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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 09, 2013

Dear Mark: What’s the Deal with Fiber?

By Mark Sisson
114 Comments

Fruits and VegetablesLast week’s guest post from Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menacegenerated a lively, boisterous, and at times combative comment section. I use these descriptors in the best sense possible, mind you; debate is healthy and necessary, even – nay, especially – if it’s impassioned. So right off the bat, I want to thank everyone who wrote in. I also want to thank Konstantin, whose views on fiber forced me to reconsider my own way back when I first encountered him over five years ago. Without his input last week, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, and many people would still be sitting on whatever side of the fiber fence they prefer, never even considering that another side exists. I know I might still be catching up if I’d never read his book all those years.

Many of you asked whether I endorsed the views espoused in the guest post. You wondered whether I’d shifted my stance on the Big Ass Salad. You wanted my take on the whole fiber thing, basically. So without further ado, let’s discuss fiber.

It’s often said that fiber is indigestible, that it serves no nutritive purpose – and that’s partially true. Humans can’t digest fiber. Our digestive enzymes and endogenous pancreatic secretions simply have no effect on roughage. Our gut flora, though? Those trillions of “foreign” cells residing along our digestive tract that actually outnumber our native human cells? To those guys, certain types of fiber are food to be fermented, or digested. That we feed our gut flora these prebiotic fibers is important for three main reasons:

1. Because the health (and composition) of the gut flora helps determine the health of the human host (that’s us!). It’s difficult to name a physiological function or health parameter that is not impacted by the gut microbiome, including but not limited to digestive, cognitive, immune, emotional, psychological, metabolic, and liver health. Our microbiota depend on fermentable fibers for food. It’s not clear what exactly constitutes “healthy gut flora,” and we’re still teasing out exactly how it affects the various physiological functions, but we know we need them and we know they need to eat something to even have a chance at helping us.

2. Because the short chain fatty acids that are byproducts of fiber fermentation, including butyrate, propionate, and acetate, improve our health in many ways. Butyrate in particular has been shown to have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivitycolonic transportinflammation, and symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It’s also the preferred fuel source for our native colonic cells. Basically, without enough butyrate (and, by extension, fermentable prebiotic fiber to make it), our colons don’t work as well as they should. This can lead to digestive impairments and perhaps even cancer. Mucin-degrading bacteria predominate in colorectal cancer patients, for example, while butyrate-producing bacteria rule the roost in healthy patients without cancer. Populations with lower rates of colorectal cancer also tend to have higher levels of butyratePropionate is helpful, too, though not to the extent of butyrate.

3. Because by feeding and bolstering the populations of “good bacteria,” we reduce the amount of available real estate for “bad bacteria” to set up shop. Gut bacteria don’t just float around in there. They cling to surfaces, nooks, crannies, and crevasses. They’re impossibly small, but they do take up space. After antibiotic treatment where both good and bad gut flora are indiscriminately targeted and wiped out, pathogenic obesity-promoting bacteria take advantage of the open space. That’s a worst-case scenario, but it shows what can happen when the harmony of the gut is disturbed (whether by antibiotics or lack of fermentable fibers).

Overall, because the health of our gut community is inextricably tied to the health of our minds and bodies, I think attaining fermentable fiber through the fruits and vegetables we eat is incredibly important. Heck, even the only food that’s actually expressly “designed” to feed humans – breast milk – contains prebiotic compounds whose main purpose is to feed and cultivate healthy gut flora in infants, which suggests that the need for prebiotics is innate. Coprolite (read: ancient fossilized stool) studies certainly indicate that our ancestors may have consumed a significant amount of prebiotics, and we even have receptors and transporters built-in to handle and accept the butyrate produced from fermentable fiber. Or, if you want to say that humans haven’t evolved a dietary requirement for fiber, that’s fine. But we have evolved to rely on gut flora to help our bodies work best, and that gut flora has evolved to require a steady, varied source of fermentable, prebiotic fiber. That can’t be denied.

have been suspicious of fiber in the past, though. Like Konstantin, I’ve discussed the folly of loading up on the kind of fiber whose only purpose is to rend the intestinal walls, doing enough damage to induce mucus secretion which acts as lubricant. I’m talking about insoluble fiber, of course.

