All about Glucomannan
Glucomannan is a polysaccharide that is able to dissolve in water and it is taken to be a dietary fiber. It has numerous uses and is extracted from its naturally occurring sources so that it can be processed and used as desired. It is a chain polymer and it is mainly found in the roots of the Konjac plant. Some other natural sources include the roots of some orchids that are mainly used for preparing Turkish cuisine and it is also present as hemicellulose in the wood found in conifers.
Glucomannan takes up to 40% of the dry weight of the Konjac plant which is also known as the elephant yam. The Konjac plant is indigenous to Asia, having been found originally in the southern parts of Asia, where it has long been used for various purposes. Glucomannan was first used as a result of its medicinal characteristics as far back as during the Western Han Dynasty which was the period between 206 B.C to 8 A.D and it is the Chinese who were first to employ its use.
The Konjac plant can be found in various parts of Asia such as Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan and it has large starchy roots from which Konjac jelly and flour are made apart from the extraction of glucomannan.
There are numerous benefits of glucomannan and this has led to it being sought after. Glucomannan is sought after due to its various properties which bring about different benefits when consumed by humans.
Effects of Glucomannan
One of the key properties of glucomannan is that it absorbs water. Since it is water soluble, it is absorbent and it can actually absorb large amount of water for a little glucomannan, showing that it has great water absorption capabilities. Due to its ability to absorb a lot of water, glucomannan can help one feel full for a longer period of time thus helping to control one’s frequency of eating.
This in itself is used as a way to control an individual’s diet and help in the management of weight and obesity. Although the feeling of being full does not necessarily mean that people will eat less food or eat less frequently because it does not necessarily make them feel satisfied, it has been shown that individuals who wish to eat less can use glucomannan in their diet so as to get the perceived feeling of being full and helping them to eat less.
Better fat and cholesterol tolerance
Further to helping one to feel full, glucomannan improves the body’s natural ability to process fats and lipids, helping to improve the amount of blood sugar in the body. As a result of being better placed in terms of handling fats and better levels of body sugar, it means that the body can actually lose weight by being able to burn more unnecessary fats in an efficient manner, as well as having the required amount of blood sugar thus preventing or helping to control blood sugar related diseases. The body is further able to process starch more efficiently and for this reason, one can have a recommended intake of glucomannan ranging from 2 – 5 grams per day so as to enjoy these benefits.
Glucomannan also helps in lowering the amount of cholesterol in the body, especially bad cholesterol such as LDL cholesterol due to the fact that it helps the body to process fats more.
Health of the Abdomen
The abdomen is an important part of the body and it can indicate how healthy one is as a whole, while at the same time if you have an issue with your abdomen, it can affect the whole body. Good bowel movement is important for the health of the abdomen and this is where glucomannan comes in. Glucomannan helps in facilitating proper bowel movement due to the fact that it is a source of fiber. Fiber helps in ensuring that food moves properly in the abdomen and that is why we are advised to have diets that are high in fiber. Glucomannan being a soluble fiber is a great choice and it can be used to facilitate proper bowel movement.
Furthermore, the health of the abdomen is affected by the presence or lack of healthy bacteria that are found in the stomach and intestines. Having the wrong bacteria or having less than the required amount of good bacteria can not only lead to improper bowel movements, it also can cause obesity due to the fact that the good bacteria found in the abdomen assist in food digestion and absorption.
Glucomannan has been found to help in increasing the amount of helpful bacteria in the stomach and intestines, thus promoting better food digestion and bowel movement as well as food absorption. It also promotes better colonic fermentation in the colon thus lowering the pH of faecal matter.
Lowering thyroid hormones
Thyroid hormones are important hormones in the body, however there are individuals who produce excessive thyroid hormones and they suffer from a condition that is known as hyperthyroidism. This results to them having excessive thyroid hormone circulating in their bodies or being stored in the body. People suffering from hyperthyroidism continuously suffer from various symptoms even though they take prescription drugs.
