Everything You Need to Know About Dietary Supplement Psyllium
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Psyllium is a soluble fiber which is utilized as an effective low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol reducer, laxative and stool softening agent in the human body. As a soluble fiber, psyllium swells as it comes into contact with liquids and creates a gel-like substance that aids in excreting digested particles through the intestines. It is bred by the Plantago ovata herb, also known as P. indica or P. psyllium, and is predominantly found in India.
Psyllium husk has also been found to be very effective for lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol among individuals whom have previously experienced elevated cholesterol levels. How does fiber lower LDL cholesterol levels? The answer is simple: soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol particles in the intestine and prevents them from entering the bloodstream by allowing these particles to be excreted via feces with the fiber.
Research suggests psyllium husk, which is 70 percent soluble fiber, might also be effective for relieving gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and lowering blood sugar after a meal. The research is inconclusive in this area and there is individual variation, so consult your physician and registered dietitian before you begin a regimen involving psyllium husk.
Individuals with diverticulitis may be advised to take Citrucel®, a soluble fiber made from methylcellulose, to prevent excess gas and gastrointestinal distress. Even though it is a soluble fiber, methylcellulose will not help to lower cholesterol. If you are looking for fiber products to lower your blood cholesterol, it is important to make sure the product contains psyllium.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that individuals who consume approximately “10 to 12 grams [psyllium] daily in combination with a low-fat or high-fat diet, can reduce levels of total cholesterol by three to 14 percent and LDL cholesterol by five to 10 percent in seven weeks or more of treatment.”
The Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA) recommends consuming at least seven grams of soluble fiber from psyllium husk to reduce an individual’s risk for coronary heart disease. Note, this recommendation does not correlate with the total number of grams of psyllium in the product. Therefore, look for at the ingredient panel to confirm that you are getting seven grams of soluble fiber coming from psyllium husk.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that individuals who are beginning to consume psyllium should mix one-half tsp. of psyllium husk or powder in six to eight ounces of water in the morning or before bedtime once daily. Add an additional one-half tsp. daily each week until a daily total of seven grams soluble fiber from psyllium husk is met. For example, add one-half tsp. of psyllium to eight ounces of water during the first week; one teaspoon of psyllium to eight ounces of water during the second week and so forth. Fluid consumption, particularly water, is imperative when consuming psyllium, as the substance might thicken rapidly in the esophagus and could lead to choking.
Forms of Psyllium
Psyllium is offered as two forms in medications and supplements: seed form and husk form. While the seed form is typically much more expensive, the FDA only offers cholesterol lowering recommendations for psyllium husk. The husk form is also found in powder form.
If you are looking to lower your total cholesterol and LDL, you should aim to consume seven grams of soluble fiber from psyllium husk or powder. When purchasing psyllium products, check to see if soluble fiber is listed on the product label (bulk products). Once you locate it on the label, look for how many grams equals a serving size and multiply that number by 70 percent. For example: a serving size for psyllium husk may read: two Tbsp. (10 grams). Multiply 10 grams x .70 = seven grams. Note, price/dosage comparison of products that contain seven grams of soluble fiber coming from psyllium husk vary widely. Currently, prices ranged from as little as $0.12 per day to as much as $0.40 per day.
To incorporate psyllium into your daily nutrition, begin to add slowly and start with one-half tsp. per day and increase as tolerated. Aim to drink eight ounces of water with every one tsp.of psyllium every day.
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Article provided by Kathy Duran-Thal, RD, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.