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Health Benefits of Psyllium Seed Husk

Laxative Effect - Most dietary fibre sources promote laxation by increasing colonic contents, which stimulates propulsion. Unfermented or incompletely fermented fibre and the accompanying moisture it holds are two contributors to this increased stool mass (1). Slowly or incompletely fermented fibres also contribute to stool weight by providing substrate for microbial growth. The greater bacterial mass and accompanying water further increase stool weight (2,3). In most studies, the additional stool mass produced by consumption of more dietary fibre contains the same proportion of moisture as do low-fibre stools (4).

Psyllium seed husk is a partially fermented dietary fibre from Plantago ovata that increases stool weight and promotes laxation by its presence in stool and by increasing the moisture content of stool (5-8). In a study by Cummings et al (2000), they proposed that the unfermented gel isolated from psyllium containing stools functions as an emollient and lubricant. The greater ease of passage, gentleness, and softness reported by the subjects and the isolation of a very viscous fraction supports this hypothesis.

All studies involving psyllium report increases in wet and dry stool weights both in healthy subjects (5-8, 9-11) and in subjects with gastrointestinal disease (12-17). Psyllium appears to increase stool mass more effectively than do other common laxative fibre sources. In the Cummings study , each gram of psyllium seed husk increased stool weight an average of 5.9 gms, compared with 4.9-5.4 gms for wheat bran fibre and 3.4-4.5 gms for oat bran fibre (1,3).

Cholesterol lowering - Consumption of viscous soluble fibres significantly lowers serum total and LDL cholesterol concentrations (18,19), and may provide an alternative to drug therapy for some patients (20-22). Of the viscous soluble fibres, psyllium husk fibre appears to be one of the most effective (23,24) with the least adverse effects (25).

Short term placebo-controlled studies showed that consumption of 7-10 gms psyllium/day lowers serum total cholesterol concentrations 4-11% and serum LDL cholesterol concentrations 6-18% below placebo control concentrations (19-23, 26-31). The mechanism of action of psyllium's hypocholesterolemic effects has not been fully elucidated. Psyllium was shown to stimulate bile acid synthesis ( 7 alpha hydroxylase activity) in animal models (32,33) and in humans (27), which leads to reduction of serum cholesterol. Additional mechanisms, such as inhibition of hepatic cholesterol synthesis by propionate (34) and secondary effects of slowing glucose absorption (35) may also play a role.

Other soluble fibre sources, such as guar gum (36), locust bean gum (37), pectin (38), oat bran 39), and legumes (40), have also been reported to decrease serum total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. However the practical uses for many of these fibres are limited by a lack of palatable forms (28). In a study in which the effects of 10 different fibres were compared in rats, psyllium fed rats had the lowest serum and liver cholesterol concentrations (24).

Anticarcinogenic effect - Ingestion of prebiotics (non-digestible food ingredient that selectively stimulates bacteria in the colon) results in a different spectrum of fermentation products, including the production of high concentrations of short chain fatty acids, leading to a decrease in pH. A low pH in faeces was associated with a reduced incidence of colon cancer in various populations (41,42).

Butyrate is associated with many biological properties in the colon (43). One of the first observed effects of butyrate on the degree of DNA methylation is probably associated with modified gene expression, the consequences of which are yet unknown, particularly in relation to colon cancer. However, butyrate may also directly enhance cell proliferation in normal cells and suppress proliferation in transformed cells by improving cell differentiation. This is an important step in suppressing cancer cells. In addition, apoptoses may be increased in transformed cells but inhibited in normal cells when butyrate is present (44-46).

Colon cancer, which in a high proportion of the population is due to somatic mutations occurring during the lifetime of an individual, could be retarded by preventing these mutations. Prebiotics have been shown to deactivate genotoxic carcinogens. DNA damage had been prevented and chemopreventive systems may be stimulated in vivo in colon tissues.

Intestinal Health - The colon of the human gastrointestinal tract contains a large population of resident bacteria. In fact, approximately 55% of the solids in faeces is microbial biomass. In adults, these bacteria are balanced in a complex ecosystem consisting of more than 40 major species and more than 400 species in total (47).

