soluble vs. insoluble fiber for leaky gut

Hi Tarilee,

I've been researching leaky gut lately and came up with some controversy about soluble vs. insoluble fiber:

Below is part of an article called "Leaky Gut Syndrome Treatment." It's part of the leaky gut overview from "The Environmental Illness Resource" web site:

"Insoluble Fibre
There are two distinct types of fibre in our diet, soluble and insoluble. Dr. Leo Galland has found that soluble fibre increases gut permeability (makes leaky gut worse) whereas insoluble fibre decreases gut permeability (heals a leaky gut). The insoluble fibre that Dr. Galland uses with his patients is cellulose and many supplement manufacturers now make cellulose powder and capsules. Cellulose always helps to remove toxins from the intestinal tract before they can be absorbed into the body. Common sources of soluble fibre that should be avoided include psyllium and bran. Ironically these are often suggested by naturopaths and other therapists for people suffering from leaky gut syndrome."

I know Galland is considered a real expert in the field. There is an article by Galland on the same web site, called Leaky Gut Syndromes: Breaking the Vicious Cycle" Here is an excerpt:

"8) Fiber supplements have complex effects on gut permeability and bacterial composition. Low fibre diets increase permeability. Dietary supplementation with insoluble fibre, such as pure cellulose, decreases permeability. Dietary supplementation with highly soluble fibre sources, such as fruit pectin or guar gum, has a biphasic effect. At low levels they reverse the hyperpermeability of low residue diets, probably by a mechanical bulking effect which stimulates synthesis of mucosal growth factors. At high levels of supplementation, they produce hyperpermeability, probably by inducing synthesis of bacterial enzymes which degrade intestinal mucins[148-151]. For maximum benefit with regard to intestinal permeability, dietary fibre supplementation should therefore contain a predominance of hypoallergenic insoluble fibre."

Both psyllium and flax meal are soluble fibers, so according to Galland they should be avoided. I know there is always disagreement on such things, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Do you think he is wrong, or that adding the bentonite changes the effect?

Original Post
Hi Lisa,

Dr. Galland is my doctor. He is very knowledgeable in this field and I would put stock in what he says. I find that I do OK with flax oil but if I eat too much flax meal it will bother me and I lose tolerance to other foods (a symptom of leaky guy).

Dr. Galland told me NOT to use FOS. He said FOS feeds both good and bad bacteria. FOS is in most probiotics but he suggests a probiotic called VSL#3. This contains no FOS. He is OK with bentonite when used for a limited time (i.e one month 2x a day). My allergist does not want me to use bentonite more than once per week as it takes the minerals out of your body. I used the bentonite for 6 weeks last year and I wound up feeling very week and shakey and when they tested me my calcium levels were very low. After I was off it for a month, my calcium level was normal.

I myself canot take psyllium as I have a wheat allergy and when I take it my lips swell.

I just had an appointment with Dr. Galland and he told me I could try the bentonite again 2x a day but only for one month.

I have been seeing Dr. Galland for 6 years now and he is an excellent doctor. I tend to put a lot of stock in what he says.

Hi Mary!,

I thought I remembered you saying that! You're lucky! But it's a long trip for you, I guess, but I'm sure it's worth it. I have a good friend in Ithaca, who is a naturopath and who has helped me implement this protocol.

You know, after my wheat challenge a couple of weeks ago, which seemed to be going well, I had some indicators (after a couple of weeks), which made me think I am intolerant to wheat after all! Tarilee had said that sometimes the reaction doesn't show up for a while, and I think this is what happened with me. I had a strong return of my migratory glossitis, which had almost totally gone away since I'd been on the diet. This is a type of auto-immune condition, so I'm really glad I figured that out!

Like you, I also decided about a month and a half ago that the psyllium doesn't agree with me, because it started giving me really terrible gas, even in small amounts. So, I switched to flax. Lately I have been eating a lot of flax, in that Sweet Muffins recipe and the flax bread, and have been getting lots of gas again. Now I read that this is also the wrong kind of fiber, according to Galland, and I have been eating tons of it. It's funny how comfortable we can get about talking about gas, etc. Eek

Thanks for your detailed input, Mary!

