Questions about Psyllium Husk

The psyllium husk powder that I take every day

The psyllium husk powder that I take every day

Last week I got concerned because I was dropping weight much faster than I can remember. I was reasonably certain that there was nothing wrong with me because my sinuses felt great and my body felt strong. But I still wanted an explanation beyond my body shifting into fat-burning mode. What external factors could have caused the drastic weight loss?

My first thought was that the warmer weather could have made me work harder, sweat more, and burn more fat. But it didn’t seem likely that heat could explain it all: first, I haven’t been sweating that much more than I did when it was cold; second, I’ve exercised in much hotter weather than this and not dropped six and a half pounds like I did last week.

Again I did a mental check on what I’d been eating. My diet had remained perfectly constant, hadn’t it? Then I realized that maybe it hadn’t.

A few weeks ago I was eating several pieces of fruit each day: apples, bananas and oranges, or at least orange juice. I’m still probably averaging at least one piece, but the difference might amount to a few hundred calories per day. That couldn’t be enough to make me lose an extra three pounds in a week, could it?

That’s a good question, but I can think of a more important one: Why haven’t I been eating as much fruit? The vitamins and fiber in those bananas, apples and oranges were important to me, but not as important as their satiety value. I needed them to make it through the gaps between meals.

That I haven’t been running around to street vendors means that I haven’t needed the fruit as much. Why haven’t I needed it? This is an important question because I must always consider my mental state. I need to prove, both to myself and to those who love me, that my perceptions are accurate.

Around 2005 I got down to my lowest weight since fifth or sixth grade. I hit 188 and I felt fabulous. When I bottomed out at 183, Grace and at least one of our friends became concerned: they felt that I had gone too far and couldn’t see it. I disagreed because I still felt fabulous, and more importantly I was continuing to get stronger. If I had gone too far, I would have started weakening as my body sacrificed muscle mass.

But even when I disagree with other’s concerns, I need to consider them. I am not immune to skewed perception. My mind is strong. I believe that, if I gave my obsession free rein, I could fool myself into ignoring what my body tells me. That’s how anorexia happens. That’s why I had to answer the question “Why haven’t I needed the fruit?”

My mind kept returning to the psyllium husk. I’d recently gotten into the habit of taking three or four teaspoons of the stuff every day, solely for bowel health. Suddenly it hit me: could all that extra bulk be affecting my sense of satiety?

Psyllium is a nutritionally inert bulking agent that keeps the bowels happily occupied while cleaning them out. It’s no surprise that it makes me feel fuller. But the core of my pathology has always been wanting to eat regardless of whether I’m physically hungry. Could the bulk be affecting that? Could the sheer volume be telling my brain that I’m getting enough, despite the material having no nutritional value?

I can’t answer that question because I don’t know the extent to which the body can register nutritive content. It seems clear to me that, for instance, when I haven’t had carrots or greens for a while, my body knows that it needs them. But as an occupant of my mind, I have no way of knowing how much of that craving is a neurological response to forty years of nutritive data-gathering, and how much is a psychological construct.

Right now my body is free to draw from about forty pounds of fat reserves, so the question is academic. But as I shed those forty pounds it will become less so. Is it possible for the psyllium to harm me by giving my satiety center a false positive? Given sufficient psyllium and psychosis, could I starve myself without knowing it?

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