Why Psyllium Husk Sometimes Comes With a Cancer Warning — Should You Worry?


Jan. 17 2024, Published 2:07 p.m. ET

A farmer shows his Isabgol (psyllium husk) crops damaged in unseasonal rains and hailstorm in Neemuch, India
Source: Getty Images

Once you discover the world of psyllium husk, you can’t help but see it everywhere. The plant-based ingredient is in drugstore medications like psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid and even craft projects that create slimy fun for kids. So why is there sometimes a cancer warning on some products utilizing psyllium fiber?

Article continues below advertisement

Learn more about the all-natural fiber, and why this warning appears on its packaging. You’ll better understand how to maintain your health and decrease the likelihood of developing cancer.

That said, this article is not to be construed as medical advice; make sure to consult with a physician about any health concerns.

Farmers showing Isabgol (psyllium husk) and other crops to Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Neemuch, India
Source: Getty Images
Article continues below advertisement

Where does psyllium husk come with a cancer warning?

In 1986, California passed Proposition 65, which warns Californian consumers about significant exposure to dangerous chemicals. The state government's Proposition 65 website is regularly updated to include chemicals that could cause cancer in consumers, based on current studies regarding chemicals commonly found in consumer goods.

You’ll find the psyllium husk cancer warning on products throughout the U.S., in the form of a label with a phrase like "known to the state of California to cause [cancer, reproductive concerns, and/or birth defects]."

Although the warnings stem from a California law, they must appear on any products containing the potentially harmful chemicals sold in the state, according to the Prop 65 website. It’s easier for manufacturers to apply the warnings to general packaging that ships nationwide, so consumers see the warnings when purchasing products that are also available in California.

Article continues below advertisement

Avoiding products with potential carcinogens is one way to protect your health from cancer-causing substances. Medical Guardian notes that on top of this, it's also vital to get breast exams every six to 12 months or receive annual prostate exams, and keep your heart healthy with a nutritious diet — as well as speak to your doctor about any health concerns, of course.

Psyllium fiber in a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon and a leaf garnish
Source: iStock
Article continues below advertisement

Why does psyllium husk have a cancer warning?

Psyllium husk is a fiber that absorbs toxins and water, as published in research published in the journal Foods. The ability makes it a helpful supplement, but the absorption also happens during its growth.

Research in the journal Archives of Toxicology found that lead often appears in the soil of agricultural farms due to fertilizers, buckshot from hunting in nearby woods, and air deposition. Manufacturers could choose fertilizers without lead to minimize this issue, but the other two factors would require strategic farm placement before planting.

Article continues below advertisement

If you see a psyllium husk cancer warning, it indicates that the product could have been exposed to — and absorbed — chemicals like lead from the soil. Products with psyllium husk may contain small amounts of lead due to the growth process and individual farm factors like fertilizer or location. Researching your preferred brand and consuming the recommended serving sizes of psyllium husk fiber can make it safer to enjoy this natural supplement.

Article continues below advertisement

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a warning that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both agree with: Lead is a possible carcinogen. Developing cancer from ingesting lead depends on how much you are exposed to, and how frequently you are exposed to it.

What does this mean for you? It means you can potentially consume modest amounts of products with lead warnings, such as psyllium husk, and still enjoy its health benefits — just make sure you consult with your physician before making any major changes to your diet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "there is no safe blood level of lead." That said, the medical center states that exceeding 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter designates a potentially unsafe amount for kids.

Article continues below advertisement

Psyllium husk also contains cancer-fighting properties.

All that being said, psyllium husk can be a powerful tool against developing cancer. Research published in Acta Scientific Microbiology shows it contains flavonoids that fight cancer cells and prevent them from forming.

Article continues below advertisement

The fiber in psyllium husk also makes bowel movements more regular, which can counter diarrhea; and also make it easier to spot changes in your stool that could help you catch colon cancer faster. It’s a crucial way to protect your well-being if colon cancer is a common diagnosis in your family.

Take the psyllium husk cancer warning with caution.

If you see a psyllium husk cancer warning on one of your preferred products, it indicates a need for more research. See if that brand has run lead tests on its psyllium products, and if there are alternatives with lower lead results. Overall, psyllium fiber has a number of health benefits — again, just make sure to speak with your doctor before making any significant diet changes.

More from Green Matters

Latest Health & Wellness News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Green Matters. Green Matters is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.