Today, we’re talking potty time:

Q: Hi Erika, I love your blog, I like how you tackle issues of weightloss and workouts. There is an area you have never touched on, how often one should go to the bathroom (long call). You may wonder why am raising this…before you posted your Q&A on belly fat and the importance of fibre I used to do it once every two days, I would drink 12 glasses of water but I was always constipated….when you mentioned fibre.. That was my aha moment…I weigh 160 lbs and am 5 feet 4” but guess what? My waist is 35 inches…that seems to be due to lack of fibre.. If you could tackle the issue I believe it will help someone else. Thanks once more!

The "cookie"... if you don't know what I mean by "the cookie," you certainly will soon!

In simple terms, fiber is the stuff that pushes food through your digestive system. The Earth is intelligent. We get our nutrients from fruits and vegetables, right? Those fruits and vegetables come complete with the nutrients we need, coupled with the appropriate amount of fiber to help push the stuff through our digestive system.

But what is fiber? Fiber is a carbohydrate that is so indigestible, it manages to pass through your system without being broken down into bits that your body can use. It, in its pieces (usually broken down by your teeth), works its way through your intestines, eventually using its girth to help clean your intestines out by pushing and scraping all the way down and out. “Out,” as in, private potty time.

Having said that, in theory if you are getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, then you should be pushing food out after every meal.

That’s right – since every meal is taking food in, food that should have a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables, every meal should be helping push food out. So while someone who’s going hard on the veggies might go after every meal, I think shooting for once a day makes sense.

Think about it – anyone who “goes number two” every four days, and it takes them 45 minutes to do it… think about what that means. They’ve got four days worth of potty in their system. If they’re eating the kind of diet I can assume they’re eating (by only going number two every four days), can you imagine what their abdominal area looks like by then? Distended, full,”beer belly”-esque. After four days, the stuff in your system has hardened. They’ve got to give birth, basically. I didn’t even want to give birth when I gave birth. I’m cool on all that.

If you’re a big processed food eater, know that your foods more than likely don’t have enough fiber to cover the amount of food you’re eating. (The fiber is removed because foods with fiber tend to spoil easier.) It’s also likely that – if your foods have fiber chemically (or “magically”) inserted in them – that their version of fiber simply isn’t sufficient or structured properly enough to do what naturally fibrous foods can do. Fiber, much like any other nutrient, is best obtained through natural means.

So, I suppose the next question is… how can I go potty more? How can I get a little more fiber in my diet?

Aside from the obvious – add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and skip the processed foods – there are a few unorthodox methods.

There are lots of teas out there that can help. You can find them as “laxative teas” or “slimming teas” (even though I cringe at how misleading this is, it does slim your frame down… after it cleanses your colon) and they can be found where most of the other teas are in your grocery. A good laxative tea will contain either “senna” or “cassia.” I’ve personally used both, but I don’t use them regularly. Those are kind of last-resort solutions.

I’m good for making a big batch of baked beans, using navy beans as my base. Navy beans can give you a good 15g of fiber in a serving. In fact, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black beans and pinto beans are good for double digit fiber amounts.

Nuts and seeds are also a great way to get your fiber in. Not the roasted and salted kind (so you roasted cashew lovers, try going raw every now and again), but the pure and untouched kind. Try to find new ways to incorporate them into your dinners: use a little peanuts in your stir fry, chew on a few for a snack, or even add some seeds to your cookie and bread recipes. I actually have a recipe for an Apple Butter Flax Seed cookie that is guaranteed to get you going. I’ll post it later on You can find it here, but really – adding about a fourth of a cup of flax seed to any cookie batch will do the trick.

Having said all that, get more veggies and fruits in your diet, start trying to phase out the processed foods, and bake yourself a nice hearty batch of cookies every now and again. That’s the best way to stay regular. :)

Update: I don’t talk about artificial fiber sources and whatnot because, frankly, I don’t use them – but someone dropped this article off in my tweets, and I thought this excerpt might provide a perspective worth considering:

Like dietary fiber (the roughage found in whole foods), fiber additives pass undigested through the gastrointestinal tract, so the FDA accepts them as the real deal. Yet no scientific studies link these artificial fibers to the health benefits—including a lowered risk of heart disease and obesity—associated with naturally fiber-rich foods. “The additives are enjoying fiber’s halo without having proven themselves,” says Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Added fiber also doesn’t have the ability to turn junk food into a nutritional superstar, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. She says it’s best to get your fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, since they deliver nutritional value that goes far beyond keeping you regular. One high-fiber carrot, for example, contains some 500 beneficial compounds, says Jamieson-Petonic. “You’re not going to get that from additives.”

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