Motherly Advice I Dreaded (But Needed)

“Are you still pooping?” she asked in hushed tones. We were three-hundred miles apart, and it seemed to be the most commonly asked question my mother would ask whenever I called to check in with her. Sometimes, it seemed to be the central focus of our conversation. Ugh, it was embarrassing. After all, who wants to talk to their parents about the size, color, and frequency of their bowel movements? Seriously!

“Don’t laugh, she would lecture in her motherly tone, inflecting on the last word, right before she'd go through her checklist of follow-up questions:
Are you eating enough fruits and veggies?
When are you gonna stop going to night school? You already have your teaching degree, and all that stress is making it worse on your bowels, you know. 
When was the last time you went?
Was it hard or soft?
Did you try that tea I sent you? 

"Mom, I'm a grown woman! I think I've got this," I'd snap in frustration. 
I tried to dodge her weekly interrogation. It would usually end with promising that I’d run to the supermarket to get her recommended list of foods and herbs to keep me regular. I know what you're thinking, "But you were a grown woman?"

Trust me, she'd have her own boxed supply kit delivered to me via UPS the following day if I didn't promise. I don't want to say that all moms are like this, but mine had a knack for wanting to know all about my business. 

“One day you’re gonna realize how important it is to make sure you’re digesting what you eat, and then you're not going to be able to lose any weight. Many women struggle with this problem, you know...” She'd end with her closing statement to her weekly lecture series, right before she said good-bye.

Strangely enough, she was r-r-r-right... *blush*

Chronic Constipation

Sixty-three million people¹ in North America suffer from chronic constipation, and it is more common in women than in men. Chronic constipation is defined as having less than three² bowel movements per week and can often lead to straining and having hard stools.

I’ve always struggled with having a regular digestive system, but I remember getting progressively worse when I turned forty. I am less frequent if I am experiencing bouts of severe stress. To put it bluntly, and at the expense of sounding a bit crass, if I wasn’t relaxed, neither were my intestines. This has something to do with the way the colon and brain are in constant communication³ with each other, and studies have found that we can actually program the brain to stop signaling⁴ our colon not to defecate, which has an effect on the way waste moves through the intestines, and why I believe, it is important to not only reduce stress, program our mind to think more positive, but also listen to our brain's responses to go the moment our mind signals us to go. You're probably wondering, why in the world is she talking about this? Isn't this over-sharing quite a bit?!

Here's why. So many people with undiagnosed illnesses are suffering from inflammation and chronic fatigue. I really believe that detoxification is a crucial component that contributes to healing. As I mentioned in my first post⁵, there are four key principles that I have learned to abide by in life that have helped me get over the brain fog, fatigue, and pain. I coined the acronym M.E.N.D.

  • Mindset
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Detoxification

The longer I went without...well, you know... the more my energy levels dipped. The Fibro Doctor I was seeing told me that my inflammation levels were off the chart based on a blood test that indicated infection in the body. That led to more inflammation especially on my feet. This wasn’t my imagination; every step I took felt like I was stepping on broken shards of glass. It was almost as if my body was poisoning itself from inside and inflating all my digestive organs with an electric air pump. I looked bloated and swollen, and I was irritable and uncomfortable during that three-to-four-day window I didn’t go, because waste matter in the colon, if not expelled, eventually compacts. Seriously, I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. This creates harder stools called Fecaliths³ that can lodge in the colon, with some needing surgery to remove them. Over-the-counter laxatives gave me terrible gastrointestinal pain and fiber powdered supplements were not only pricey, but they contained gluten, and gluten made my brain fog worse. Although I’m not going to expand on the causes of constipation on this post, here are a few possible reasons most people struggle with it:

Low-fiber Diet
Lack of exercise
Frequent use of enemas and laxatives

I noticed that as my sleep patterns and thyroid levels improved, and I increased the amount of water intake and exercise, so did the frequency. However, when my stress went up, so did irregularity. Today, I must make sure that I maintain a diet rich in fruits and vegetables high in water content and soluble fiber (recommended 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men⁸ in ages 50 or younger). Certain supplements and teas help with that as well. Below are a few suggestions. If you’re experiencing similar issues, consult your doctor to see if this might work for you.

How to Avoid Constipation

Nascent Iodine- The thyroid regulates many functions of your body, including digestion, and this essential trace mineral⁹ plays a role with promoting healthy thyroid function. When I started taking it, it almost felt like it was cleaning out my thyroid from whatever was making it so sluggish, and it gave me other added health benefits as well (see here⁹)  My doctor recommended it, so check with your doctor to see if this is something that will work for you.

