Psyllium hulls, or husks, are primarily used as a bulk laxative. Bulk laxatives use fiber to relieve the symptoms of constipation. The United States imports more psyllium than any other country at a rate of 8,000 metric tons annually, according to information provided in January 2000 by the online University of Wisconsin Extension Alternative Field Crops Manual. Some internal cleansing regimens recommend psyllium hulls as part of the program.
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Psyllium hulls are the outer mucilage coating surrounding seeds of several species of the plant genus Plantago, including P. psyllium and P. arenaria, according to information provided in the University of Wisconsin Extension. The species, P. ovata, psyllium from India, provides the most mucilage. In India, the remaining seed becomes chicken and cattle feed.
Mucilage is a clear gelling agent contained in the psyllium hull. This hydrophilic, water loving, substance is about 25 percent or more of the weight of the seed. It’s separated from the seed using a milling or grinding process. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, psyllium husks expand up to 10 times in size when mixed with water. Mucilage is the part of the seed used in dietary supplements. Rich in bulk dietary fiber, psyllium hulls absorb excess water in the digestive tract and stimulate bowel movements. Mucilage is not broken down by the digestive system.
Over-the-counter bulk laxatives, including popular name brands available at your average local drugstore, contain psyllium husk as the active ingredient. These products come in flavors because psyllium husks do not have much taste. You can also buy 100 percent natural, unflavored psyllium husks in the bulk section of your local health food store. A dry powder, the University of Maryland Heath Center recommends you mix it with water according to the directions on the package or instructions given by your physician.
Coronary Heart Disease
Psyllium hulls may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease based on conclusions drawn by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after evaluating the totality of publicly available scientific evidence. This U.S. Federal agency states that there is significant scientific agreement among qualified experts to support the relationship between soluble fiber in psyllium seed husk and CHD.
Use psyllium hulls with caution. This natural dietary supplement can inhibit the absorption of certain medications and may cause gas and bloating, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People with kidney disease or those with difficulty swallowing should not take psyllium. Psyllium may possibly interact with antidepressants, seizure medication, lithium, cholesterol lowering or diabetes medications, as well as others.