Lifeline to the fiber deprived
November 24, 2007 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Traveling in Japan. Bowels frozen tighter than Renee Zellweger's face after a Botox binge. Advice.

I'm a brown rice, mixed nuts, and raw veggie kinda guy, and my current diet is wrecking havoc on the lower 48. Mostly, I'm eating tofu, sashimi, and white rice, with hardly any veggies, apart from tsukemono (pickles). My guess is that the severe drop in roughage is "impacting" the problem.

Funny thing is, I'm not bloated, in pain, or uncomfortable. Just not as, shall we say, prolific as before. Think Peter of Family Guy at the toy factory after a severe hangover. Output, but down to 20% of normal.

First question. With these conditions, should I be worried? (If the answer is no, please tell me.) If it's yes, what's a quick way to increase fiber in Japan? Pop into a convenience store and load up on nuts? Salad with the breakfast set at a kisaten?

Or, should I take the fast lane, and go for a laxative? Recommendations for a brand I can buy at your friendly neighborhood drugstore?
posted by Gordion Knott to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
if you're not bloated or uncomfortable, you shouldn't really be worried, but if you'd like to be more regular: granola + yogurt = success, for me.
posted by lia at 9:35 PM on November 24, 2007

I once spent some months eating almost exclusively carbohydrate (in the form of boiled manioc), and noticed a similar drastic drop in my output. No problems, just less poo. Once I went back to my normal diet, in particular more protein and fat, the whole process returned to normal.

My advice then would be to not worry about it unless you have any discomfort. You're probably just absorbing more of what you're eating.
posted by nomis at 9:39 PM on November 24, 2007

Well, um, Mr. Knott, soba noodles are made from Buckwheat. They have a ton of fiber and are a tasty Japanese specialty. If you are used to drinking coffee, and you aren't right now, go find yourself a good latte. I would not go for a laxative - I have seen that end badly. And stop drinking so much green tea ;).
posted by Eringatang at 9:41 PM on November 24, 2007

If you decide to "take action," I would avoid a stimulant laxative at this point (could cause pain and bloating) and opt for a stool softener. Once that works, you can maintain with a bulk-forming stimulant laxative (e.g. Perdiem) until things level out. You may need just the stool softener for awhile.

IANAD. Just an IBS and diverticulosis patient passing along her doctor's advice.
posted by bonobo at 9:43 PM on November 24, 2007

For the amount of calories and fat you get with nuts, the fiber content is quite low. High fiber, low cal-low fat foods are things like squash (pumpkin, zucchini, etc), some pastas, lentils, beans, some fresh or dried fruits (figs, pears, plums, not tropical fruits or grapes). Are any of those available? I'm guessing fresh produce is expensive there. Can you find stool softeners at a pharmacy? They're not as strong as laxatives.
Traveling often retards my excretory and digestive systems, but I'm fine after a few days.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:45 PM on November 24, 2007

Is something on the order of Metamucil or Citrucel available there? Those are good fiber supplements.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:46 PM on November 24, 2007

I've noticed that when travelling that I don't go as often, regardless of the diet. I attribute part of it to the change in routine and unfamiliarity of the environment, and it's never been an issue. Try eating some fruit between meals if you're really worried.
posted by furtive at 9:48 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: HotPatatta, I've been eating some pumpkin and a fair amount of beans in the form of kuromame (black beans in a sweet sauce), but no success here.

Also, coffee, which is delicious here, definitely sets a rumble in motion, but doesn't produce results. All buildup and no follow-through. This is unusual for me.
posted by Gordion Knott at 9:52 PM on November 24, 2007

Pop into a convenience store and pick up a bottle of Fibre-Mini (will be near the genki drinks).

I tried to find a pic but could only find this old ad for it - at least you can see the bottle.
posted by gomichild at 9:56 PM on November 24, 2007

more cabbage, NO rice
posted by caddis at 10:10 PM on November 24, 2007

Never in my life have I heard so many people complain about constipation/lack of bowel movements as when I was in Japan. But I have no idea if it is because of more people there with the problem, or more people there talking about the problem (it never seemed to be a problem with me).

I've heard that natto is good for the digestive system, but that may be a cure worse than the disease.

If you do end up going to a drugstore, the word for constipation is benpi.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:36 PM on November 24, 2007

The same thing happened to me in Paris. I hadn't shit for weeks and it was making me insane. I finally broke down and started taking enemas. That helped some.

For me it was the shock of being in a new place, different culture, time change, etc. My system just froze up. Not sure if that's your problem but I totally sympathize.

The biggest problem was psychological. I couldn't stop thinking about wanting to take a shit so then I couldn't shit. It became a vicious cycle -- each trip to the bathroom a do or die sort of content.

Trust your body, it will do the right thing when you're ready (unless of course you've got something terrible like an intestinal blockage) -- and try finding an enema set-up and get some temp relief.
posted by zenpop at 11:01 PM on November 24, 2007

gomichild beat me to it. Fibe-Mini is your answer. Also, big drugstores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi sell a product called Easy Fiber, which is a flavorless fiber supplement in powder form that you can mix into your coffee and such.

"Kinpira gobo," which you can find in most convenience stores and probably order in most izakaya, is a combination of burdock roots and carrots. Burdock roots = fiber!
posted by misozaki at 12:02 AM on November 25, 2007

Oh thanks misozaki - I was spelling it wrong! No wonder I had trouble trying to find a pic.
posted by gomichild at 12:22 AM on November 25, 2007

Japanese persimmons ( kaki ) are in season right now, and apart from being pretty much the best tasting fruit ever, there are a lot of... other benefits.
posted by liverbisque at 1:11 AM on November 25, 2007

beh, there was supposed to be this link with the above
posted by liverbisque at 1:14 AM on November 25, 2007

Prunes! (aka "dried plums")
posted by Carol Anne at 6:00 AM on November 25, 2007

Do you have jet lag? Are you getting enough sleep? Sack time is essential for good bowel movements.

This YouTube clip may help you as well.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:31 AM on November 25, 2007

Lay off the white rice. I know that may be difficult to do if it's being served to you a lot, but it makes a big difference if your system isn't used to it.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2007

do stomach exercises to physically stimulate peristalsis:
exhale and suck your belly button up and in, hold, let it out. repeat.
and drink some hot water (the way you would drink tea).
should work.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:55 AM on November 25, 2007

Seaweed has a pretty high fiber content.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:13 AM on November 25, 2007

It's the rice. Add prunes, yes, or sorbitol candies. Just a couple a day can fix that kind of problem.
posted by Listener at 12:26 PM on November 25, 2007

Seconding soba and fruit -- though the latter is expensive in Japan. But also don't forget to hydrate. That can make a big difference.
posted by dreamsign at 4:57 PM on November 25, 2007

Although a lot of people have sort of said it, I am not sure that it has come through clearly - rice causes constipation. Avoid rice. Eat roughage. Avoid rice, fried food, simple carbs and try to get more vegetables, more fruit, beans, etc, and lots of fluid.
posted by caddis at 9:11 PM on November 25, 2007

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