Thursday, July 10, 2008

Roughing It

Warning: This post contains graphic detail about bowel movements. Read at your own risk.

Let's talk about poop. I'm fairly regular in this department. However, some days I don't poop at all, some days I poop more than once. Generally, as a rule, I poop once a day around 10am, 5 days a week. For the majority, my poops are what you'd expect to see from a carnivorous animal: dark, well-formed, thick, with some nooks and crannies. They slide out with ease and leave me feeling satisfied when I'm through. On days when I overindulge, feel sick, drink too much coffee, or am a bit nervous, the consistency and frequency change for the worse. They can be runny, cloud the toilet water, sometimes burn and usually require multiple wipes.
I have found that when I eat well (on a low-carb, whole foods diet), I feel well and that's reflected in my bowel movements. Interestingly, my poops have improve in texture, ease of elimination, and frequency as I have cut out grains, even the whole, fiber-intact, grains like 100% whole wheat bread. I am actually consuming LESS fiber now than I was while eating a "healthy" diet according to the food pyramid with lots of whole, minimally processed grains. I was a big proponent of high-fiber. I would seek out high fiber cereals, breads, and crackers. Now, my fiber comes from mainly fruits and veggies and some coconut flour when I'm in the mood to bake.

Back in college, I had a nutrition professor who posed the question to us students: "How much fiber would you really consume if you did not rely on high fiber, man-made products like cereals, breads and crackers?" The answer was surprisingly simple: not much. Looking back on it now, I think he was casually questioning the Recommended Daily Allowance, set forth by the USDA, for fiber which is between 25-35 grams per day. Unless you eat a lot of food, it is quite difficult to reach these numbers unless you eat a man-made, fiber-added, processed "health" food. If you do manage to eat all your fiber from whole, natural foods, you would probably exceed the recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories a day. This makes following the food pyramid guidelines a bit of a headache.

Dr. Eades, author of Protein Power, posted on the mechanism of which fiber acts upon the intestines (click here to read it). Essentially, the high-fiber foods scrape against the intestinal walls thus inflaming the cells which then excrete mucous to lubricate and protect from further damage. This lubrication is what makes us go. Indeed it does. Unfortunately, I am not clear what kind of "high-fiber" foods were tested (soluble, insoluble, whole grain, fruit or veggies?). It is my experience that whole grain roughage is more irritating than fruits and veggies. When I was eating primarily fibrous man-made grains, I could go multiple times a day. My frequency wasn't so much an issue as was the consistency. Sometimes they were explosive and I barely had enough time to make it to the toilet. Sometimes I had to strain merely to produce a long skinny, Play-doh like substance.

Dr. Oz insists one's poop should make a "S" or "C" shape in the toilet bowl. Frankly, I don't remember my poops EVER making either of these shapes. Maybe once in a blue moon, like a day or so after Thanksgiving dinner. You really gotta have A LOT of poo to get a shape like that. I think only 300 lb. men can produce poos like that on a daily basis.

Everyone is so obsessed with the frequency at which one poos, but what I think is more important is the consistency. Poos made from fruits and vegetables are much more pleasant (if you can ever call poop "pleasant") than the Fiber One cereal poos. And your body will still eliminate via the #2 even if you don't eat fruits and veggies. Unless you have a tendency towards constipation, a diet with little to no fiber in it will still produce bowel movements if you are eating a healthy, whole food diet. During my meat & egg week, I still had regular poops. Albeit, they were a bit less voluminous and a tad on the slick side but still good enough to leave me satisfied.

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