As a young, single adult, nobody speaks about bowel movements; in fact, we deny even having them. Then we reach middle age and we can’t stop talking about our bowel movements, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, bowel obstruction, colitis…the list goes on. To nourish our obsession with pooping, the media feeds our fury with commercials telling us what medications, supplements and foods we need to cure our self-diagnosed syndromes.
Before you convince yourself that you are allergic to gluten (Celiac disease), or worse yet, dying from colon cancer, please make an appointment with your doctor to express your concerns. In the meantime, take steps that will help your overall health as well as your digestive system drug free while waiting for your next appointment.
FIBER: Out with the old…
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. The insoluble fiber is the type that can’t be processed nor broken down - think of this type as a Brillo Pad. This rough, organic scouring pad is made up of a husk or husk-like outer shell found on seeds, leafy plants, and grains. The second type of fiber, soluble fiber, is capable of being broken down and processed through the digestive system (not absorbed) - think of this type as soap. The role of these two cleaning agents is to scrub out the excess metabolic waste from the lining of the intestines.
The reason it is so important to scrub clean the lining of the intestinal wall is because this is where dietary nutrients are absorbed. As your food passes through your intestines, the macro and micro nutrients are absorbed into the lining and then they are delivered through your blood stream to the appropriate organs. If there is no movement, whatever is sitting in your gut is being absorbed, and absorbed, and absorbed.
Now, imagine cooking a large steak with an iron skillet. After you are done frying the meat, what you will find stuck in the crevices of the skillet is the oily fat. The only way to clean this fat from the skillet is to use strong soap to break up the grease, a rough sponge to scrub it clean, and plenty of water to rinse. Similarly, the inside of your intestinal walls are corrugated, so the fat gets caught in the crevices just like it does in the skillet. Without the cleaning action of the two types of fiber, the fat will line the intestinal walls with fat thus blocking the absorption of other micronutrients.
Have you ever overcooked pasta? In very much the same way you end up with sticky mush at the bottom of your pot, you will end up with "sticky mush" caught in the crevices of your intestinal walls. Furthermore, the gluten (gluten = "glue" in Latin) will cause the carbohydrates to adhere intestinal walls where it will be absorbed for hours and often days later resulting in elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels until it is scrubbed clean. This is why you feel so sleepy after a bowl of spaghetti!
My picks for fiber include:
Both types of fiber are considered complex carbohydrates. Fortunately, these carbohydrates are non-digestible, so they don’t count in your daily carbohydrate total. Since fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, you get to subtract the grams of fiber from the carbohydrate count to find your net carbohydrates. For example, if the label shows 15g carbohydrates per serving and 3g of fiber per serving, you subtract 3g from 15g for a net total of 12g of carbohydrates per serving.
The bottom line is, pun intended, no matter what type of diet you are following, high-fat, low-fat, high-carb, low-carb, there really are "good" carbs and "bad carbs". Stick to foods that are high in fiber; they will benefit you all types of diets.