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May 18, 2005

Psyllium

psyllium-seeds.jpgI was looking for gluten-free flour--substitutes for wheat flour--so I could bake desserts that Jeffrey could eat. I ran across recipes that called for mixtures of starch or flour derived from tapioca, rice, corn, and potato, plus a gum of some kind (also recommended as an egg substitute)--xanthan, guar gum, flax, psyllium. So, with these items on my shopping list, I was at Integral Yoga and found the pysllium, but forgot what it was for. Once home, I started looking around for information and discovered that psyllium, the active ingredient in Metamucil, is a gentle bulk softener, in a word, a laxative. Here is a report on a celebrity bowel: "Due to the concerns about regular bowel function while in space, John Glenn and a fellow astronaut took a commercial psyllium product, Metamucil, with them on their nine-day flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998."

How does it work? "Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative and is high in both fiber and mucilage. Psyllium seeds contain 10–30% mucilage. The laxative properties of psyllium are due to the swelling of the husk when it comes in contact with water. This forms a gelatinous mass that keeps feces hydrated and soft, provided it is taken with sufficient water. The resulting bulk stimulates a reflex contraction of the walls of the bowel, followed by emptying."

Psyllium has the highest ratio of soluable fibre of any food, or so it is claimed: "Every 100 grams of psyllium provides 71 grams of soluble fiber; a similar amount of oat bran would contain only 5 grams of soluble fiber." Psyllium is supposed to help lower cholesterol. But, its capacity to absorb water and to bulk up to many times its size also makes it dangerous if you do not drink lots of water too. Otherwise, there is the risk of bowel obstruction or even choking!

India is the biggest producer of psyllium. And, there is a Thai drink, falooda, which has these tiny seeds floating around--turns out the drink contains basil seeds and psyllium. Well, I bought almost a pound of psyllium! Now, I have to figure out the best way to use it--safely!

Posted by BKG at May 18, 2005 01:34 PM

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