Insoluble fiber is a bulking agent. You know how weight lifters swear by whole milk and beef for adding mass? Insoluble fiber is like that, only for poop. It makes for extremely impressive toilet bowl displays and potentially expensive plumber fees, I’ll admit. And some people “need” to feel like they’ve done something down there. They like to take a peek after a bowel movement and let the distinct sensation of accomplishment wash over them. But for digestive health? I’m unconvinced, and there’s not much evidence in favor of it. Optimally, stool is made up of mostly water and bacteria – not undigested food.

The health claims just don’t add up.

For one, insoluble fiber doesn’t ferment very well. That’s why neither we nor our gut microbes can digest, say, cellulose-rich grass – we don’t have the hardware, and neither do our gut flora. No fermentation, no short chain fatty acid production.

How about constipation? Bulking up your stool is supposed to improve symptoms of constipation, right? That’s why almost every doctor will tell you to “eat more fiber” upon hearing that you’re constipated. It’s gotta be evidence-based advice! Well, the actual evidence is rather weak. A recent meta-analysis concluded that while increasing dietary fiber does increase the frequency of bowel movements, it does nothing for stool consistency, treatment success, laxative use, and painful defecation. So it will make you poop more often, sure, but each bowel movement is going to hurt and you’re still going to need laxatives to do it. Another recent study found that stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduced constipation.

Or cancer? One recent study compared the fiber intakes and gut flora composition of advanced colorectal cancer patients to healthy controls. Healthy controls who ate high-fiber tended to have more butyrate-producing microbes than low-fiber healthy controls and high-fiber cancer patients, suggesting that it’s not “fiber” that protects against cancer but “fermentable fiber.” The cancer patients who ate high-fiber were likely eating insoluble, cereal-based fiber, which was not protective. This jibes with an older study’s results: while both fruit and vegetable fiber were associated with lower risks of cancer, cereal fiber – which is mostly insoluble – was associated with a slightly higher risk. Another study found similarly protective links between fruit and vegetable fiber and stomach cancer, but not grain fiber.

If you desperately need to execute a double decker at the home of a sworn enemy, load up on insoluble fiber beforehand. Otherwise, stick to what insoluble fiber you’ll get as a byproduct of eating real fruits and vegetables.

How many fruits and vegetables should I eat, you might be wondering? And does that mean soluble, fermentable fiber, and lots of it, is fair game?

It depends. I know that’s not a sexy, easy answer, but it’s the right one. Allow me to explain.

The Sub-Saharan farmer who’s spent his life handling and milking goats, picking up and distributing manure, working the fields, plunging his bare hands into fresh loamy soil to plant a seed or pull a weed, taking his meals with soil still underneath his fingernails, eating lots of fiber-rich vegetation (often without washing it), and encountering not a single dose of antibiotics is going to have a more robust, varied gut microbiome and greater capacity to handle fiber than the suburban pencil pusher (perhaps that term needs updating – let’s go with keyboard rattler or desk jockey) who’s spent his childhood mostly indoors wearing a perma-sheen of hand sanitizer and sunscreen while eating a diet of peanut butter and jelly on white bread, mac and cheese, hot dogs, and pizza, and his later years wracked by chronic low level stress that disrupts his gut flora and alters his digestion.

Should you fear fruits and vegetables because of the fiber? Has your modern upbringing ruined your digestive capability forever? No, I don’t think so. It may have temporarily impaired your ability to handle fermentable fibers – increasing numbers of people are reporting trouble with the class of fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (check the FODMAP list at this PDF) largely because they don’t have the right levels/populations of gut flora – but it isn’t permanent. You just need to be aware of the complex, delicate interplay between the food fiber we eat, the composition and health of our gut flora, and our digestion. You should pay attention to your own digestion and how fiber affects it. You should introduce foods rich in soluble, fermentable fiber gradually and even cautiously. Allow time for your gut flora to adjust to the new food source. Expect flatulence.

