Q&A Wednesday: Fiber, Because Everybody Poops

Q&A Wednesday: Fiber, Because Everybody Poops

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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By | 2017-06-10T11:28:16+00:00 November 18th, 2013|Q&A Wednesday|64 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.

64 Comments

  1. Fatin June 30, 2010 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    This same question came up on the Dr. Oz show yesterday. I believe he said 1-3 times per day is normal, but anything less than once per day is cause for concern. In my opinion, if you haven’t gone in a couple of days, then I agree a laxative may be in order. I like Erika’s suggestions, but I also get good results from fiber supplements like Metamucil. I like the one called Free and Clear because it doesn’t have any taste or sugar. Good luck!

    • Erika June 30, 2010 at 8:55 PM - Reply

      I did see that Dr. Oz episode! I love him, I really do. 🙂

      I’m not someone who supports supplements – I’d rather find unique ways to add foods with fiber as well as other awesome benefits into my dishes, and getmy goodies the natural way – but we get it the way that works best for us. 🙂

    • milaxx May 4, 2011 at 7:10 PM - Reply

      Someone I care for very much is constantly constipated. I keep trying to convince them that they need to poop every day and going to the bathroom shouldn’t hurt or cause you to break out in a sweat. I forwarded that Dr. Oz article to them. Honestly they need to eat better, but you can’t make grown folks change if they don’t want to.

      Maybe I’ll just send them a batch of cookies.

  2. Naturally Single Mom June 30, 2010 at 5:04 PM - Reply

    I read somewhere that your body cannot break down and absorb the nutrients in spinach unless it is basically pulverized. Which is why green smoothies are so good for you. (And tasty, even though they don’t look like they should.) 80% of the fiber in spinach (something like 7 grams per cup of raw) is insoluble (the cleaning out kind.)

    And I’m telling you, within 10 minutes of finishing a green smoothie in the morning (I also put flax seed in mine, upping the fiber content), I’m completely cleaned out. That, or a bowl of shredded wheat, can do it for me easily.

    • Erika June 30, 2010 at 8:56 PM - Reply

      I keep trying to get into this green smoothie movement, but boy is it rough. LOL I’m going to have to do some digging on better recipes before I can get that in, LOL. I do love my spinach but in a smoothie? I might not make it! LOL!

      • sharon April 20, 2011 at 8:16 PM - Reply

        Erika, I bought the Montell Williams blender, and tried the fruit and veggie smoothies. The fruit fantastic, I just couldnt get into the vegatable smoothie. I tried blending an apple in it for sweetness. That didnt work either. But the fruit…I love it!!!

      • milaxx May 4, 2011 at 7:11 PM - Reply

        You really don’t taste the spinach. So if you can get past the color you’re good to go. I also use kale on occasion.

  3. Rita June 30, 2010 at 7:53 PM - Reply

    I love it! Cookies for regularity..Erika you’re always thinking girl..now where is the recipe? lol

    • Erika June 30, 2010 at 8:56 PM - Reply

      JUST posted it! Get into it. 🙂

  4. Naturally Single Mom June 30, 2010 at 9:46 PM - Reply

    Erika – you shouldn’t be able to taste the spinach. 😉 You don’t even have to use spinach – romaine works too. (Tried kale, won’t try it again. Too gritty. Works with any kind of green, though – mustard, collard, whatever you have to work with.)

    My go-to is a cup of yogurt (flavored or not, doesn’t matter), a handful or two of spinach, and then whatever fruit I have on hand. (Lately, it’s been strawberries and/or blueberries, but I’ve put in oranges, bananas, even kiwi!) A little liquid (almond milk, water, OJ – if you’re using citrus, you probably won’t need liquid.), and some ice if your fruit isn’t pre-frozen. (I put fruit in the freezer RIGHT before it starts to go bad, so I always have plenty to choose from. I also freeze yogurt if I can get it on the cheap before it goes bad. And I freeze pineapple juice in ice cube trays for when I’m feeling like a tropical smoothie.) And then I always add in a tablespoon of coconut oil (no, you shouldn’t be able to taste the coconut either), some flax seed, and xylitol. (Bad teeth run in my family. Xylitol is totally changing that.) Whirl in the magic bullet (or any high powered blender, really) until it’s smooth.

    Banana covers up the flavor of pretty much anything you put in a green smoothie, so I’d start with that first. Blueberries will make your green smoothie a purplish brown, but it will taste yummy.

    • Erika July 1, 2010 at 7:44 AM - Reply

      I think kale is the one I tried, and it was still clumpy… it was chewier than I was willing to try at that time, LOL.

      I am definitely a smoothie-maker, but I rarely venture out into adding leafy greens to my mixes. I’m big on carrots and bananas, myself. They’re also another place I sneak in my flax seed. SO we’re on the same page… just not with the leafy greens, LOL. I’ll come around… someday. LOL!

      • Liz July 6, 2012 at 11:31 AM - Reply

        I did a variation on this while in school this past year. My school cafeteria was notorious for *cooking* (not steaming, cooking) vegetables until the nutrients were gone, or not steaming them enough so they were in this weird half cooked-half raw state, and I realized early on that I couldn’t eat the same salad twice a day every day for nine months. Thankfully we did have a breakfast smoothie bar, so I started having green smoothies with breakfast, but I put enough vegetables in it that I was able to get around a day’s worth of vegetables in one sitting (props to the BF for forcing me to try it for the first time, haha), just in case whatever the cafe served that day was inedible.
        I use a bowl of spinach, a bowl of broccoli, a little yogurt/soy milk, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, a drizzle of honey, a lot of flaxseed, a banana, and ice. He adds kale to his, but our cafe isn’t on that level yet lol. I realized the key is to blend it for a really long time for smoothness–granted, thanks to the blueberries and strawberries it turns a disgusting shade of brownish-green, but it is delicious. I’ve even gotten a few of my school friends to try it and begin making it, and they agree that as disgusting as it looks, it tastes really good.

