Let’s face it, no one wants to talk about irregularity and the uncomfortable symptoms that follows. However, constipation can cause serious and life-threatening issues if not treated properly. The best-case scenario is to keep the flow moving.
Many people don’t realize when they are constipated, and depending on the severity, constipation can cause many symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Hemorrhoids, anal fissures and rectal prolapse can result from excessive straining during bowel movements.
The cause of constipation is wide range and include poor diet (lack of fiber, dehydration), lack of exercise, as well as certain medications (narcotic pain medications, antidepressants, anti-acids that contain calcium or aluminum), Nerve signaling problems as a result from Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Pelvic floor dysfunction (weakened pelvic muscles are a major contributor to constipation according to Dr. Linda Ann Lee).
Accordingly, everyone says to eat more fiber which means this helps keep constipation at bay and the old plumbing regular. However, there is one caveat that is almost always NOT mentioned—sometimes too much of the wrong fiber without proper water can cause constipation. Yes, it really can folks!
Eating too much of something is as bad as eating too little of something.
Keep in mind the root cause of constipation and start there. The bowels may be moving slow because they need more fiber, but you need more water as well. There are many, MAN-NY items on the market today about colon cleansing and regulating your daily movements. Most are expensive and don’t solve the real problem.
Yes, if you consume a healthy diet with fruits, veggies and slim on meat, healthy grains etc, and take certain medications, you still may face constipation. Certain medications slow down your colon. Always read the side effects of any medications, and discuss them with your doctor. Most doctors won’t tell you if a medication or two causes constipation.
Yes, if you consume too much fiber to quickly, you might find yourself constipated—the more. ☹
Understanding Your Fibers
First thing: Understand that both Soluble and Insoluble fiber are both important to health, digestion and preventing diseases.
Second thing, if you are dealing with chronic constipation, ditch the bananas. Bananas are high in pectin, which is a soluble fiber (Fiber that Absorbs water) that can slow your digestion and cause constipation. However, if you have diarrhea, then they are a blessing in disguise.
Soluble fiber (Slows digestion down.)
- Grains (Psyllium husk, Oat Bran, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Rye Bread, Rolled Oats, Barley Wheat Bran)
- Nuts (Hazelnuts)
- Seeds (Flax and Sunflower seeds)
- Beans (Black beans, Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, Lentils and Lima beans)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brussel Sprouts
Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol particles and removes them from the body, hence helping to reduce overall cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber aids in diabetes protection in the fact that it isn’t absorbed well, and it doesn’t contribute to the blood sugar spikes. As a weight loss technique, soluble fiber can help you to stay at a healthy weight by keeping you full longer without adding many calories to your diet. Soluble fiber soaks up water as it moves through your system and helps bulk up your stool. Most fiber supplements have soluble fiber.
Insoluble Fiber (Speeds up digestion allowing stool to pass more quickly)
Insoluble Fiber is fiber that does not absorb water, and considered a roughage fiber. Like Insoluble fiber, it also helps keep you regular in the sense it acts as a cleaner, or think of it as a Swiffer for your colon.
- Grains (Bulger, Brown rice, Couscous, Barley, Oat Bran, Oatmeal, Quinoa, Whole Grain Pasta, Pumpernickel Bread)
- Seeds (Almonds, Flax, Peanuts, Sesame, Split peas, Sunflower and Walnuts)
- Dried Figs
- Dried Prunes
Meats and Their Role in Digestive Health
Meat, dairy, and eggs all offer many health benefits because they are rich in protein and nutrients like Choline. However, broccoli and Brussel sprouts are also an excellent source of choline which comes in around 31mg per half cup.
Choline is a source of methyl groups need for many steps in metabolism. It is required by the body to synthesize phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, which are vital for cell membranes. Choline is needed to produce acetylcholine, which is an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control and other brain and nervous system functions.
The best news for Broccoli and Brussel Sprout fans, like myself, is that 53 percent of the fiber in cooked Brussel Sprouts are soluble fiber, and 47 percent is insoluble. A good balance of both fibers.
Fact: It takes the body one to three days to complete the digestion cycle for red meat. Red meat is harder to digest because of its high protein and fat density. Lean meats, like chicken and fish are easier to digest because of the lower fat content.
“I’m a meat and potato kinda guy.” BE WARNED.
A new study, according to WebMD, found that men who ate the most red meat were 58% more likely to develop diverticulitis, compared to men who ate the least. Not only that, but cutting down red meat consumption reduces higher risks of heart disease and certain cancers. This red meat pertains to particularly unprocessed meat, such as steaks and burgers. There is evidence, according to Dr. Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, that eating lots of red meat fuels chronic, low-level inflammation in the body.
The Good Stuff
Nature is wonderful for supplying everything we need to stay healthy, and regular. It’s only when we stray from natural courses we run into problems. Overuse of manufactured laxatives causes a dependency, and worse yet finding a resolution to the dependency can be problematic!
Here is an idea to consider when meal planning:
Taking into consideration that red meat (which should be limited to once a week on a healthy diet) can take a long time to digest, consider choosing a side dish that will move the red meat along in the system. Adding potatoes or any of the ‘slow moving fibers’ to your meal only slow the meat processing down. Choose healing options such as Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts and a large side salad with plenty of greens. Make it a “Meat and Greens Kinda Meal.”
Many people haven’t considered this as a possibility, as the old ideals of a steak and baked potato are the popular go too. Ditch the ‘sticky’ stuff and eat more of the moving veggies when eating red meat.
Now here’s a little gem I discovered; I call it my GO TO DRINK! You’ll see why.
- 1 C Aloe Vera Juice
- 1 C Prune Juice
- 1 tsp Orange flavored psyllium husk (no brand name, generics are fine) DO NOT SUBSTITUE!
Mix together and drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. This powerful cocktail combines all of the natural benefits to relieve constipation quickly. This worked better for me than any doctor’s prescription. Gotta love nature’s medicines! However, this is not to be taken for a long period of time because of the aloe vera juice and it’s negative effect on the kidneys.
Aloe Vera Juice– The anti-inflammatory properties of Allow vera may help reduce gastrointestinal inflammation, treat constipation and diarrhea. Limit to 1 Cup per day. Aloe Vera may have series side effects for long term use, especially with the kidneys. As with any medication, herbal or not, seek your doctor’s advice for long term care.
Prune Juice: According to a study by Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, dried plums and prune juice may prevent colon cancer, help control obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, among the benefits of relieving constipation. The active ingredient sorbitol acts as a natural laxative. It is recommended to drink 4 to 8 ounces of prune juice each morning to stimulate a bowel movement.
Prunes contain both Soluble and Insoluble Fibers, Sorbitol, Dihydrophenylisation (stimulates the movement in the intestines), and contains active digestive enzymes.
Psyllium Husk: Is often referred to as a bulking fiber, once ingested it forms a gel-like mass by drawing water in the colon. Hence, why you really need to drink more water when you are treating constipation. Psyllium husk sweeps out the waste out of the colon quickly and efficiently.
Don’t forget to discuss your medical concerns with your doctor! Constipation can be a serious issue if left untreated.
Eat healthy and stay healthy. Until next time, much love to you all! J&T.
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