By Dr. Mercola
The majority of health care expenditures (75 percent) in the US are spent on preventable diseases, while only 3 percent of such expenditures are invested in disease-prevention programs, according to a new report funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRNF).1
At the heart of such programs should be, undoubtedly, attention to proper nutrition. And when I say "proper," I'm referring to whole foods, including not only plenty of vegetables but also healthy fats like organic free-range eggs, grass-fed raw butter, coconut oil, and high-quality, organic grass-fed meats.
You can find the details to this type of wholesome eating in my nutrition plan, but CRNF's report took a slightly different angle in focusing on specific dietary supplements for disease prevention.
Certain supplements do have their place, and one, in particular, emerged as a standout for reducing health care costs for as little as 30 cents a day… psyllium dietary fiber.
Daily Psyllium Fiber Could Drastically Cut Health Care Costs
The report found that if US adults over the age of 55 with heart disease took psyllium dietary fiber daily, it could save nearly $4.4 billion a year – and more than $35 billion in cumulative health care costs between 2013 and 2020.
The reduction comes largely by reducing coronary heart disease-related medical events by 11.5 percent. One such event was estimated to cost over $13,000 in 2012, but despite the potential benefit only 8 percent of US adults over 55 use psyllium supplements.
The report estimated that it costs just 30 cents per day to take psyllium fiber at "preventive intake levels," and noted that it helps support healthy cholesterol levels by inhibiting its absorption in your intestine.
Other supplements were also mentioned in the report as valuable for helping control health care costs, particularly in those diagnosed with or at risk of heart disease, diabetes-related heart disease, osteoporosis, or age-related eye disease. These include:
Chromium picolinate Omega-3s Magnesium Calcium Vitamin D Lutein Phytosterols Zeaxanthin B vitamins
;Dietary Fiber: What You Need to Know
The recommended daily amount of fiber is between 20 and 30 grams, but I believe about 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is ideal. Unfortunately, most people get only half that or less. Your best source of dietary fiber comes from vegetables, and most people simply aren't eating enough veggies... There are basically two types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber, found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer, which can help with weight control
- Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination
Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which serve as excellent fodder for the microorganisms living in your gut. Psyllium also contains both types of dietary fiber.
9 Impressive Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Once regarded simply as a way to help with regularity or to aid occasional constipation, more recent research shows that dietary fiber has many other important health benefits. Some of its top potential benefits include:
- Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber may help to slow your body's absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control. Research also shows that women with the highest soluble fiber intake had 42 percent less insulin resistance.2
- Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.3
- Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent.4
- Weight loss and management: Fiber supplements have been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people,5 likely because fiber increases feelings of fullness. However, there's more to it. When microbes in your gut digest fiber, a short-chain fatty acid called acetate is released. The acetate then travels from your gut to your hypothalamus, where it helps signal you to stop eating.
- Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.6
- Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of your intestine – by 40 percent.7
- Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.
- Gallstones and kidney stones: A high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones, likely because of its ability to help regulate blood sugar.
Think Veggies, Not Grains, for Increasing Your Fiber
If you're in need of more fiber, please resist the urge to fortify it with whole grains. While they certainly contain fiber, they will raise your insulin and leptin levels, which is a major driver of most chronic diseases.
Further, most whole-grain products on the market are highly processed, which further deteriorates their nutritional value. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds… broccoli not bran muffins.
Grains are linked to numerous health conditions, not the least of which is Alzheimer's disease. Substances in grains, including gliadin and lectins, may increase intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps, as well as cause or contribute to many others symptoms such as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, allergies, psychological symptoms, autism, and more.
Ironically, people with leaky gut and other chronic digestive problems may be better served by eating a very low-fiber diet temporarily, until their digestive issues clear up. This is because if your bowel is predominantly dominated by pathogenic microbes, pathogenic microbes will feed on fiber and proliferate, making whatever health problems you have worse.
So eating grains, which may lead to digestive upset and provides the "fuel" for feeding pathogens in your gut is a bad combination. The following whole foods, on the other hand, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber without the health risks of grains.
Psyllium Helps You Get Close to the Recommended Daily Levels for Fiber
If you're looking for a healthy way to supplement your fiber intake, organic whole husk psyllium is indeed a simple, cost-effective way to do it. Taking it three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet, which brings you quite close to the recommended minimum of 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. Ideally, you'll want to get around 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed for optimal health, so you'll want to use psyllium in addition to a healthy, veggie-rich diet.
Please keep in mind that psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, which means many sources are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. For this reason, be sure to ONLY use organicpsyllium husk, and make sure it's 100% pure. Many supplement brands use synthetic or semi-synthetic active ingredients that do not contain psyllium, such as methylcellulose and calcium polycarbophil. Some brands even add sweeteners and other additives, which you're better off avoiding.
As an added bonus, soluble fibers such as psyllium are prebiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria in turn assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function. So, if you're not sure how much fiber you're eating, take a minute to find out. Use a dietary fitness app or even WebMD's Fiber-o-Meter,8 and if you come up short, consider adding in a serving or two of organic psyllium husk, and definitely start eating more whole vegetables.