In a healthy individual, most of these species are advantageous or benign to the host, but some are potentially pathogenic if their numbers are allowed to increase to high levels. Disturbances to the ecological balance in the intestinal microflora caused by, for example, changes in diet, stress or antibiotic treatment can lead to the overgrowth of deleterious bacteria, and subsequently to gastrointestinal disorders (48). These disorders may be as minor as intestinal discomfort or increased flatulence, or relative serious health problems such as severe diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. Undesirable bacteria in the colon have even been implicated in the development of colon cancer (49).

Oligofructose, derived from a plant source (usually chicory) consists of fructose chains of up to several units. It is a resistant starch, or soluble dietary fibre, that is not absorbed in the small intestine and passes into the large intestine where it is partly fermented, producing an energy value of 6 - 8 kilojoules/gm.

Carbohydrates are normally absorbed in the small intestine and directly metabolised in the liver, generating 17 kilojoules/gm. Complex fibres produce little or no energy and are broken down by bacteria to some degree in the large intestine.

Resistant starches are neither fibres or complex carbohydrates, and were for many years a dilemma for the Food Authorities. They are now recognised under the carbohydrate banner and are listed on nutritional panels as soluble dietary fibre.

Oligofructose is a tremendous substrate for bifidus bacteria, stimulating its activity by several hundred percent. This is called prebiotic activity, referring to stimulation of health promoting bacteria in the intestinal tract. Short chain fatty acids are produced, lowering pH levels and providing an energy source for the growth and maintenance of large intestine cells. This process leads to differentiation of cancer cells, a vital step that is required before cancer cells can be killed.

The ideal environment for healthy bacteria is quite different to the environment preferred by pathogens and gram negative putrefactive bacteria. Consequently the undesirable bacteria diminish in number as the healthy bacteria proliferate in the presence of oligofructose.

One type of undesirable bacteria are faecal bacteria that thrive in the presence of unabsorbed iron. This leads to the production of oxygen radicals that are known to damage protein, lipids and DNA. This damage has been implicated in the induction of somatic cell mutations that may favour the development of several forms of cancer (50).

There is some limited evidence that habitual intake of dietary fibre may suppress the production of reactive oxygen species (51).

A colon high in faecal iron levels would benefit substantially from oligofructose consumption, creating an environment unfavourable for the growth of iron loving bacteria. The microflora balance would gradually shift from the putrefactive to the healthy, increasing the growth of probiotic bacteria such as lactobacillus, bifidus, acidophilus and enterococcus.

Moreover, probiotics might prevent infection because they compete with pathogenic viruses or bacteria for binding sites on epithelial cells (52). Diarrhea due to the growth of pathogenic bacteria is the most common side effect of antibiotic use. Probiotics might inhibit this growth by releasing inhibitory substances, as indeed has been shown in vitro by some strains (53).

Desirable bacterial numbers can also be increased by consuming cultured products such as yoghurt but in many cases they are not very effective because many bacteria are destroyed in the stomach and small intestine. Upon reaching the colon or large intestine the surviving bacteria are often present is such low numbers that any likely benefit is doubtful. This especially happens with commercial yoghurt that has a shelf life of several weeks, with bacterial numbers possibly already low before consumption. Yoghurt manufacturers have addressed the problem by including oligofructose in the yoghurt so that surviving bacteria are rejuvenated once they reach the colon.


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2. Stephen AM, Cummings JH. Mechanism of action of dietary fibre in the human colon. Nature 1980;284:283-4.

3. Chen H-L, Haack VS, Janecky CW, Vollendorf NW, Marlett JA. Mechanisms by which wheat bran and oat bran increase stool weight in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:711-9.

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5. Prynne CJ, Southgate DAT. The effects of a supplement of dietary fibre on faecal excretion by human subjects. Br J Nutr 1979;41:495-503.

6. Spiller GA, Shipley EA, Chernoff MC, Cooper WC. Bulk laxative efficacy of a psyllium seed hydrocolloid and of a mixture of cellulose and pectin. J Clin Pharmacol 1979;19:313-20.

7. Stevens J. VanSoest PJ, Robertson JB, Levitsky DA. Comparison of the effects of psyllium and wheat bran on gastrointestinal transit time and stool characteristics. J Am Diet Assoc 1988;88:323-6.

8. Marteau P, Flourié B, Cherbut C, et al. Digestibility and bulking effect of ispaghula husks in healthy humans. Gut 1994;35:1747-52.

