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Psyllium Husks & Cancer

by
author image Jessica Bruso
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.
Psyllium Husks & Cancer
A wooden bowl and spoon with psyllium husks. Photo Credit HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Psyllium husk is a type of soluble fiber formed from the seeds of the Plantago ovata shrub. It is most often used as a laxative, because it swells after absorbing water in the intestines, bulking your stool and making it easier to pass. Soluble fiber like that in psyllium husk may help to lower your cholesterol levels, and dietary fiber may help to lower your risk of developing certain cancers.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells combine to form polyps, which can later become cancerous. Preventive screening is the best way to avoid colon cancer, because polyps can be found and removed before they turn cancerous, according to the American Cancer Society. However, diet may also affect your risk of developing colon cancer. Choose whole grains and consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, while limiting your consumption of red and processed meat. Exercising and limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men can also lower your colon-cancer risk.

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Psyllium and Cancer

Consuming foods containing dietary fiber may lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. It may also lower your risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, although there is less evidence for this, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. Most large studies have found only a very small decrease in risk of colon cancer with the consumption of higher levels of dietary fiber and no decrease in risk of colon cancer recurrence, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Side Effects and Safety

Psyllium husk can cause side effects, including allergic reactions, vomiting, nausea, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, bloating, gas, itching and rash. If you don't mix psyllium husk with sufficient water, your stomach, intestines or esophagus could become blocked. People with difficulty swallowing, kidney disease, stomach or intestinal problems should not take psyllium, and you should not take psyllium within three hours of taking any medication.

Considerations

Don't take psyllium husk for longer than one week unless you are under the supervision of your doctor. Taking psyllium is unlikely to decrease your risk of developing cancer very much, and can cause side effects. Consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead, as this will provide nutritional benefits, as well as the small potential decrease in cancer risk, without you having to worry about side effects.

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