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Benefits of Psyllium

Psyllium, also known as ispaghula is a bulk forming laxative derived from the husk of the seed of Plantago ovata. Psyllium is native to India and Iran and India dominates in the production and export of psyllium in the world market. Psyllium is commonly referred as psyllium husks in India, (which means horse ear) that describes the shape of the seeds. The glycosides and mucilages present in psyllium husk are often used as a thickening agent and to change texture of the food in food industries. Psyllium is the major source of soluble fiber and provides 71 gm of fiber per 100 gm of psyllium.
Psyllium other than being rich a soluble dietary fiber source has no major nutritive value and it is not broken down in the gastrointestinal tract.   

Several studies are conducted on psyllium for its lipid lowering properties. A studied conducted showed reductions in blood levels of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) when taken psyllium on regular basis for eight weeks. The soluble fiber in psyllium reduces cholesterol and bile acid absorption in the intestines and help in elimination of excess cholesterol. Psyllium is been used as a chef ingredient in most of the bulk laxative. When water is added to psyllium it swells ten times more than its original volume increasing the fecal bulk, loosen stool, improve bowel movement and help decrease the total transit time of the stools. Thus it is beneficial for patients with constipation, diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. Psyllium is also used for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, hiatus hernia, diverticulitis and weight loss. Psyllium is also studied for its blood sugar lowering properties, however conclusive results were not found and more research in this field is required.

It is very important to take laxatives containing psyllium with sufficient or recommended amounts of water. This should be done to avoid the risk of bowel obstruction that can occur especially in people with gastric problems. Psyllium containing products are generally considered safe but it should be used with caution in people with pre-existing bowel abnormalities or prior to a bowel surgery. Psyllium can lower blood sugar levels, so it should be used with caution in patients with diabetes, hypoglycemia and medications taking to reduce blood sugar levels. Psyllium consumption is considered safe in pregnancy, lactation and in children; however more studies are required to support its use in these groups. Psyllium can also react with certain drugs, herbs or dietary supplements, thus it is advisable to take products containing psyllium in recommended doses under the guidance of a health care professional.

Submitted on January 16, 2014