According to the Whole Grains Council, a true whole grain contains the bran, germ and endosperm of a cereal grain in the same proportions as the kernel did before processing. Cereal grains include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, wheat and wild and brown rice. While psyllium husk is not a whole grain, its fiber provides the same benefits as that of whole grains.
About Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is the outer coating of mucilage around the seed of the Plantago ovata plant, which comes from India. It is also known as blond psyllium or blond plantago. The husk is pure dietary fiber that passes undigested through the stomach and small intestine. In the colon, psyllium may be fermented by naturally occurring bacteria. The husks absorb water and form a spongy, gelatinous mass that stimulates the bowels to move.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 15 g serving of psyllium husk contains 30 calories, primarily from carbohydrates. There is less than 1 g protein and no cholesterol. While psyllium contains some linoleic acid, the total amount of fat is inconsequential -- 0.075 g. A serving has 44 mg calcium and 19 mg sodium. Psyllium husk is taken for its fiber benefits. Just 15 g psyllium husk provides 11.5 g total fiber, 60 to 70 percent as soluble fiber. Women should aim to to get 25 g fiber daily.
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, psyllium softens stools and relieves constipation. It lowers total and “bad” LDL cholesterol and may decrease risk of heart disease. Cereals and other products can carry a label claim to this effect if they contain at least 1.7 g psyllium per serving. Psyllium may also be effective for lowering blood pressure and post-meal blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and for improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea and hemorrhoids.
Dosage and Cautions
A typical dose for psyllium is 15 g daily, divided into three doses. Doses in studies have varied, from 7 g to 40 g daily, depending on the condition being treated. It is important to take plenty of fluids with psyllium -- at least 8 oz. water or juice for every 3 to 5 g psyllium husk. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database reports psyllium can cause gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and nausea. It has the potential to interact with carbamazepine and lithium. The dosage of anti-diabetes drugs may need to be lowered. Take an iron supplement 1 hour before or 4 hours after taking psyllium, as it can decrease iron absorption.
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