Hi Lisa and Mary,

As you noted Lisa, indeed there ARE many opinions on diet and on health protocols in general This is surely because there are so many different health situations that different things work for different people. Also, colon and digestive health ARE complex in many ways. Given what you’ve included below about Dr Galland’s views on fibre, I don’t think we are in great disagreement, we just have different ways of accomplishing balanced fibre intake for intestinal health.

I have a concern around isolating insoluable fibre and prefer the insoluble/soluble combination that is in the Attogram psyllium seed and husk blend. When intestinal illness is present, people are often sensitive to the insoluble fibre due to an irritable bowel condition which is often present at the same time as Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Some people even have difficulty with the insoluble fibre in raw vegetables. The ‘sweeping’ action of the insoluble psyllium seed is important for pulling toxins out. However the soluble part, the husk…serves a wonderful absorptive role and is also mucilaginous. It seems to soothe the intestines, helping sensitive people tolerate the insoluble fibre.

The flax seed is a different story. I’m not pleased with how some people tolerate it and recommend care when using it. I do believe that we can feel the good or bad impact on our body whichever fibre we are using. Our body tells us if it’s right for us.

Galland says that low fibre diets are not helpful for permeability and this I agree with. I also don’t recommend a lot of insoluble fibre, thus we don’t use psyllium husk alone. When Dr Galland talks about the biphasic effect of soluble fibres, he is discussing the impact of soluble fibre in a low fibre diet (a low residue diet). I’ve included a Wikipedia excerpt below just for ease as it describes a low residue diet.

“A low residue diet is a diet designed to reduce the frequency and volume of stools while prolonging intestinal transit time. It is similar to a low fiber diet, but typically includes restrictions on foods that increase bowel activity, such as milk and milk products and prune juice. A low residue diet typically contains less than 10-15 grams of fiber per day. Long term use of this diet, with its reduced intake of fruits and vegetables, may not provide required amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and folic acid.”

At Whole Approach, we endorse increasing the volume and frequency of stools to remove toxins while bulking the stool volume and soothing the mucosa of the intestinal track. If one were to eat a low fibre diet, which we don’t recommend here and then just add soluble fibre without insoluble fibre, it would just sit in the gut and ferment and with this I agree with Dr Galland.

I gather Dr Galland’s recommendations come from the fact that he would be dealing with people who are eating an average North American diet and do not consume healthy fibres in their food. Those of you following this food program are eating a very nutritious, balanced, healing diet and would get different results than those who eat low fibre, unhealthy diets to begin with. You folks are in training for a much healthier lifestyle than this and are practicing a holistically healthy diet and supplement regime.

We want both the mucilaginous, bulking and soothing effect of soluble fibre which stimulates mucosal growth factors, AND the sweeping , cleansing effect of the insoluble fibre.

The Whole Approach diet with a high veggie intake includes insoluble and soluble fibre and so does our fibre supplement. He’s recommending straight cellulose but if we eat adequate raw and cooked veggies and fibres of various types from whole foods, we are consuming plenty of insoluble fibre in addition to what is in the Attogram fibre blend.

I know this is a complex response to a complex issue. If I've been unclear on anything, let me know and I'll do my best to explain in a different way.

Take good care,

Hi Mary,

I hear you being concerned about FOS. A good quality, whole food sourced, non-synthetic FOS such as the chicory extract in the UAS probiotics should definitely not nourish pathogenic organisms. It is a naturally occurrin complex sugar that does not feed yeast nor raise the blood sugar. Because it is an indigestible 'sugar' it can take some getting used to so a rapid increase in dosage is not recommended.

FOS is naturally found in Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, yacon, onions, garlic, asparagus, barley and many other foods as well. I have seen a lot of expert and clinical evidence of it's support for beneficial bacteria populations. I've also used it myself and worked with clients for many years using it. As long as it is non-synthetic, I support it's use.

Keep in mind that Dr Galland may be referring to the synthetic FOS which has been linked to strange side effects, including increased blood sugar and potentially this same characteristic could also result in some support of pathogens.

If you feel a digestive reaction to natural FOS, it's important to just lower the dose until your body gets used to it and to limit your intake to what is comfortable for you.


