Flush Away Constipation with Fiber!
Once the diaper stage is over, no one really talks to us about our bowel habits. And if we have questions, who is there to ask? That's where I can help out. In my medical practice, I see patients all the time who are constipated. Quite a few of them know that they have a problem, but surprisingly, many people have no idea that their bowel habits are less than optimal.
The first rule is that moving our bowels shouldn't hurt. Pain or discomfort during bowel movements is almost always a sign of constipation. Second, it shouldn't be difficult. Even if there's no pain, there should also be little to no effort when we pass stool. Third, the bowels should move at least once a day. Passing stool less often than once a day--even if that's been our habit since childhood--generally indicates constipation. If our bowel habits break any of these rules, then we need to make some adjustments in our diet.
Most people don't realize how important fiber is for optimal bowel function. Two types of fiber provide the "framework" for our stool by adding both bulk and volume. Insoluble fiber acts as a laxative and speeds up the time in which it takes for digested food to be removed from the colon. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a jell-like substance which produces bulky, soft and loosely-formed stools. Without adequate fiber, our stools pass slowly through the colon, losing more and more water during the transit. The result is infrequent, small, hard, compact stools that are painful and difficult to pass.
To remedy the situation, we must fill our diet with fiber-rich foods. Eating plant foods that are as close as possible to their natural state provides us with the maximum grams of fiber. Meat, eggs, and dairy products have zero grams of fiber whereas whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts/seeds are loaded with fiber -- beans have the highest content. In contrast, grains that have been refined into white flours have had the majority of their fiber removed during processing, thus have little fiber to offer. And because nearly 90% of calories in the American diet come from animal products and refined/processed foods, 97% of Americans are eating a fiber-deficient diet -- which is the single most leading factor contributing to constipation.
It's no surprise that Americans spend $725 million each year on laxatives. Instead of taking laxatives -- carrots, baked potatoes, kale, pinto beans, oranges, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans, will solve our constipation problems along with staying active and making sure we're drinking enough water (no substituting with other beverages). I recommend that my patients drink 64 ounces of water before 5:00 p.m. every day. Two cups, or 16 ounces, of that water should be taken first thing in the morning.
There's a lot more to discuss on this rather quiet subject. Our bowel habits tell us a lot about our health and the health of our diet. My article, The Scoop on Poop provides more detailed information.
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