe constipation or even intestinal obstruction, if ingested with insufficient amount of fluid, or in people who had previous abdominal surgery or have anatomical abnormalities of the gut
- Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
- Reduced absorption of certain drugs, so Psyllium should be taken few hours before or after a drug.
- Reduced absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin B12 especially in small children
Because of possible severe side effects, Psyllium husk in a supplement form is better to avoid and natural foods high in soluble fiber, like oatmeal or wholegrain bread should be considered, if necessary.
Cereals and Other Foods Containing Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is added to certain types of morning cereals or baked products. It can be added to ice cream as a thickener.