  5. JoAnna July 1, 2010 at 12:08 AM - Reply

    Hi. I’m gonna check out your cookie recipe!

    I started taking raw honey to help me with my seasonal allergies, then added the apple cider vinegar for its supposedly blood tonic properties. I then added a protein/fiber powder ’cause Dr Oz said somewhere you’re supposed to have about 25+ grams of fiber per day and I was getting about 15-18grams with my regular food menus. Anyway, this developed into something I could stir and drink in one cup. No blender, nor juicer to clean out! (Although I’d love to try that Healthmixer/vitamix thing Montel has on his infomercials!! Maybe I could get him to do an in-home demo…)

    I do a “green” drink with breakfast 3-4 times/week. It’s 8-10ozs warm water with 1 tablespoon raw honey, 1-2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons organic hemp protein/fiber powder and a dash of cinnamon. If I’m having a hectic day, I add a tablespoon of powdered green foods. My friends call it my “swamp muck”. It tastes like a thick, slightly herb-y glass of warm apple cider. It also adds an additional 7-9grams of fiber without the gas I get from beans: black beans, lentils, chick peas, red beans, etc… I love ’em, but I’m not good for company after!

    • Erika July 1, 2010 at 7:53 AM - Reply

      Wow, talk about a creative way to get everything in one sitting, lol.

  6. Chelle July 1, 2010 at 7:31 AM - Reply

    Great article Erika. I always wondered myself how many times I should be “going” lol I like the green smoothie idea@Naturally Single Mom that sounds like a winner! I’m going to try that in the morning. Being regular is so important. The cramping and bloating irregularity causes, I never want that feeling again. It took me at least 5 years to learn the importance of fiber. It is amazing how we don’t take the time to understand or really pay attention to our bodies.

    • Erika July 1, 2010 at 8:16 AM - Reply

      I think that because we’re so used to “easy,” that we expect our bodies to be the same. Not so! Auto-pilot doesn’t work for us, now! LOL!

  7. Reecie July 1, 2010 at 8:55 AM - Reply

    very good post. I’ve had friends look at me with DISGUST when I’ve told them you are supposed to go after every meal. I don’t, but I am regular. And people think thats funny. I have never considered it humorous or gross to say yes, I have a high fiber diet. uhm, I’m healthy–what’s gross about that?

    also, on occasion I drink fennel tea (they have a brand called Tummy Tea, but I haven’t tried it), I like it alright. I’m also a shredded wheat girl.

    • Erika July 1, 2010 at 9:20 AM - Reply

      I don’t understand the stigma with going potty… perhaps if they knew that keeping all that food in your body is what fluffs us up, they’d change their tune.

      It almost makes me wonder where that came from, and why no one has ever challenged it. Almost. LOL

      Shoutout to “Um, I’m healthy – what’s gross about that?” YES! Shut it down! LMAO!

      • Norn April 20, 2011 at 7:29 PM - Reply

        …plus it can lead to colon cancer.
        That old food just sits in our intestine, rotting… especially if you eat a lot of meat & dairy.

      • Janine December 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM - Reply

        LOL fluffs us up! Very true, but that’s an amazing way to say it. I might steal that when I’m trying to convince the boo to eat some oatmeal for breakfast… ‘don’t take this the wrong way babe, but you seem a little fluffed up!’

  8. Soleus17 July 1, 2010 at 9:12 AM - Reply

    I really enjoyed this post, and the suggestions from the readers have been great as well! Thank you all very much. I’m a smoothie girl, but haven’t tried the green smoothie. My mother has been drinking them for years, and I’ve tried them a few times, but I think I’m about to jump on the bandwagon! I agree fully about kale being “gritty”. Kale needs a really good wash, and when ground up really fine you get less of that gritty taste (when you use a high powered juicer such as Jack LaLane). Another good way to add fibre to your diet is to add berries, and it’s tastes good! I sprinkle a handful (or two) of blueberries and/or blackberries on my Vanilla Shreddies, add some soy milk and I’m ready to go pretty much right after I’m finished eating. LOL. Eating healthy is great, more people need to realize it! Blessings.

    • Erika July 1, 2010 at 9:22 AM - Reply

      See, you’re the second person to tell me I might need to step my blender game up, LOL! We’ll see what happens. If I go to the store and buy some high powered blender and these leafy greens are still gross, I know exactly what post to come back to and point fingers! LOL!

      • milaxx May 4, 2011 at 7:17 PM - Reply

        if it’s too clumpy for you try juicing your greens. I’ve also been seeing loads of recipes on the net using the pulp from juicing so nothing really goes to waste.

  9. Ladi Ohm July 1, 2010 at 11:17 AM - Reply

    These are great suggestions! I’m always looking for ways to up my fiber intake… I eat almost my weight in spinach, so I’d love to mix it up. Sounds like I need to invest in a juicer 😉

  10. Naturally Single Mom July 1, 2010 at 11:44 AM - Reply

    Erika – try your first green smoothie with just a little bit of greens. Baby steps! One or two leaves of romaine, or a very small handful of spinach. I think once you realize that the taste of the fruit overpowers the leafy green taste, you’ll become a convert. 😉

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