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Psyllium, an ally to get rid of stomach pains

Psyllium, an ally to get rid of stomach pains

Psyllium, an ally to get rid of stomach pains

This fiber-rich plant, from desert regions, helps slow down the intestine and nourishes the microbiome. Details and instructions for use, with two experts.

If found in bulk, psyllium powder is similar to almond or coconut powder. However, the flavor of this herbaceous plant, native to North Africa and South Asia, is not as strong and some find it rather bland. On the other hand, it is rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, which makes it an excellent ally for improving intestinal well-being. Thanks to its incredible absorption capacity - processed psyllium swells on contact with water - it is also effective in improving certain digestive disorders. Hear how it works.

Good for transit

There are two species of fleabane in the Plantaginaceae family, one recognizable by its black-red color and native to Provence, and the other, of interest here, Plantago ovate or more commonly known as blond fleabane. The plant consists of long leaves and stems with a fruit at the end containing seeds.

In principle, the shell of these seeds is used as food. It contains mucilage, a plant matter rich in insoluble fibers which, with proper hydration, increases the volume of the stool and facilitates its evacuation. "Unlike irritant laxatives based on anthraquinone, a molecule found in certain plants such as mustard, yucca, borage, or rhubarb, psyllium is a mild, natural, scientifically validated, and safe laxative," explains William Berrebi, gastroenterologist, hepatologist and author of Macrobiotic Medicine (1). To a lesser extent, the absorbent can also act "like a sponge for loose stools and help with occasional diarrhea," adds Faïza Bossy, a general practitioner and nutritionist.

A barrier gel

Psyllium also plays a protective role thanks to its soluble fibers. The latter is the food, the prebiotics, for the friendly bacteria of our microbiota. Moreover, when exposed to moisture, "they form a gel that coats the intestinal mucosa and prevents toxins from entering the bloodstream," adds Dr. William Berrebi.

This transit facilitation would reduce the absorption of sugars and fats.
"Studies show that psyllium plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and therefore has a preventive effect on type 2 diabetes," says Dr. Faïza Bossy. Reducing the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides (fat molecules in the blood, ed.), also affects the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

How to consume psyllium?

According to both health experts, psyllium should be used under medical supervision. 

"It is recommended in cases of isolated chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome. If results are already noticeable 12-48 hours after the first intake, this treatment can last for weeks or even months to improve digestion," stresses gastroenterologist William Berrebi.

You can buy it in a pharmacy or health food store. "It can be consumed in powder form, with a teaspoon in the morning, afternoon, and evening, or in 2 or 3 sachets a day, mixed or carbonated. In any case, it should be drunk with a large glass of water to obtain the expected dissolving effect," says the expert. "In total, we should not use more than 40 grams per day," adds Dr. Faïza Bossy.


Except in the case of chronic constipation symptoms, i.e., less than three bowel movements (hard or soft) per week with great efforts to push, psyllium consumption is not recommended, insist the experts. "If you are looking for prebiotics, you can find them in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, or fresh fruit, for example," says gastroenterologist William Berrebi.

If in doubt, discomfort, or persistent pain, it is recommended to consult a doctor. "Flea can aggravate intestinal obstruction, diseases such as intestinal stenosis (narrowing of a part of the intestine, ed.) or Crohn's disease," reports Dr. William Berrebi.

(1) Microbiotic medicine, by Dr. William Berrebi, published by Marabout, 19.90 euros.


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