The power of bowels is failing me.
November 23, 2006 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Please help my bowels move at a faster than glacial pace.

So, I've started a full-time job at rather odd hours and have very little time for these "meals" which are all the rage with the kids these days. Much of what I eat is cheese or meat based as protein is what keeps me going. (Actually, since I don't eat much in the first place, I would say *most* of what I eat is protein based.)

Unfortunately, this is not keeping my intestines going. Life has not yet become problematic, but the bathroom situation is becoming a bit... uncomfortable. What are some easy snacks I can add to my diet? Dried fruit? (Please don't say prune juice. Or any other beverage really, I work in a café and milk it for all the free tea that it's worth. Though if there's like some "Super Pooper" tea out there, I'm all for it.)

Please note, I already work in a bookstore.
posted by grapefruitmoon to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Fruit (fresh or dried), fibre and drink more water!

Go get some right now while you are thinking about it! Tea may be leaving you in the form of pee. Super Pooper tea is called water.

Fruit is an easy thing to throw in a bag to add to the cheese and meat based diet. Some people say bananas have the opposite properties, but that's never been true for me.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:25 PM on November 23, 2006

powerbars. the harvest ones have 14% daily fiber each.

Also try raisin bran or granola for breakfast.

Or just buy some metamucil fiber supplements. they come in pills now so you dont have to choke down that disgusting mix. just take 3 or 4 before meals as needed.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:26 PM on November 23, 2006

Best answer: Pears are the next best thing to prunes.

Grapes are pretty good too.

Carrots, green peppers (cut into sticks, easy to much on like you would with potato chips),

Be sure to drink some of water. These soluble fibres can only do their magic properly if there's moisture there for them to absorb. (The grapes come with plenty of moisture included)

Those are the ones that are easy to eat as a snack while working. Others that maybe you can some up with some creative recipe for, or eat on a break: broccoli, whole grains, cabbage, tomatoes, peaches, beans, peas, corn, strawberries,
posted by winston at 9:32 PM on November 23, 2006

make that "come up with"
posted by winston at 9:33 PM on November 23, 2006

Roasted Peas (like Wasabi Peas). Full of fiber!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:38 PM on November 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, you might want to pop some psyllium fiber tablets for the next few days, to get things up and moving again.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:38 PM on November 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm going to have to say, in my opinion, no to the powerbars. They tend to have a retardant effect (though this may vary from user to user so worth a try).

I also want to throw in celery sticks to winston's rabbit food suggestion. You know prunes are just dried plums. A plum gives you prunes plus water (in the form of "prune" juice).
posted by Pollomacho at 9:39 PM on November 23, 2006

2 Fibercon pills a day, and to quote Grandpa Simpson, you'll be "moving like Ginger Rogers."
posted by IndigoRain at 9:45 PM on November 23, 2006

I snack on Kashi Bars at work - they have 4g fiber & 6g protein per bar.
posted by forallmankind at 9:50 PM on November 23, 2006

Note: eating fibers is what will really help you. But fibers work only if they can inflate when in contact with water -- so, eat fiber and drink plenty of water.

No particular recommendation on fibers -- anything advertised as containing a lot will go. Figgs for instance, especially fresh. Wholesome unrefined food (especially grains -- rice, wheat, etc...) Salads, etc...

(on preview: someone already pointed out the drink plenty of water thing -- cool.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 9:56 PM on November 23, 2006

I've heard, and my guts attest to the fact, that part of the magic that a cup of coffee/tea provides in getting things moving is that the water is warm.

For me 2 pints of warm water (well, one of water and one of green tea so I am getting some caffeine) first thing in the morning really sets things in motion, but I also eat my vegetables, so I may be getting the fiber I need and the warm water is just helping.
posted by JulianDay at 10:01 PM on November 23, 2006

A daily yogurt has kept my train on the right track. So to speak.
posted by brain cloud at 10:06 PM on November 23, 2006

I've heard, and my guts attest to the fact, that part of the magic that a cup of coffee/tea provides in getting things moving is that the water is warm.

A hot mug of strong tea in the morning certainly gets things moving around here. Daily. Inevitably.
posted by Savannah at 10:22 PM on November 23, 2006

Best answer: I once had a bag of dried apricots at my desk while I was working, and was eating through them and drinking coffee without really thinking about it...and, uh, it was pretty bad there for a while. It would suit your purposes very well though.

Lots of fluids and lots of fibre, as others have said.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:34 PM on November 23, 2006

Drink lots of water. Start your day with oatmeal and strong coffee.
posted by benign at 10:35 PM on November 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help thus far, I think I might invest in some dried apricots to eat for breakfast.

All the suggestions for warm beverages are appreciated, but I should note that I start, continue, and end my day with hot tea. My water consumption is the source of constant nagging from my co-workers who demand to know why I must pee AGAIN if I was just in the bathroom ten minutes ago. (So yeah, whatever fiber I add to my diet has plenty of moisture just WAITING for it.)

