Psyllium can bind more than fifty times its original volume and therefore works well as a food thickener and stabilizer. It adds texture and is often used in desserts and creams. Most recipes call for either psyllium husk or psyllium powder. In addition, it is used to relieve symptoms of constipation. As the volume increases dramatically when water is absorbed, it is best to take smaller amounts in the beginning and drink enough fluids to make sure you avoid any undesired side effects, such as stomach pain.
From Wikipedia: “Psyllium is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage.
Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber to relieve symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea and occasionally as a food thickener. Research has also shown benefits in reducing cholesterol levels.
The plant from which the seeds are extracted tolerates dry and cool climates and is mainly cultivated in northern India. Psyllium products are marketed under several brand names, such as Metamucil, Fybogel, Konsyl, and Lunelax.”
“If you let psyllium soak in almond or coconut water, a firm mixture will develop. This can be used as a filling for cakes. And you can add smaller amounts to juices (e.g., orange juice) to make pudding. It is used as a thickener in smoothies and as a base for vegan mozzarella recipes.*”
“Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber, which is not absorbed by the small intestine. The purely mechanical action of psyllium mucilage is to absorb excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Although its main use has been as a laxative, it is more appropriately termed a true dietary fiber and as such can help reduce the symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea. The laxative properties of psyllium are attributed to the fiber absorbing water and subsequently softening the stool. It is also one of the few laxatives that does not promote flatulence.”
High blood cholesterol:
“As well as aiding in intestinal transit, several studies point to a cholesterol reduction attributed to a diet that includes dietary fiber such as psyllium. The use of soluble-fiber cereals is an effective and well-tolerated part of a prudent diet for the treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Although the cholesterol-reducing and glycemic-response properties of psyllium-containing foods are fairly well documented, the effect of long-term inclusion of psyllium in the diet has not been determined. Supplementation with fiber as ispaghula husk may have adverse effects on colorectal adenoma recurrence, especially in patients with high dietary calcium intake.”
“Since psyllium husk-containing products are sometimes used as a source of dietary fiber, the intake of dietary fiber could hinder the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Psyllium fiber has been shown in studies to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels while another common fiber, methylcellulose, has not shown these benefits.
Gas or stomach cramping may also occur. It is recommended that this product be taken with a full glass of water to avoid it swelling in the throat and causing choking. Serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek medical attention if any signs of anaphylaxis arise, such as a rash, itching/swelling, dizziness or difficulty breathing.
Choking is a hazard if psyllium is taken without adequate water as it thickens in the throat. Cases of allergic reaction to psyllium-containing cereal have also been documented.”
“The United States is the world's largest importer of psyllium husk, with over 60% of total imports going to pharmaceutical firms. In the UK, ispaghula husk is used in the popular constipation remedy Fybogel. Psyllium mucilage is also used as a natural dietary fiber for animals. The dehusked seed that remains after the seed coat is milled off is rich in starch and fatty acids, and is used as chicken and cattle feed.”
Procter&Gamble has attempted to make Metamucil a household name using adverts in magazines and on television. Metamucil’s original claim was, “All fiber is not created equal”. Metamucil’s prime prospects were older-aged people who are likely to suffer from constipation. Therefore, P&G’s marketing was precise towards this microcosm of the population that account for the majority of its business; however, P&G has been attempting to appeal to greater and younger crowds. With the new slogan, “Beautify your Insides” and appealed more to the trend of bodily cleanses, instead of its stereotype of easing constipation.
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry.