It’s time for another post about your poop health folks! Who are we kidding here, I know my poop posts are your favorite bedtime reading material…
We’ve all suffered from a little constipation in our lives here and there. And while diarrhea is the Hitler of all poop problems, constipation can be just as debilitating. It can make you feel like you’re carrying around a 15-pound baby that refuses to be born. Who can get any work done feeling that way?
Now, if you’re eating nothing but cheese and meat all day, this post isn’t going to mean anything to you. You’re basically pouring thick glue down your gullet into your poor, hard-working intestines, causing them to form a union and go on a poop strike in protest. However, if you’re eating healthy, taking fiber supplements, and exercising, there could be an easy explanation for your reoccurring constipation woes. And the true culprit may shock you…
Holy Crap…it’s Fiber.
Yes, it’s shocking I know. Fiber is meant to get things running smoothly isn’t it? However, if you are ingesting too much fiber, or specifically one type of fiber, it may be causing the traffic jam in your intestines. So let’s learn a little bit about the two types of fiber shall we?
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber: What’s the Diff?
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, meaning that it does not retain its original form while passing through. This type of fiber forms a gel-like paste when it enters your system, which is why it “slows the roll” of your poop through your digestive tract. That’s why its best known for slowing digestion and keeping you feeling full. It might also help with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Soluble fiber is thought to help people with both constipation and diarrhea. Most fiber supplements available contain some form of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber is the “chimney sweeper” of fiber. It’s indigestible, meaning that your body cannot completely break it down and it retains most of its original form whilst journeying through your digestive system (think about when you eat corn and see it the next day in your toilette). This type of fiber helps bulk up your “goods” and speeds the rate at which food leaves your body as opposed to slowing it down. It also helps clean out all the built up gunk kicking it in your poop chute.
Pretty cool huh? See, Fiber can be FUN.
Why Fiber Can Cause Constipation
The main reason why fiber is known to “clean ya out” and move things along quickly, is because it bulks up your poop, basically signaling to your intestines to get a’ moving.
HOWEVER. If you are:
A. Eating way too much fiber
B. Not drinking enough water or
C. Taking too many soluble fiber supplements, you will become someone who visits the toilet less than Paris Hilton visits the library (why do I keep picking on Paris Hilton??? I don’t know! Apparently she’s all grown-up and mature now…).
This is because the very bulking effect mentioned above can backfire on you, bulking you up so much that it becomes difficult for your poop army to evacuate. And, given that both types of fiber utilize fluids in your body to get their jobs done, if you aren’t providing them a “river” to float down by drinking water, they’ll expand and get stuck. For example, look at how thick psyllium husks become when added to water:
Due to the recent fiber craze, people have been rushing to the market in droves, frantically grabbing every fiber supplement off the shelves like something out of Black Friday at Walmart. They’re adding fiber too quickly and choosing to add fiber into their diets through supplements and processed foods. The issue with this is three-fold:
- You should get fiber directly from your foods, not supplements. Why swallow a pill that has zero nutrients when you can eat foods that have fiber AND all the healthy nutrients your body needs? Also, your body is built to take in a certain amount of food and fiber before you get full. It’s your body’s mechanism of saying, “Hey dude, anymore food in here and things are gonna get crazy!” But if you ingest pills, drinks, or powders, your body’s mechanism is tricked, not being able to judge when too much is too much.
- You’ll get one type of fiber, usually Psyllium. Just like you wouldn’t eat only oranges all day, you shouldn’t have one type of fiber in your diet. The issue with fiber supplements is that the companies LOVE to use Psyllium, which is the very fiber that sucks water out of your body to bulk itself up and slows down your digestion. You need to get both insoluble and soluble fiber in yo diet. Period.
- Introducing fiber too quickly. Our bodies adapt to new situations, but it may take them awhile to get there. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon overnight right? Nor should you expect that after years of not getting enough fiber that your body would quickly acclimate to getting 40 grams in one day. You will end up farting yourself to the moon and be paralyzed with pain.
So What Can Ya Do to Poo?
If you’ve noticed that you fit the above requirements, try doing things a little differently by following these steps:
- Introduce fiber gradually. Don’t go overnight from eating 12 grams of fiber per day to 25 grams. It’s amazing what just adding 2 grams of fiber can do. If you want to track your fiber, there are tons of free nutrition trackers out there to monitor your nutrients, such as http://www.myfitnesspal.com/.
- Get your fiber from whole foods, not supplements. Mix up your diet with foods containing both soluble and insoluble fiber. If you’re still going to eat pasta and cheeseburgers all day, at least start adding a serving of any of the foods listed above to those meals. Or, switch from refined pasta and bread to fiber-rich, whole-grain options.
- Drink plenty of water. No matter what anyone tells you, there is no set amount of water each person should be drinking every day, so sorry, I can’t give you a specific amount. Just listen to your body when it says its thirsty or when it’s going on a poop strike. Chances are, you need more water in those cases.
- Exercise. Working-out gets your juices flowing and your digestion humming like nobody’s business. The less you move, the less your intestines will move.
- Check your medication. Some medications like blood pressure medications or diuretics are known to cause constipation as a side effect. If that’s the case, you might want to talk to your doctor about other options or what you can do to alleviate these symptoms.
So what’s the bottom line? Get your fiber and nutrients from FOOD. There have been mixed studies about taking fiber supplements, some even showing that long-term use can cause adverse effects instead of making you healthier. So ditch the supplements, eat some freaking veggies, exercise, and drink a ton of water to poop like a pro.