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psyllium  husk

Psyllium is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage. The genus Plantago contains over 200 species. P. ovata and P. psyllium are produced commercially in several European countries, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, and India. Plantago seed known commercially as black, French or Spanish psyllium is obtained from P. psyllium and P. arenaria. Seed produced from P. ovata is known in trading circles as white or blonde psyllium, Indian Plantago or Isabgol. Isabgol, the common name in India for P. ovata, comes from the Persian words "isap" and "ghol" that mean horse ear, which is descriptive of the shape of the seed. India dominates the world market in the production and export of psyllium.
Recent interest in psyllium has arisen primarily due to its use in high fiber breakfast cereals and from claims that these high fiber cereals containing psyllium are effective in reducing cholesterol. Several studies point to a cholesterol reduction attributed to a diet that includes dietary fiber such as psyllium. Research reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that the use of soluble-fiber cereals is an effective and well tolerated part of a prudent diet for the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Research also indicates that psyllium incorporated into food products is more effective at reducing blood glucose response than use of a soluble fiber supplement that is separate from the food.
Psyllium is produced mainly for its mucilage content, which is highest in
P. ovata. Mucilage describes a group of clear, colorless, gelling agents derived from plants. The mucilage obtained from psyllium comes from the seed coat. Mucilage is obtained by mechanical milling/grinding of the outer layer of the seed. Mucilage yield amounts to approximately 25% or more (by weight) of the total seed yield. Plantago seed mucilage is often referred to as husk or psyllium husk. The milled seed mucilage is a white fibrous material that is hydrophilic (water-loving). Upon absorbing water the clear colorless mucilaginous gel that forms increases in volume by ten-fold or more. Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber, which is not digested by action in the small intestine. The purely mechanical action of psyllium mucilage absorbs excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Although its main use has been as a laxative, it is more appropriately termed a true dietary fiber.
Groene Dags’ psyllium husk is the purest on the market, with a swelling index of 125x or more.

Psyllium mucilage possesses several other desirable properties. As a thickener, it has been used in ice cream and frozen deserts. A 1.5% weight/volume ratio of psyllium mucilage exhibits binding properties that are superior to a 10% weight/volume ratio of starch mucilage.

What is psyllium?
Psyllium is a soluble fiber that comes from a plant most commonly grown in India. Although it is often labeled a laxative, it is not. Soluble fiber becomes gelatinous and sticky in water. It is not absorbed in the small bowel. It is broken down in the large bowel and becomes a food source for the bacteria that live in the colon. These healthy bacteria bulk up the stool, creating larger softer stool which is easier to pass. Other soluble fibers include oats, oat bran, fruit pectins, beans, and guar gum. Incidently, after psyllium is metabolized in the colon, some of it is absorbed and so adds some calories to the diet.

What is it used for?
Psyllium is a bulking agent that promotes bowel regularity. It can be used regularly, as opposed to harsh stimulant laxatives which should only be used occasionally. It is helpful in chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, hiatus hernia and diabetes. Soluble fiber may even lower cholesterol 10% to 15% if enough is taken.

How do I take it?
Follow your physician's instructions carefully. Take each dose with a full glass of water. For new users, start by taking a small amount and then gradually increase to the recommended dosage to allow your system to adjust and to minimize gas and bloating. Store in a tightly sealed container away from moisture. Keep all medications away from children. Never share your medications with anyone else.

Are there interactions with food or beverages?
There are no known food or beverage interactions with psyllium. An increase in fluid intake, a diet rich in fiber or bran and regular exercise can improve bowel regularity.

Are there interactions with drugs?
An interaction generally means that one drug may increase or decrease the effect of another drug. Also, the more medications a person takes, the more likely there will be a drug interaction. There are no known drug interactions with psyllium.

Is there a problem if I have another disorder or disease?
At times, a drug may have a different or enhanced effect when other diseases are present. At other times, the drug may worsen or effect another disease. Fiber should not be used if there is a suspicion of a chronic bowel obstruction unless discussed with the physician. It is also best to temporarily restrict fiber after abdominal surgery and when there is a flare-up of chronic bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

What about allergies?
People who have known allergies or asthma may be at an increased risk for a reaction from any new medication. The physician should always know a patient's allergy history. Signs of an allergic reaction are skin rash, hives and itching. Of course, a person should not take psyllium if there has been a previous reaction to oral or inhaled psyllium powder, stool softeners or bulking agents.

What if I'm pregnant, considering pregnancy or breast-feeding?
Fiber is generally recommended during pregnancy when constipation can become a problem. Remember that fiber is not a laxative which is the term that the FDA makes manufacturers use on the label. Psyllium is no different than oatmeal or fruits which are always part of a healthy diet. These are all healthy soluble fiber.

How long is it safe to take psyllium?
Psyllium can be used safely long-term.

Everyone should get a healthy amount of soluble and insoluble fiber in their food each day. There are many beneficial effects of fiber. It promotes bowel regularity and probably reduces the chance of heart disease and certain cancers. Psyllium should be viewed as nothing more than part of the foods you eat to stay healthy each day. There is a great deal known about fiber. For those who have diverticulosis, constipation or a hiatus hernia, link to the High Fiber Diet in the diet section.