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Psyllium Husk Mucilage
What is mucilage?
Mucilage (from Latin mucilago = a musty juice) is a thick substance naturally occurring in plant seeds, roots or leaves . Purified mucilages from food additives and supplements are indigestible polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates), made of glucose, galactose, arabinose, other monosaccharides and uronic acid . Mucilage is a soluble fiber; it cannot be digested in the small intestine, so it passes to the large intestine, where it is broken down (fermented) by beneficial large intestinal bacteria into gases and substances, which can be absorbed . When mixed with water it forms a viscous fluid.
Herbs and Other Plants High in Mucilage
Common sources of mucilage include Aloe vera leaves, ambrette, arnica, balsam fir, basil, borage, cactus, celery, chia seeds, evening primrose, fenugreek seeds, fig, flaxseed, hibiscus, Irish moss or carrageenan (a seaweed), kelp (a seaweed), lemon, linseed, liquorice root, mallow, marshmallow root, mustard seeds, nettle, nutmeg, okra, parsley root, plantain (a herb) seeds, potatoes, psyllium seed husks, quince seeds, sage, slippery elm inner bark [2,3].
- Natural mucilage is used as a thickener and stabilizer in dairy products and other commercial foods.
- Synthetic mucilages may be used as emulsifiers in medicinal suspensions.
- Mucilages in the form of lozenges, capsules, tinctures or syrups are used as a soothing agents (demulcent) are used to relieve irritated throat or gut.
- Mucilage can soften the stools.
Psyllium Husk Mucilage Supplements Health Benefits
Blond psyllium husk supplements are available over-the-counter (OTC) as tablets, capsules, powder, ground or whole husks. 10 g of psyllium husk powder contains about 5 g of soluble and 2 g of insoluble fiber [21,24].
Psyllium husk is POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in:
- Treatment of chronic constipation [4,5,6] but may not be effective as a laxative in cancer patients 
- Lowering blood total and LDL cholesterol (4-7% decrease), fasting and post-meal glucose levels (~15% decrease) in individuals with diabetes type 2 [11,12]
- Lowering the risk of coronary heart disease when taken in doses 7 g/day . US Food and Drug Administration allows a health claim for psyllium products that contain at least 1.7 grams of soluble fiber per serving, when consumed in doses 7 g/day or greater along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol: “may reduce the risk of heart disease” .
- Prevention of diarrhea caused by irradiation treatment 
- Reducing side effects of orlistat (a cholesterol-loweing drug) 
- Some health centers suggest psyllium as a stool softener may be appropriate for individuals with hemorrhoids and anal fissures .
There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE about effectiveness of psyllium husk in treatment of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) in adults and children [4,8]., lowering high blood pressure , weight loss [17,18] or ulcerative colitis .
According to one study, psyllium husk is NOT EFFECTIVE for bowel preparation before colonoscopy .
Doses for constipation range from 7 to 40 grams for adults, but ask your doctor for a dose appropriate for you.
Mucilage may reduce the absorption of iron and certain drugs (check the products information leaflets).
Pregnancy. Not enough studies have been made to evaluate the safety of psyllium supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding .
Who should avoid taking psyllium husk? Anyone with swallowing difficulties or bowel obstruction.
Be sure to take psyllium with sufficient amount of water to prevent choking.
Psyllium husk in large doses can cause abdominal bloating, pain, cramps, excessive gas (flatulence), obstruction of the esophagus or colon and anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) .
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Latin name for blond psyllium?
2. Is psyllium husk gluten-free?
3. What are gums?
Gums is a collective name for water-soluble, gel-forming indigestible carbohydrates derived from cereals, fruits, herbs or seaweeds. Gums are used as food additives or dietary fiber supplements. Examples: psyllium husk powder, pectin, acacia gum, carrageenan.
- Soluble dietary fiber