9. Tomlin J, Read NW. The relation between bacterial degradation of viscous polysaccharides and stool output in human beings. Br J Nutr 1988;60:467-75.

10. Gelissen IC, Brodie B, Eastwood MA. Effect of Plantago ovata (psyllium) husk and seeds on sterol metabolism: studies in normal and ileostomy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:395-400.

11. Levitt MD, Furne J, Olsson S. The relation of passage of gas and abdominal bloating to colonic gas production. Ann Intern Med 1996;124:422-44.

12. Eastwood MA, Smith AN, Brydon WG, Pritchard J. Comparison of bran, ispaghula, and lactulose on colon function in diverticular disease. Gut 1978;19:1144-7.

13. Kumar A, Kumar N, Vij JC, Sarin SK, Anand BS. Optimum dosage of ispaghula husk in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: correlation of symptom relief with whole gut transit time and stool weight. Gut 1987;28150-5.

14. Prior A, Whorwell PJ. Double blind study of ispaghula in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut 1987;28:1510-3.

15. Thorburn HA, Carter KB, Boldberg JA, Finlay IG. Does ispaghula husk stimulate the entire colon in diverticular disease? Gut 1992;33:352-6.

16. Ashraf W, Park F, Lof J, Quigley EM. Effects of psyllium therapy on stool characteristics, colon transit and anorectal function in chronic idiopathic constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1995;9:639-47.

17. Cheskin LJ, Kamal N, Crowell MD, Schuster MM. Mechanisms of constipation in older persons and effects of fibre compared with placebo. J Am Geriatr Soc 1995;43:666-9.

18. Anderson JW. Dietary fibre, complex carbohydrate and coronary artery disease. Can J Cardiol 1995;11(suppl):55G-62G.

19. Anderson JW, Zettwoch N, Feldman T et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid for hypercholesterolemic men. Arch Intern Med 1988;148:292-6.

20. Sprecher DL, Harris BV, Goldberg AC, et al. Efficacy of psyllium in reducing serum cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic patients on high - or low - fat diets. Ann Intern Med 1993;199:545-54.

21. Levin EG, Miller VT, Muesing RA, et al. Comparison of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid and cellulose as adjuncts to a prudent diet in the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Arch Intern Med 1990;150:1822-7.

22. Bell LP, Hectorne K. Reynolds H, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid. JAMA 1989;261:3419-23.

23. Bell LP, Hectorn KJ, Reynolds H, Hunninghake DB. Cholesterol-lowering effects of soluble-fibre cereals as part of a prudent diet for patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Am J Clin Nutr 1990;52:1020-6.

24. Anderson JW, Jones AE, Riddell-Mason S. Ten different dietary fibres have significantly different effects on serum and liver lipids of cholesterol-fed rats. J Nutr 1994;124:78-83.

25. Anderson JW, Deakins DA, Floore TL, et al. Dietary fibre and coronary heart disease. CRC Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1990;29:95-147.

26. Anderson JW, Floore TL, Geil PB, et al. Hypocholesterolemic effects of different bulk-forming hydrophilic fibres as adjuncts to dietary therapy in mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Arch Intern Med 1991;151:1597-602.

27. Everson GT, Daggy BP, McKinley C, Story JA. Effects of psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid on LDL-cholesterol and bile acid synthesis in hypercholesterolemic men. J Lipid Res 1992;33:1183-92.

28. Anderson JW, Riddell-Mason S, Gustafson NJ, Smith SF, Mackey M. Cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium-enriched cereal as an adjunct to a prudent diet in the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:93-8.

29. Stoy DB, LaRosa JC, Brewer BK, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of ready-to-eat cereal containing psyllium. J Am Diet Assoc 1993;93:910-2.

30. Wolever TM, Jenkins DJ, Mueller S, et al. Psyllium reduces blood lipids in men and women with hyperlipidemia. Am J Med Sci 1994;307:269-73.

31. Wolever TMS, Jenkins DJA, Mueller S, et al. Method of administration influences the serum cholesterol-lowering effect of psyllium. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1055-9.

32. Horton JD, Cuthbert JA, Spady DK. Regulation of hepatic 7 alpha-hydroxylase expression by dietary psyllium in the hamster. J Clin Invest 1994;93:2084-92.

