Maybe you’ve come across some recipes that call for psyllium. There’s all this talk about its fiber benefit and you might find yourself questioning if psyllium is paleo. Let’s talk about what it is, first. Psyllium is plant-based fiber derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata. It is native to India and Pakistan. Available in two different forms, each type of psyllium functions differently in the GI tract. Psyllium seed powder is mostly soluble fiber that is helpful as a prebiotic, fermentable fiber source.
This type of fiber can help support gut flora and contribute to the production of helpful fatty acids like butyrate. This acid has been shown to suppress gut inflammation and increase resistance to metabolic and physical stress. Psyllium husk, in contrast, is the exterior of the psyllium seed and is primarily insoluble fiber. You’ll see this type of psyllium most commonly in supplements. While it can bulk up the stool and keep constipation at bay, it does little for digestive bacteria and gut health.
So, is Posyllium Paleo?
In moderation, many seeds in their natural form are permissible on a Paleo regimen. However, when it comes to psyllium, its form determines its Paleo desirability. There are differences in how the insoluble fiber in the husk form and the soluble fiber from the seed powder effect the body.
What do the Paleo gurus say?
Mark Sisson says: “I mean, sure, you don’t want to be stopped up and unable to go when you want to. But there’s nothing inherently good or beneficial about padding your bowel stats and rending your bowel walls with insoluble fiber. Soluble, prebiotic fiber? Via the production of short-chain fatty acids, that stuff can actually help reduce colonic inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, protect against obesity, serve as an energy source for the colon, and possibly even protect against colon cancer.
. [It’s] Cautiously Primal, so long as you’re using the seed powder. But I’d rather you get your fermentable fiber in whole food form. Psyllium husk? Not Primal.”Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry (the Paleo Parents) say: ”For the record, we do NOT recommend eating whole psyllium husk. It’s the new “in” thing in gluten-free baking because it offers that stretch not otherwise found in gluten.
Fair warning: the husk is the part of the grain that causes the most gut irritation! Psyllium seed husks are indigestible and are a source of insoluble dietary fiber. STAY AWAY.”Chris Kresser says: “Although I recommend that most people get fiber from whole foods, there are some people that may benefit from soluble fiber supplementation – including those that aren’t able to eat fruit or starch due to blood sugar issues or weight regulation, and those with severely compromised gut flora or gut dysbiosis. In these cases soluble fiber or prebiotic supplements to be helpful.”
Conclusion on psyllium
Paleo-friendly foods are whole, unprocessed and generally provide the body with optimal nutritional and/or health benefits. While psyllium seed powder appears to have some beneficial prebiotic properties as a soluble fiber source and deserves a Paleo nod, the husk form, beyond providing bulk offers little else in the way of benefits, earning a Paleo pass. Look to whole, real foods when possible if looking to pack in the fiber, but psyllium seed powder can augment a Paleo plan as an additional source of soluble fiber.