BarleyMax – is it useful?

This blog asks for your help – please can you help us understand whether these products can assist failsafers by telling This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or our facebook group?

barleymax02small  (NOT failsafe)

When we first started this website 25 years ago, doctors had only recently realised that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be food-related and was not psychosomatic, as previously thought. And that a high fibre diet, as commonly prescribed then, could make things worse, especially if the fibre was derived from wheat.

More recently, the importance of the gut microbiota has been recognised and that pro- or pre-biotics may be able to help.

Regular readers will know that I have suffered from IB symptoms and gluten intolerance on and off for about 20 years, since a bushwalk in Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory where I drank the water and came down with a terrible case of traveller’s diarrhoea. Two rounds of antibiotics later I was feeling better but could no longer tolerate gluten.

Over the years, Howard and I have done a lot of trekking in Nepal and  eventually I discovered that a 30-day course of Travel Bug Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics could restore my ability to tolerate gluten, at least until the next bout of traveller’s diarrhoea (see blog post). My IB symptoms have long been controlled by avoiding high salicylates but I still had problems with wholegrains such as wheat and brown rice.

In Nepal, we long ago learned that a bowl of oat porridge for breakfast would be good for 2 hours of hard trekking at high altitude but the traditional tsampa porridge made from local roasted barley flour lasted an extra hour more.  

The barley-appetite connection

Research has shown that barley has the lowest GI of any grain and reduces appetite.

Glycemic index of common grains

25 barley
50 buckwheat (average)
53 quinoa
55 oatmeal (average, compared to instant oats 79)
62 millet (porridge, compared to millet boiled 71 or millet flour porridge 107)
70 white flour and white bread
89 medium grain white rice, 2 brands


Earlier this year I found a failsafe barley and oat porridge breakfast cereal in our local supermarket. While eating it over the next four weeks, I gradually switched to eating brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholegrain pasta.

“I’m surprised,” said Howard. “You’re eating as many wholegrains as I am, what have you done?”  I started looking in the medical journals to find out why I felt so good.

Benefits of barley

Barley is now hailed by scientists as a health food due to its exceptionally high content of beta-glucan, a form of soluble dietary fibre also found in oats and to a lesser extent in other whole grains.

Not only does beta-glucan reduce appetite thus helping with weight loss, studies have shown it is anti-cholesterol, anti-hypertension (high blood pressure), anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer.  The beta-glucans in barley also have a particularly beneficial prebiotic effect on the good bacteria in the gut microbiome.

CSIRO, Australia’s research organisation, took a strain of the Himalayan barley that we enjoy so much in Nepal and developed it using conventional breeding for Australian conditions. Called BarleyMax , it is much higher in beta-glucan than existing Australian barley and other foods.


Barley Plus: The 28 day reboot

It is not possible to buy Barleymax as a grain because it is currently licensed only for use in processed foods. The only one of these that was failsafe was the cereal mentioned above: Freedom Food’s Barley+ Porridge, claiming “supports gut health with resistant starch fibre” and encouraging consumers to take the challenge: 28 day Gut Reboot. Surprisingly – considering my results - the original study concentrated on weightloss and improvement in anxiety outcomes and specifically excluded people with IBS. 

I am sorry to say that the Barley+ Porridge has been discontinued. There are many other Barley + products, none of them failsafe, so Howard and I now buy the Freedom Foods Apple and Sultana muesli and carefully discard the sultanas and apple pieces.  We eat this every day, including on my 500 calorie fasting days when I want to lose weight, and it certainly helps me to not feel hungry. 

I just wish Freedom Foods would bring back the Barley+ porridge. Perhaps most consumers rejected it because of the complicated cooking instructions? I simply added water and microwaved it for 5 minutes.

At present it is not possible to buy whole barley in Australia. The closest is pearled barley which has part of the germ removed along with the inedible husk which all current barley varieties have.

Please help

We would be interested to hear how many failsafers would like Barley+ porridge back on the market.

Also, would you buy BarleyMax products such as whole grains, flakes or flour?

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tell our facebook group.


Irritable bowel not psychosomatic - Francis CY, Whorwell PJ. The irritable bowel syndrome. Postgrad Med J. 1997;73(855):1-7. 

Importance of the gut microbiome - Hills RD Jr et al, Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease, Nutrients, 2019;11(7),1613.

Glycemic Index

Barley reduces appetite - Johansson EV et al, Effects of indigestible carbohydrates in barley on glucose metabolism, appetite and voluntary food intake over 16 h in healthy adults, Nutr J, 2013;12:46.

Barley’s effect on good bacteria in the gut - Arena MP et al, Barley β-glucans-containing food enhances probiotic performances of beneficial bacteria, Int J Mol Sci, 2014;15(2):3025-39.

BarleyMax - and for many other scientific paper links.

BarleyPlus Gut reboot - for a guide to using this barley with useful plans and questionnaires.


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