33. Matheson HB, Colon IS, Story JA. Cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase activity is increased by dietary modification with psyllium hydrocolloid, pectin, cholesterol and cholestyramine in rats. J Nutr 1995;125:454-8.

34. Anderson JW. Short-chain fatty acids and lipid metabolism: human studies. In: Cummings JH, Rombeau JL, Sakata T, eds. Physiological and clinical aspects of short-chain fatty acids. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1995:509-23.

35. Jenkins DJA, Jenkins AL, Wolever T, Vuksan V. Fibre and physiological and potentially therapeutic effects of slowing carbohydrate absorption. In: Furda I, Brine CJ, eds. New developments in dietary fibre. New York: Plenum Press, 1990:129-34.

36. Aro A, Uusitupa M, Voutilainen E, Korhonen T. Effects of guar gum in male subjects with hypercholesterolemia. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;39:911-6.

37. Zavoral JH, Hannan P, Fields DJ, et al. The hypolipidemic effect of locust bean gum food products in familial hypercholesterolemic adults and children. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;38:285-94.

38. Judd PA, Truswell AS. Comparison of the effects of high - and low - methoxyl pectins on blood and faecal lipids in man. Br J Nutr 1982;48:451-8.

39. Anderson JW, Story L, Sieling B, Chen WJ, Petro MS, Story J. Hypocholesterolemic effects of oat bran or bean intake for hypercholesterolemic men. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;40:1146-55.

40. Anderson JW, Gustafson NJ, Spencer DB, Tietyen J, Bryant CA. Serum lipid response of hypercholesterolemic men to single and divided doses of canned beans. Am J Clin Nutr 1990;51:1013-9.

41. Malhotra SL. Dietary factors in a study of cancer colon from cancer registry, with special reference to the role of saliva, milk and fermented milk products and vegetable fibre. Med Hypotheses 1977;3:122-34.

42. Segal I, Hassan H, Walker ARP, Becker P, Braganza J. Faecal short chain fatty acids in South African urban Africans and whites. Dis Colon Rectum 1995;38:732-4.

43. Pool-Zobel BL, Neudecker C, Domizlaff I, et al. Lactobacillus - and Bifidobacterium - mediated antigenotoxicity in the colon of rats. Nutr Cancer 1996;26:365-80.

44. Hague A, Elder DJE, Hicks DJ, Paraskeva C. Apoptosis in colorectal tumour cells: induction by the short chain fatty acids butyrate, propionate and acetate and by the bile salt deoxycholate. Int J Cancer 1995;60:400-6.

45. Marchetti C, Migliorati G, Moraca R, et al. Deoxycholic acid and SCFA-induced apoptosis in the human tumor cell-line HT-29 and possible mechanisms. Cancer Lett 1997;114:97-9.

46. Hass R, Busche R, Luciano L, Reale E, Engelhardt W. Lack of butyrate is associated with induction of bax and subsequent apoptosis in the proximal colon of guinea pig. Gastroenterology 1997;112:875-81.

47. Tannock, G.W. 1995.

48. Marteau, P. and Rambaud, J.C. (1993) FEMS Microbia.Rev. 12,20-220.

49. Tomomatsu,H, (1994) Food Technol.48,1-65.

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Detoxification     Health Matters     Triphala

Ispagula Husk – Best of all Fiber Diet

For thousands of years this Ispagula Husk has provided relief for many ailments involving the intestinal system. So, if any one not familiar with this term “Ispagula Husk”, then the first question will be arises, what is Ispagula Husk?

It is the epidermis and the collapsed layers removed from the dried ripe seeds of Plantago ovata Forssk.(Fam: Plantaginaceac). The plant is a herbaceous annual indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and Iran. Ispagula Husk contains mucilage and hemicelluloses. Cold water extraction yields a polysaccharide which on hydrolysis yields D-xylose(46%), L-arabinose(7%) and the aldobiouronic acid(40%). Subsequent extraction with hot water removes a xylum composed of D-xylose(80%) and L-arabinose(14%). It looks pale buff brittle flakes, more or less lanceolate, up to 2 mm long and 1 mm wide at the centre, much broken into smaller fragments.

For thousands of years this Ispagula Husk has provided relief for many ailments involving the intestinal system. So, if any one not familiar with this term “Ispagula Husk”, then the first question will be arises, what is Ispagula Husk?