Your health state is very sensitive and I support whatever your primary care practitioner is recommending for you. It is true that any fibre or clay supplement can require an increased focus on mineral and nutrient absorption. It's always a balance of trying to scrub the colon, sweep away the wastes and still get the nutritious food and supplemental nutrients in in between doses of colon cleansers.

The clearing effect of psyllium blend and bentonite is unparalleled and so we support it's use fully. We also strongly recommend well timed supplements.

Mary, as you're more than well aware, due to your severe environmental illness, your situation is unique and complex. Your doctor is helping you walk a very fine balancing act of cleansing and nourishment. Your use of the sauna on a daily basis increases this challenge substantially. You need to be very, very careful and to follow your protocol as you two decide is right for you. That does not however mean that what your doctor is recommending for you is the very best route for others.

We learn alot about health and about our bodies while healing with a practitioner but we are learning their specific approach for our specific situation. I don't want to think that you are devaluing the advice we give here and the successes we have helped thousands achieve over the years, because of what your doctor is telling you. Nutrition and health cannot be debated second hand and with this in mind, I ask you to hold some more trust for the experience we have behind us here and for what we stand for.

We appreciate your contributions and your diligent efforts to be well yet we don't want to cause confusion or alarm for others. The nature of this site is that people learn from each other but they are also here because they value my advice. I too learn from your experience and the experience of others yet look at things from an overall, holistic view and understand how confusion can come up around some issues similar to the ones I've tried to shed light on above. Hopefully, given what I've shared, you can see a lot more potential for agreement between the views you were hearing/reading and ours.

I have observed people healing here for several years now. I am obviously in full support of the products and approaches that we recommend here and I don't want you to panic and lose faith in what we are doing just because your doctor may (or may not in the case of the fibre and fos issues) hold the occasional variation in views.

I look forward to hearing of your learning and successes and failures as you discover how to best manifest your wisest intuition and the most appropriate of health practices for you.

Hi Tarilee,

Actually I have never had problems with FOS and some years ago I took large amounts of it. I used the Pure Encapsulations brand of powdered FOS and got very good results. I do think it depends on the brand and the individual's needs.

I am planning to go back on the bentonite as I really think I need to eliminate toxins from my colon. One thing that disappoints me is that I cannot use psyllium. I use flax blended with rice bran. I think psyllium would work much better it is just I can't use it.

I truly hope I can get past some of my sensitivities so I can use the products for more prolonged periods of time. Dr. Galland uses bentonite with some patients. I have a lot of toxins to get rid of....I think it is gonna be a long road for me.

Hi Tarilee,

I just wanted to say that I was in no way challenging the approach on this forum. Believe me, I wish I could do the purge drink as consistently as many people are doing it. I think I need to take it slower due to my heavy toxic burden. Dr. Galland describes my immume system as "busy" with too many toxins and that is why I never clear this candida. I always have very elevated levels of erythrocyte protoporpherins in my urine and that is supposed to indicate a lead poisoning problem but yet my tests for lead show negative. I definitely have something weird going on with me. The allergist tells me that I have too many chemicals stored in my body and the sauna will definitely help that but it will take 2-3 years.

Different doctors have different approaches and not all of them are right for everyone.

Personally I think the approach used on this forum is the best one I have seen. I think my biggest mistake all these years is taking antifungals without doing the colon cleanse (ie. bentonite / psyllium) along with it.

I am just hoping I can get well eventually. I am too sensitive to even take purge drink for very long so I do it in sprints. Sometimes I worry about what kind of issues I will have when I do detoxify all this stuff in my body. I could get pretty sick. To be honest, I am a little scared of that.

Hi Tarilee,

Thanks so much for the really detailed response! I totally understand what you are saying, and realize that I have read this explanation many times before when reading your description of the unique blend of husks and seeds in the Attogram psyllium blend! Oops! I've gone down the wrong road in trying to solve health issues so many times that I find myself always double and triple checking what I am doing.

I will think again about my psyllium issue in reference to myself, since I think I do have mainly a leaky gut issue right now and could use some good soothing, scrubbing and sweeping action!

I am also really glad to know what you said about the flax. I have a tendency to think that if a little is good, a lot must be REALLY good, which is of course not true. I look forward to having less gas as I cut down on all the flax.

Thanks thanks thanks!
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