Researchers have studied the effect of glucomannan and its ability to reduce the levels of thyroid hormones in the body and it was found that glucomannan significantly lowered the amount of thyroid hormones in the after two months of consumption.
Glucomannan successfully lowers the amount of thyroid hormones found in the blood that is found circulating in the abdomen and the liver, leading to a general decline of the amount of thyroid hormones in the body. It was further established that this works for individuals who have excess thyroid hormones, however, for individuals with a normal or low amount of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood, glucomannan does not lower the amount of the hormones.
This is because for people suffering from hyperthyroidism, there are excess thyroid hormones, thus they gets spilled into the gut and that is where the glucomannan acts on it, however for individuals with a normal or low level of thyroid hormones in the body, there are no thyroid hormones spilled in the gut, therefore no interaction with glucomannan.
Uses of Glucomannan
Glucomannan has various effects on the body and as such it is used for various purposes.
Due to its ability to absorb a lot of water and make one to feel full, glucomannan is incorporated into the diets of individuals who are seeking to lose weight so as to make them eat less. It is helpful in enabling one to manage their portions and eat less.
Glucomannan also assists in weight loss due to its ability to help the body to be more efficient in the processing of fats and cholesterol in the body thus reducing the amount of fat in the body. Individuals trying to lose excess fat in their body or reduce the amount of cholesterol can use glucomannan by adding it in their food or drinks, consuming about 5 grams a day.
Treatment of constipation
Glucomannan just like the other fibers facilitates the smooth movement of digested food in the abdomen and the intestines, therefore people suffering from constipation can use glucomannan so as to treat constipation and improve bowel movement. Due to the fact that is also increases the amount of good bacteria in the stomach and intestines, glucomannan also assists in improving food digestion and absorption in the stomach thus helping to relieve constipation.
Treatment of hyperthyroidism
As a result of its ability to lower the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood found in the gut, glucomannan is used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism, especially considering it only lowers the levels of thyroid hormones for individuals with excess thyroid hormones but not for those with normal or low amounts of thyroid hormones.
Treatment of acne
Acne can occur as a result of having too much fats or cholesterol in the body, hence to reduce the amount of fats or cholesterol, and help reduce acne outbursts; glucomannan is used in patients whose acne can be traced to having excess fats or cholesterol.
Prevention of cancer
Glucomannan helps in increasing the amount of good bacteria in the stomach and the intestines, including the colon, while lowering the amount of bad bacteria. Some of the bad bacteria in the colon and other gastrointestinal flora can lead to colon cancer; hence the use of glucomannan helps to lower the risks of one developing colon cancer.
Control and management of Diabetes
Due to its ability to control the amount of fats and cholesterol, it helps in controlling the amount of blood sugar as well and thus can be used in regulating the amount of blood sugar.
Glucomannan regulates food absorption, thus regulating the amount of sugar absorbed and it further helps in preventing hyperglycaemia which is a situation whereby one has high blood sugar, a condition that regularly affects people suffering from diabetes.
Precautions when using glucomannan
Glucomannan absorbs water rapidly and as a result, if it is taken and one doesn’t take water, it can cause choking due to the fact that once it absorbs water it can cause blockages due to drying up of the throat or other parts of the digestive system. It is therefore advisable to always take water when taking glucomannan and people are generally warned about it to avoid incidents of choking if swallowed dry. There are even some reported deaths caused by glucomannan as a result of choking and therefore as much as it has great health benefits, caution should be taken.
It is also advisable not to take glucomannan if you are pregnant or if you are on any other medication. The best form of taking glucomannan is to mix it in your food or drinks as experts will recommend. Generally, glucomannan if used correctly and in the correct doses has numerous advantages to our bodies, especially if used as part of our diet and can be used not only to aid weight loss and manage diabetes, but also used by healthy people simply to enhance their overall well-being.