First and foremost I want you wish each of you a very happy Fecal Friday!
For those who are dumb founded by that statement, just know that I’ve endeavoured in recent times to dedicate Friday to content relating to bowel movements and digestive health because of the obvious implications of good bowel regularity on quality of life.
While it may seem childish on the surface, I honestly cannot tell you the amount of clients who have reached out to express the fact that they feel far more comfortable discussing their bowel habits [with me or others] as a direct result of my openness on the subject matter.
Quite frankly, that thrills me – so here we go again!
Psyllium For Better Bowel Movements?
Let me start by saying the goal of today’s article is not to explicitly or broadly recommend the use of psyllium fibre, rather it is to explore the scientific reasons why this fibre supplement above all others is the most useful for improving your bowel habits.
Whether you personally choose to use it, and in what capacity, is more so a decision to be made with your healthcare provider ( which could be me!)
I also urge you guys to read my article on How Many Times Most People Poop A Day in order to get a better sense of what constitutes healthy bowel habits for the average person.
I will also note that psyllium fibre is multi-talented, and also useful when it comes to the contributing to the management of both blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels which could be favourable in a variety of contexts including PCOS, pre/type 2 diabetes and more.
Okay, back to talking crap.
What Makes Psyllium Unique?
Psyllium fibre is a form of isolated plant fibre from the Plantago Ovata species that has long been sold in various capsule/powder forms owing to the strong body of evidence pertaining to its health benefits.
Psyllium has a combination of physiological characteristics which make it distinct from other types of fibre and allow it to confer these numerous benefits.
Solubility In Water
The first and more common characteristic of psyllium fibre is that it is a soluble fibre, which essentially mean it easily mixes/dissolves in water. This ability to interact with water, as you will soon understand, is fundamental for the rest of its effect
While all types of soluble fibre dissolve in water, only a sub-set interact with water in a gel-forming capacity. Essentially, psyllium is very good at attracting and holding on to water which improves bowel movements because it makes them both softer & bulkier and thus easier to move through the digestive tract becoming significantly easier to pass.
Even a small increase in the water content of poops can have a massive effect on consistency and ease of passing.
Depending on contextual factors, this could be true both in constipation [ water softens the hard stools] and diarrhea [ psyllium attracts the excess water, allowing the poo to form better and be less loose].
It is this gel-forming and absorptive effect which also, for different reasons, contributes to psyllium’s blood sugar and cholesterol lowering capacity.
Other types of fibre, such as beta-glucan found in supplements & oatmeal, also share these characteristics.
But there’s one very important difference because psyllium is….
Not Fermented [In The Large Intestine]
This is the ultimate attribute that makes psyllium fibre better than the rest.
While many types of fibre are soluble and gel-forming, psyllium is additionally unique because it is not fermented in the large intestine.
In other words, it is not broken down by gut bacteria and thus not stripped of its water holding potential as it moves through the digestive tract – this characteristic is fundamental to its superiority in improving bowel regularity and softness where other fibre types may fall short.
It is perhaps no surprise then that the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) recommend the use of psyllium fibre as a means to improve the symptoms of IBS.
That’s it for me today everyone.
Hope you enjoyed all this crap,
Andy De Santis RD MPH