Let’s talk about ___, baby.

That’s right, we’re talking about fiber today folks.  Fiber.  You know, the stuff many a doctor will say you need more of to have healthy stools.  As usual, the topic isn’t at all that simple. cereal bran sticks

This weekend I attended a fantastic conference, and got to hear Konstantin Monastyrsky speak on his specialty: gut health. What I heard was perhaps the best explanation I’ve heard yet of fiber and how it can hurt or help our digestion.

Fiber attracts water and turns into a glue-like substance in your digestive system.  It also absorbs water.

Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil & psyllium , are designed specifically to absorb water.  When taking these supplements, its always necessary to drink  more water.

But Mr. Monastyrsky make a very good point with this explanation, which applies equally to children and adults.

Fiber is just like a roll of toilet paper, which is just fiber and glue holding it together.  What happens when you throw a roll of toilet paper in water.  It triple or even quadruples in size.

Imagine your gut.  You have mild constipation for a variety of reasons including stress and an over-packed schedule, so you take some Metamucil.  In your gut, this means the fiber you’ve just taken has absorbed water in your system and has triple or quadrupled….. INSIDE your digestive tract!  Ahk!  This makes for bloating, and larger and larger stools.  it man at toilet

The anus is about the size of a quarter, and is designed for stools of roughly the same size to pass through.  Stools larger than that are hard to pass and require straining.   In the beginning, as you drink lots of water, you may pass some stools easily.   Even if you don’t, you push through this (pun intended!), knowing the importance of elimination.

With the continued bulking of your stool due to the fiber and an increase in necessary straining, you may still think you’re a bit constipated, so you take more Metamucil.  Perhaps you even consult a physician who recommends it.  You get even more bloating and even larger stools, perhaps stomach cramps.

You of course to manage to, painfully, pass some stools, enough to not worry too much in spite of the increasing effort it takes.

In the meantime, the backed-up stool is leaching toxins into your body, and doing damage to the thin mucus lining of your digestive tract.  This thin mucus lining is also where loads of good bacteria live and thrive.  Once this lining is gone, your digestive tract is vulnerable to a variety of diseases.  Once this lining is gone, you’re good bacteria is also and harmful bacteria and fungus can run rampant, further exacerbating the problem.

A few years later, you notice some more cramping and discomfort, maybe even some diarrhea..  Eventually you go to a doctor who tells you have irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, or one of many other digestive disorder.  And so begins a journey down a potentially fatal road.  With too many, this road ends with colon removal.

Don’t do it folks! I suggest consuming only fiber from natural sources, nuts and veggies, and not too much.  Fiber added to bread/cracker/pasta/rice products is denatured and has nearly zero nutritional content, and can also be damaging to those with sensitive digestion.

You don’t need very much fiber at all.  Some is good, but too much can cause problems.  In fact, some digestive disorder patients may be best on a no-fiber diet until their digestive tracts have healed.  If this might be you, contact me for more information.

Do you know whats good for moving your bowels?  Three things: 

1. Reduce Stress.  Stress can cause the body’s regular functions to slow down or halt.  After all, how you can you have healthy digestion if you eat on the run, and quite literally don’t have a spare few minutes to relax in the bathroom.  Slow down, and your digestion will thank you.ghee in jar and spoon

2. Healthy fats!   Healthy fats are easily absorbed by the body and naturally slide through the digestive system.   A diet rich in healthy fats, and low in bulking foods will result in smooth flowing.  Healthy fats include:  coconut oil, pastured butter, lard and tallow from well-raised animals, and olive oil.

3.  Fermented Foods.  Good bacteria folks.  Good bacteria allows all of your body systems to function properly, including the digestive system and immune systems.  With good bacteria, you’ll get sick less and move those stools with ease.

I hope your week flows well!


Why I Still Eat Cannoli

I do, only occasionally.  Here’s why:

Food is one of the largest parts of our life, something we need to be consuming several times every day.  While nutritional value is incredibly important, it is not the whole meal.

I grew up in the blessed world of family meals.  One set of my grandparents lived with us growing up, and there was often a friend or relative visiting who joined us.  If someone was going to be late and regardless of who was around, my mom would keep everything warm on the stove and try to keep the kids from snacking too much.   Whenever the latecomer arrived, we sat and all ate together.

We usually started with only a few simple “buon appetito”’s.   Friends often asked about something they liked that their parents didn’t make, or us kids were asked about school or sports.  I imagine the adults spoke of more serious matters, but I have no recollection of those or nearly any conversations.  Rather, what remains is the memory and the feeling of sharing a meal, day-in day-out, with my family.  The daily coming together.

We certainly weren’t the Brady Bunch with deep conversations, and fine-tuned conflict-resolution skills; rather we had our fair share of dysfunction along side the home-cooked meals my mother and grandmother made.  Somehow, the discussions, arguments, grumpy kids or adults, nagging to eat or “just try” something was something I looked forward to.  During the busy years of after school activities, it was sometimes leftovers or “pizza Friday’s”.   But there was always a homemade salad to accompany the meal, and we always sat down together.

On the extra special days, my grandparents would have made a trip into NYC to Arthur Avenue, where the Italian-Americans go to forget they’ve left the motherland.  From there, amazing things would come back: loaves of bread with a taste only found there, sfogliatelle, millefoglie, cannoli.  The day-of is always the best with Italian desserts, so after dinner we’d all sit down and eat too many.  The next day, I’d toast sfogliatelle for breakfast & eat them with my grandmother, one of our favorite things and almost as good as the night before.

So when friends come to town and we find ourselves in the North End of Boston, we buy fresh, homemade cannoli & milefoglie and head to a park.  Bad jokes quoting The Godfather sneak out of everyone’s mouth as we dine.  The kids are silent as they sit on benches and gobble away.  And everyone nods in the shared goodness of fantastic treats and old friends.  Secretly, I am transported back in time.

I imagine my children’s food memories will be full of rich bone-broth soups, bread thick with cultured butter, raw milk & homemade ice cream.  But I do hope I’m able to teach them that good food comes from family, friends and laughter also, not only farms and gardens.

Into every life, a little cannoli must fall.