A fiber rich diet is absolutely critical to your health and wellbeing. I would rather talk about food going in, rather than food coming out. But before we talk about adding more fiber to your diet, I'm going to dive into the topic of food waste elimination. That's a nice way to say it, right? It's not a lovely subject, but unhealthy elimination can have an impact on weight gain, heart health, some types of cancer, mental health, acne and other skin disorders, digestive disorders, and our immune system. For more information, check out this post.
Constipation is obvious when we have to strain to move our bowels, but other symptoms are:
A swollen belly, or belly pain
Infrequent bowel movements: you should have at least one per day, minimum
Hard or small stools
Diarrhea: Surprisingly, diarrhea is oven a symptom of chronic constipation. When you have an impacted bowel, there is only one way through and that is to blast out.
Improperly formed bowel movements. This article provides a good visual and information, with a few exceptions: Flaxseed recommendation- flax seeds are a phytoestrogen and should be consumed in moderation. While chia seeds are also healthy, too much of a good thing with both chia and flax can be a bad thing. The recommendation on conventional milk is accurate, unfortunately the author does not understand that raw dairy is a whole different story. The bristol chart does fail to give a visual of something I could never say in public, something I have a hard time typing, because the term is so crude. However, it gives a helpful description. Ok, here goes butt crayon. It's common to have a bowel movement not properly pass. It's stuck. You can wipe and wipe and wipe and you'll still not get properly clean. If this describes you, you're constipated.
What Leads to Constipation
A diet low in fiber and high in processed foods: In other words, a typical Western Diet
Constipation is often a result of a magnesium deficiency: Good sources of bioavailable magnesium are raw dairy and properly prepared whole grains.
Pasteurized/Homogenized dairy: while raw dairy is a good source of bioavailable nutrients, conventional dairy is not. It's inflammatory and constipating.
Anesthetic and pain killers, even over the counter pain relievers
Not drinking enough healthy fluids: Fiber cannot function effectively without fluid.
Vitamins: processed forms of calcium and iron can be particularly constipating
Meat, especially processed meat. Meat has no fiber, so a typical Western diet lacking in fiber and high in animal protein can be very hard on the digestive system.
Laxatives, especially with frequent use, leads to improper bowel function
Enemas, especially with frequent use, leads to improper bowel function
Assess the above list, to determine what changes you could make, to positively affect your bowel health. Increasing healthy, quality fiber is something everyone should and can do. Let's look at what quality fiber foods are and strategies for incorporating them.
Popular recommendations for increasing fiber are: high fiber cereal, granola bars, fiber bars, whole grain crackers, canned beans, wheat bran, psyllium husks, supplements and food with additional fiber added to them. I would NOT recommend any of these foods. They are improperly prepared and very inflammatory. Slow down, take a breath and eat REAL food. Many sources, do not recommend whole grains and or beans and other legumes in a fiber rich diet. They have recognized that whole grains and legumes can cause health issues. Unfortunately, they are basing their analysis on poor quality and improperly prepared grains and legumes. Grains and legumes are particularly high in fiber and offer unique and beneficial fibers for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Below are some suggestions for increasing quality fiber in your diet.
Quality, Fiber Rich Food Sources
Whole Grain berries that have been properly prepared
Beans and other legumes that have been properly prepared
Nuts and Seeds that have been properly prepared
Vegetables and Fruits, especially unpeeled
Tips for Incorporating More Fiber into your Diet
1. This post gives some ideas for incorporating whole grain berries into your diet. Whole grain berries are fiber rich and nutrient dense. A little goes a long way. Try to have a good source of properly prepared whole grain berries at each meal, even just a small amount. Examples of healthy whole grain berries include: brown rice, quinoa, oat groats, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and einkorn. Products made with whole grain flours are not the best fiber sources, as the fiber has been processed and the nutrients have been diminished. However, occasionally a healthy whole grain flour product that has been properly prepared = sourdough, is appropriate. I try to limit myself to one serving of healthy whole grain flour products per day, such as waffles, pancakes, crepes, crackers, muffins. Products produced with flour, even whole grain flour, are very calorie dense, hence the recommendation to limit them for better weight management, as well as increased nutrition. However, if you're trying to gain weight, are an athlete or body builder, it's acceptable to add more properly prepared = sourdough, healthy whole grain flour products, in addition to whole grain berries at each meal. See information on proper grain preparation here.
2. Years ago, I was trying to incorporate more plant proteins in the form of beans and other legumes. It was hit and miss until I heard this tip: Eat a Bean Rich Lunch. From then on, it was easy. Now, I often include hummus, or a type of bean dip with veggies, or I put beans or another type of legume on a green salad, a grain salad, or in a soup. See information on proper bean and legume preparation here.
3. Eat fruit with your breakfast, as a mid-morning snack, or both.
4. It never hurts to sneak some vegetables in your breakfast. A frittata, omelet, or hash are good ways to do it. Many people sneak vegetables into their breakfast in the form of a green smoothie. While smoothies are yummy and convenient, they are not your best source of fiber. Whole foods that have not been pureed, break down more slowly, in a way that is best utilized by your body. We were not sent to this earth with a blender in tow. If you do make a smoothie for breakfast, here are a few tips:
Do not use water or juice as your base. Instead, use something such as raw yogurt or kefir, or raw milk. These contain healthy fat that keeps blood sugar spikes in check. This is especially important in a smoothie where the food has been pureed and broken down for you.
It's important to vary the vegetables and fruits used, as well as, the colors of vegetables and fruits. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing! For instance, a high amount of spinach on a consistent basis, can give you kidney stones. For variety, here are some combinations we enjoy: Beets and Berries; Pumpkin/butternut squash, pineapple and other tropical fruit; Spinach and mixed fruits.
5. Eat a couple servings of vegetables at lunch, such as a green salad, as well as, raw vegetables with some type of a dip.
6. Eat a piece of fruit as a snack.
7. Eat a cooked vegetable and a raw vegetable at dinner. Such as a green salad, as well as, steamed broccoli.
8. If desired, eat some fruit as dessert.
Remember as you increase fiber, it's critical that you
also increase your healthy fluids, particularly water.
Fluid is essential for fiber to function efficiently and effectively.
Drink up, eat more fiber and have a healthy and happy day!
For more information, check out this post