Taking care of them
Can we talk guts? Is that alright? I mean, you know, we all have them. We all use them. They’re important to us. We prefer not to live without them. And the good news is, we don’t have to lose any part of them so long as we take care of them.
But chronic dieters have no regard for these organs at all. Not the intestines, not the colon, not the bowel. In fact, if you watch dieters’ habits, you’d think we were bent on killing off our guts, our pipes, our main thoroughfare. With the diuretics and laxatives, carb- and fat-blockers, starvation and bingeing, really, it’s no wonder so many of us complain of gas, bloating, cramps, constipation and etc. Just a couple of encounters with etc. is all you need, though, to remind you that you have guts. And your guts deserve some respect.
A caveat. What’s good for your guts may not be good for mine. Figuring out what keeps them happy and functioning should be basic maintenance behavior for all of us. Disregarding the organs that are responsible for filtering and feeding every system in your body is just nuts. It’s like disregarding your oil filter in your car, a sure way to shorten a healthy lifespan.
Water. You need a lot of water to keep your guts and your bladders functioning well. Drink up. Flavor your water with a little bit of juice or lemon or orange peel or cucumber slices to keep it interesting. Infuse it with herbs and drink it hot. But drink it.
Fiber. You need it. You know you do. Adults want at least 25-30 grams of dietary fiber, which you can get from your veggies and fruits, beans and peas, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Fiber is a great regulator. It regulates your waste stream so it’s neither too loose or too dense and keeps it moving along nicely, which helps your system manage any toxins from your food a whole lot more easily, getting rid of them before they can bother you too much.
In “Eating Right for a Bad Gut,” by James Scala, a book focused on the problems faced by people with irritable bowel diseases, Scala reports there are five or six types of dietary fiber. Our bodies want them all, and the best way to get them is to eat a varied diet. But basically, all the fiber types can be categorized into two types: soluble and insoluble. The soluble types get a lot of press for their ability to bind up bile acids into your waste stream and carry them away. This helps lower your cholesterol and tryiglycerides, and helps prevent some types of cancer, arterial blockage, heart disease. Pectins, oat bran, guar gum all fall into this category. The insoluble fiber is what regulates the bulk of your waste stream and keeps it moving.
A nice whole grain cereal in the morning (Scala likes oatmeal for folks with IBD, but All-Bran and Fiber One provide great fiber counts for everybody else) with a high-fiber serving of fruit (“an apple a day”). Lots of leafy greens and beans with your lunch, another fruit snack, and two kinds of veggies at dinner should get you your fiber. But if you want more fiber still, or you have a hard time getting all your fruits, veggies, and grains, or if you are managing an irritable bowel, or if you are working hard to lose lots of weight, fiber supplementation is a smart new habit. Scala likes Metamucil, unflavored. Others recommend psyllium husk powder from the natural food store. A tablespoon mixed in a large glass of water or juice a half-hour before meals. One or two or three times a day. Follow it up with another glass of water. Obese folks need to know that a high-fiber diet and fiber supplementation can help control hunger, work to even out blood sugar and insulin effects, and may help to reduce the number of calories we consume.
Fiber for thought: Nutrition writer Jonny Bowden in “Living the Low-Carb Life” reports that the average American diet provides just 10 grams a day of fiber. The American Cancer Society recommends 30 grams. And our ancestors consumed perhaps 50 or 60 grams per day.