Magnesium- I tried several on the market, but the one that worked for me the best was magnesium glycinate for regularity as magnesium citrate will have more of a laxative effect. Magnesium gave me other added benefits as well, and for the sake of not turning this into an extremely long blog post, you can go here to read more⁹ about this wonderful mineral that most Americans lack.

Chia Seeds- I know supplements can get quite expensive, so sometimes, if I’m on a tight budget, instead of magnesium supplements, I’ll buy a bag of Chia seeds and add those to my salads, smoothies, yogurt, spreads, even Einkorn baked goods, and yes, you can even sprinkle them over your cooked eggs. Chia seeds¹ยบ contain 11 grams of fiber in a 1 ounce serving, not to mention that it is also rich in calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans valued it for its ability to provide sustainable energy throughout the day. I do have to make sure that I’m drinking plenty of water when using Chia seeds because they work like a sponge and absorb water as they work slowly through your digestive system, which I consider a plus, since I’ve noticed that it often makes me feel full when I eat them.

Prunes- Caution, if you’re on a low carb and low sugar diet, you might want to avoid these dry plums as they are high in carbohydrates. Prunes¹¹ are nutrient-rich in potassium, Vitamin K that helps strengthen bones, as well as iron, copper and manganese. It may lower your risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis and stroke. They provide some potential health benefits due to the nutrients they contain, possibly lowering your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. They are also high in fiber¹¹, but it is recommended that you eat them in moderation because of their high fructose content, so a ½ cup serving should be sufficient.

Apples- the old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away carries some weight for a reason. Not only are they high in fiber but they have the added benefits of Vit C, B-complex vitamins (crucial for MTHFR¹² mutations), minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and quercetin¹³, which has been linked to reducing cellular damage caused by oxidation and inflammation . You can go here¹⁴ to read more about how apples did through various studies in improving neurological health, dementia prevention, reducing stroke risk, lowering bad cholesterol, reducing diabetes risk, and warding off breast cancer and obesity. I only buy organic when it comes to apples to reduce the amount of pesticide ingestion¹⁵, since I also eat their skin.

Hibiscus Tea- I grew up in the southern border, and I still remember my grandmother coming from across the border with bags full of dried hibiscus flowers. She would boil them to make a tea and then sweeten it with brown sugar. It tasted so delicious, but my grandmother always cautioned me not to drink too much of this savory drink, or I’d be sorry. Although, people have been known to use hibiscus¹⁶ for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increasing the production of breast milk, infections, and many other conditions, I didn't find good scientific evidence to support most of these uses. But one thing for sure, and this is something that I had to learn the hard way, drinking too much of it will have a laxative effect. That’s all I’m going to say about that…for now. Stay tuned for a funny story about this delicious drink and a how-to recipe on how to prepare it.

Self-Awareness and Constipation Prevention

In addition to managing my stress,¹⁷ I try to stay conscious that I don’t regress, being sure to keep in mind to M.E.N.D. myself to better health, always.  I’ve discovered that the more I partake in the classic American diet, and leave out fruits and vegetables, the worse I feel, so I try to make a conscious effort to cook meals that will include the helpers high in their water content and high in soluble fiber to help sweep out the garbage. When mom use to say, "make sure that you’re eating your fruits and veggies," there was wisdom behind her nudging. Sadly, today’s fast-paced world of fast food, speedy microwaveable dinners, and canned food have us reaching less for food that promote a healthy digestive system, and it's affecting us in some very serious ways. Staying regular is at the forefront of the things I need to maintain to keep toxins from building up in my system and causing me pain. 

As for mom, although she has limited her questions about my bowel movements and the focus has now shifted to her current aches and pains, you want to know a secret? I’m now finding myself asking my daughter about her digestion cycle-ha! Want to know something funnier? She sighs and rolls her eyes, too. I KNOW! I’ve turned into my mother. I guess moms do know what they’re talking about after all, and my only advice to my daughter, if you find yourself reading this later in life, is this: be kind to your mom, sweetie. I know I can also try your patience. Someday, you’ll realize why we obsessed with nagging questions that seemed a bit mundane, eccentric, and yes, embarrassing. I hope you know that I never meant to embarrass you, but to give you the best and healthiest life I knew how to give you. I love you, my dearest, little girl. Yes, I know, you’re not a child anymore, but you’ll always be that little soul I carried in my tummy and gave you life. So, with that said, “Are you still pooping?”



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