It is the epidermis and the collapsed layers removed from the dried ripe seeds of Plantago ovata Forssk.(Fam: Plantaginaceac). The plant is a herbaceous annual indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and Iran. Ispagula Husk contains mucilage and hemicelluloses. Cold water extraction yields a polysaccharide which on hydrolysis yields D-xylose(46%), L-arabinose(7%) and the aldobiouronic acid(40%). Subsequent extraction with hot water removes a xylum composed of D-xylose(80%) and L-arabinose(14%). It looks pale buff brittle flakes, more or less lanceolate, up to 2 mm long and 1 mm wide at the centre, much broken into smaller fragments.

Needs of Fiber Diet

Fiber is very filling and gives a pleasant satisfied feeling in the stomach. When a person eats sufficient fiber they normally experience regular bowel movements. Fiber works in several ways. Fiber (also called roughage or bulk) promotes the wavelike contractions that keep food moving through the intestine. Also, high-fiber foods expand the inside walls of the colon. This eases the passage of waste. Fibrous substances pass through the intestine undigested. They also absorb many times their weight in water, resulting in softer, bulkier stools. Because of this action, some digestive tract disorders may be avoided, halted, or even reversed simply by following a high-fiber diet. All this is an advantage with constipation, diarrhea, IBS and they also added advantage for those who wish to keep their weight down, or to lose weight.

Studies show that rural Africans, who eat diets high in fiber, eliminate food waste in one-third the time it takes people from urban westernized cultures. Their stools are larger and softer. Because of the greater bulk and speed of foods through the digestive tract, it is believed that harmful substances are also swept out before they can cause problems. In fact, these rural people have fewer of the digestive tract diseases that plague Western man. It is thought that this may be related to the nature of their diet.

Why Ispagula Husk is the best one in the field of fiber diets?

The effects of this herb are quite astonishing and the work it does within the body can be felt in a very short period of time. Here, I will describe the inherited actions of Ispagula Husk on different organ/diseases that were already established by fiber diet investigators.

  • It has the property of absorbing and retaining water and has therefore been used as a bulk providing medium in the treatment of diarrhea & constipation.
  • On account of its content of mucilage, it is effective in heartburn and stomach allergy as a demulcent.
  • These fibers are unrelated chemically, however, they all have one thing in common -- they can't be digested by the human body. For this reason, they can help correct disorders of the large intestine (colon), and keep it functioning normally.
  • It soothes the inflamed and irritated tissues. Promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon. Relieves hemorrhoids by reducing irritation of the distended veins.
  • It is binds to fat to eliminate it from the body. So, Ispaghula husk can be used in treating moderately raised cholesterol levels. Recently, the Indian Heart Journal published a review of an study, which is conclude that the Ispaghula husk (psyllium) is nearly as effective as simvastatin for improving the lipid profile of hyperlipidemic patients. This inheriting characteristic of the Ispaghula husk also helps in weight management.
  • Rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gallstones and kidney stones (in addition to diabetes and high cholesterol). Additional fiber in the diet will slow digestion and lessen the effects of insulin.
  • Moreover, it is found to be effective on various diseases and also reduces the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diverticulitis (defects in the weakened walls of the colon), colitis, ulcers and irritable bowl syndrome.
  • Ispaghula is particularly useful in those who cannot tolerate bran

Dose: The usual adult dose is 3 to 5 gm. Children may be given half the adult dose.

Guideline for getting the most from Ispagula Husk:

  • Never take more than the prescribed dose.
  • Must consult with your doctor or pharmacist
  • if you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding
  • if you find it difficult to swallow
  • if you are so constipated that you may be suffering from a blockage
  • if you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or any other medicine
  • if you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines
  • Mix Ispaghula granules or powder with water and take it immediately.
  • Never take Ispagula Husk just before bedtime.
  • It is important to drink plenty of water while you are being treated with Ispaghula. You should aim to drink at least eight large glasses of water a day.

    Leaflady's Fibre-Blend contains psyllium seed and husk powders and other natural high-fibre ingredients. I suggest the use of goat whey with homemade yoghurt also, to accomplish beneficial changes in healthy colon bacteria and to maintain the proper acidic pH levels in the colon.

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