I do often eat oatmeal and yogurt, but I need to add something more powerful to counteract the king's ransom in cheese that I consume on a daily basis. Pears ahoy!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:46 PM on November 23, 2006

Basically you need more fresh fruit and vegies to balance out that high protein and fat diet. But if you're only going to eat one thing, then kiwifruit. Two to three per day (don't eat more than that) is the appropriate dose, and green or gold will probably be equally good.

Here's the research to back up my claim: Kiwifruit promotes laxation in the elderly, Rush et al., 2006. Note that the elderly part is largely immaterial (they have pilot data showing similar results in younger age groups) so don't be put off by that. I can get you a full copy of the pdf if you really care.

Don't go overboard with the fibre. A sudden influx will irritate your gut and make you unhappy (could make things worse too). Prune juice and plum skins contain an irritant so I'd avoid those except in moderation. You're looking for naturally improved laxity, not an artifical laxative effect.
posted by shelleycat at 11:13 PM on November 23, 2006

Not that this is the healthy way.. but sugar free candy. The sweeteners they use have caused many an emergency situation at my workplace.
posted by clh at 12:01 AM on November 24, 2006

I have the same problem perpetually, though it's from IBS, and I find that eating breakfast is essential to fire up the digestive system for the day. I used to hate breakfast but now I'm conditioned to it and I notice a huge difference in every area of functioning if I don't eat in the morning.

I'm now in the habit of having a higher-fibre cereal (not so high-fibre that it no longer tastes good -- I like Corn Bran Squares -- or a high-fibre one mixed with a yummy one) topped with frozen raspberries that I get in the frozen dessert section of the grocery store. Since I hate hate hate getting up early I put the cereal with raspberries in my bag with a juice-box of soy milk in my bag at eat it at my desk when I get to work.

The other one I used to have was eat like two cups of frozen mixed berries tossed with some yogurt. It's like a smoothie but still chunky. It's good in the summer.

So: start eating early, eat regularly, and turn into one of us crackpots who looks at fibre grams on boxes reflexively.
posted by loiseau at 12:39 AM on November 24, 2006

Nuts and seeds. A small handful each day will get you and keep you regular as clockwork.
posted by essexjan at 1:06 AM on November 24, 2006

Take all the laxative advice with a grain of salt. Different laxatives work different ways. Soluble fiber, as pointed out, moves you along by providing soft bulk; this stretches the intestinal wall and causes release of hormones that kick up the peristalsis. Insoluble fiber adds bulk too, but its more notable effect is to irritate the crap out of your intestinal lining. Heh. No pun intended.

You say you're not having a crisis, so the soluble fiber really ought to do the job, without recourse to supplements. For the record, psyllium is 1/3 insoluble to 2/3 soluble fiber, bran leans to the insoluble side, and flax seed is nearly all insoluble. All the brand-name powders and pellets and such may have even harsher chemical assistance.

Actually, if you do block up from cheese and meat, an irritant might still be a bad plan. Milk of magnesia draws in water osmotically (yet a third mechanism of action! The wonders of the bowel never cease), but it also causes release of cholecystokinin, which steps up the digestion of fat and protein—just what you need.

Also, Pollomacho alludes to a point that's been neglected: The net hydrating effect of tea is not so good, because caffeine is diuretic, which is to say it makes you pee out more water than you otherwise would, leaving less available for your feces.

Pretty good article on Wikipedia under Laxative, if you want lots more detail (like about three more mechanisms of action, in case intestinal physiology is what makes you happy).
posted by eritain at 1:16 AM on November 24, 2006

I should note that I start, continue, and end my day with hot tea. My water consumption is the source of constant nagging from my co-workers who demand to know why I must pee AGAIN if I was just in the bathroom ten minutes ago. (So yeah, whatever fiber I add to my diet has plenty of moisture just WAITING for it.)

Seconding eritain - drinking loads of tea means you're consuming a lot of caffiene, which is why you are pissing all the time. Eating fibre while still drinking loads of tea does not mean the liquid in your bladder will magically move to your bowels - you need to cut down on caffiene (by drinking plain water or decaffienated tea or coffee) for the fibre to do its job.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:12 AM on November 24, 2006

Drink apple juice. Warning: May have explosive results in large quantities.
posted by IronLizard at 2:28 AM on November 24, 2006

Going along with what everyone here said, you need to get some fibre, water and products with a laxative effect into your diet!

Snack on bran flakes, dates, prunes, roughly-peeled fruit, etc. Eating just cheese and meat is going to give you colon cancer. Get some power down there! Get some fibre!
posted by xpermanentx at 3:51 AM on November 24, 2006


Fresh fruit. Grapefruit might be nice - cut it in half, wrap one half and throw it in the fridge for later. Eat it with a small spoon so it is not so messy. Contains a few grams of dietary fiber and plenty of fluids.

Be sure to eat vegetables raw (as cooking them breaks down the fiber).

Avoid alcohol, sweet foods and caffeinated drinks. Alcohol and sugar suppress digestion. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks promote dehydration.

Fiber+dehydration=recipe for disaster.

If you eat dried apricots, be sure to take plenty of fluids.

Avoid refined white flour - better to choose whole grain and fiber-rich food.

Source: Constipation - Twelve Tips on How to Avoid It and One Reason Why You Should.
posted by stringbean at 4:08 AM on November 24, 2006

You'll probably think I"m nuts, but ginger has really helped regulate my whole system for the last couple of years. It settles an upset stomach, and gets a non-moving one moving again gently. It comes in capsules also for easy transport & no fuss if you have no time.
posted by yoga at 5:41 AM on November 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah all that tea is probably contributing to the problem, tea is astringent. Try drinking it with milk, and using brown sugar, if you do add any sugar. Or try switching to coffee and milk, at least in the morning.

Second the daily bit of yoghurt too.

A spoonful of honey first thing in the morning. (A nastier alternative: a spoonful of olive oil first thing in the morning... if you can stomach that!).

Also, if you aren't already, get some exercise, walk, etc.
posted by pleeker at 5:56 AM on November 24, 2006

Dried figs. They're cheap and they keep well.

Also, what everyone said about tea: it's dehydrating you, which is making the problem worse.
posted by bingo at 6:54 AM on November 24, 2006

I understand enemas are supposed to be, literally, an explosive solution to this problem
posted by matteo at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2006

Papaya makes me go. Some stores sell it dried, too. (Hmm. This article says there's less of the papaya's key protein-digesting enzyme, papain, when it's ripe. Good thing I never tried it green.) Avoid in cases of latex allergy.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:13 AM on November 24, 2006

Though if there's like some "Super Pooper" tea out there, I'm all for it.

Here ya go!
posted by lannanh at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2006

Great advice in this thread, except for the tea dehydration thing: simply put, tea doesn't dehydrate you, particularly if you're a regular drinker. Another article about it here from the BBC. It may not hydrate as much as the equivalent amount of water, but if you're drinking loads of tea that doesn't matter, since you're probably getting more than enough fluid anyway.

Just wanted to throw that in.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:11 AM on November 24, 2006

And who funded that press release research into how good for you tea is? "The Tea Council", aparently. Hmmm.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:20 AM on November 24, 2006

That's true, Ends, but i has been peer-reviewed.

His findings were published in the June issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism and were recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Although I can't vouch for how trustworthy those sources are.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:37 AM on November 24, 2006

Ends: That's the second link, not the first; they're two different studies. But if you're not convinced, there's always Snopes.

To quote:
"Regular coffee and tea drinkers become accustomed to caffeine and lose little, if any, fluid. In a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers at the Center for Human Nutrition in Omaha measured how different combinations of water, coffee and caffeinated sodas affected the hydration status of 18 healthy adults who drink caffeinated beverages routinely.

'We found no significant differences at all," says nutritionist Ann Grandjean, the study's lead author. "The purpose of the study was to find out if caffeine is dehydrating in healthy people who are drinking normal amounts of it. It is not.'

The same goes for tea, juice, milk and caffeinated sodas: One glass provides about the same amount of hydrating fluid as a glass of water. "

That'd be a third peer-reviewed study, for the record; the academic summary's here.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2006

Be careful about increasing your fiber intake. Heed jimmythefish's warning - if you go out and eat a whole bag of dried apricots right now the results will be explosive and unpleasant. I speak from bitter experience when I say that going from a fibre-insufficient diet to a high-fibre diet should be done gradually over maybe 2-3 days.
posted by nowonmai at 8:52 AM on November 24, 2006

Drink more water, eat more fiber.

Exercise. Hell, just go for walks every day.
posted by gramcracker at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2006

Take cascara sagrada bark capsules from your health food store. Try just one before bed, for starters. It's a very effective natural cure and can be taken regularly with no side effects. Keep it up with the water also.
posted by TreeHugger at 10:16 AM on November 24, 2006

2nd staying away from refined white flour.
posted by magwich at 10:29 AM on November 24, 2006

If you're eating a "king's ransom" in cheeses, you could always whack some of it onto whole wheat or seeded crackers. Fibre + cheese = all good.

Just a note on the dried fruit thing: it may be an idea to make sure that whatever you opt for is free of sulphur-based preservatives. Eaten in sufficient bulk, you start passing some very hellacious wind. Very hellacious indeed.
posted by Jilder at 6:20 PM on November 24, 2006

posted by chrissyboy at 8:00 PM on November 24, 2006

Aloe vera juice
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:29 AM on November 25, 2006

Concerning ramping up fiber intake too quickly.

No, the results won't be "explosive"...

Don't you people ever watch ER? Or Scrubs? Does the word "disimpaction" mean anything to you? :-)

If you ramp up fiber too hard, particularly without enough water to balance it, you end up with Concrete Bowel Syndrome.
posted by baylink at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2006

I absent-mindedly drank a litre of mixed vegetable juice, mostly carrot, while walking around in the heat. You have been warned.
posted by Black Spring at 8:15 AM on November 27, 2006

drink half a litre of prune juice and wait two hours. the pace will be many things, and glacial will *not* be one of them.
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:34 AM on January 27, 2007

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