But you should definitely introduce them.

Eventually, you’ll be able to fish a sample out of the toilet, snap a shot of it with your iPhone camera, and have your entire gut microbiome analyzed on the spot, complete with dietary fiber recommendations for optimal butyrate production and minimal flatulence, but that’s a long while off. Scientists are still figuring out which gut flora are best, which species are good and which are bad, what kind of fiber source they like, and how often and how much we should feed them. In other words, we’ve reached the stage of knowing enough to know that we know very little. In the meantime, we know “gut flora are important.” We have vague ideas of which populations are “good” based on correlative studies that link certain species with diseases. We know we need gut flora because of their endless interactions with the host, and that they need food. We know that the plants (and breast milk) we eat provide that food.

And that’s about it.

It’s enough to get started, though. I’d say between 75 and 100 grams of carbs from mostly vegetables and some fruits, plus the occasional emphasis on plants particularly heavy on the prebiotic fiber – stuff like raw onion and garlic, leeks, jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, raw plantains and green bananas – should provide sufficient food for your gut. If you have too much, you’ll know it.

Oh, and the Big Ass Salad is definitely here to stay.

That’s what I’ve got, folks. What say you?

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93 Comments on "Dear Mark: What’s the Deal with Fiber?"

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Erin
Erin
3 years 2 months ago

I think everyone should look at their poo after passing it. It really does say a lot about the health of your gut.

Scott UK
Scott UK
3 years 2 months ago

You’d like ratemypoo.com.

Kevin
Kevin
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah I like rating my own poo, rating other peoples poo quickly begins to turn my stomach. Especially after I saw one titled: “After three days of taco bell”.

Tim
Tim
3 years 2 months ago
Yep, to deny that our gut flora need proper care and feeding puts one in the dark ages. The only problem I have with your post, Mark, are the terms ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ as descriptors for ‘fermentable’ and ‘non-fermentable’. There is soluble fiber that are non-fermentable, and insoluble fiber that is fermentable. Also, some soluble, fermentable fiber is targeted more by pathogenic bacteria. If we look at the FODMAPs, some of them are good ‘gut-bug’ food, and some are not. Better descriptors for fiber recommendations would probably be ‘bifidogenic’, ‘butyrogenic’, or just ‘prebiotic’ fiber. These terms all relate to how… Read more »
PlusPotatoes
PlusPotatoes
3 years 2 months ago

I would be grateful for more information on types of fiber. Big Ass Salads worked for me for a while, but then I got very constipated- possibly too much spinach & arugula. I tried eating onions for inulin, which if anything made things worse, and probiotics, which seemed have no effect. What acually did help were potatoes- white and yellow, not sweet. These days I avoid salads, eat vegetables cooked in broth, stone fruits and berries plus a potato every day or two. What is it about the potatoes?

michael
michael
3 years 2 months ago

the resistant starch, your large intestine does a lot of good with it.

Stefan
3 years 2 months ago
I’m not sure we are actually correct on the terms of what constipation and other forms and speeds of digestition are. Who knows whether we and our primal ancestors are hard-wired to digest and poop within a certain timeframe and with a specific result? This probably varies from the exact types of food you eat, how much coffee/tea you had, whether you have regular meal times or not, etc. So, I think it’s hard to find an ideal digestition window as a sort of standard or “benchmark” in the first place which is then subject to individual eating, drinking and… Read more »
Nomad
Nomad
3 years 2 months ago
Just my 2-cents: What is normal? My cats used to poo large, smelly droppings twice a day. They had a host of health issues. I put them on a 95% meat no grain diet and it all cleared up. They are spectacularly healthy. Now they only poo very small, non-smelly, hard poos once every 2 days (I have to clean the box 🙂 Now, I am aware that cats aren’t people and vice versa. Nor am I saying we don’t need fiber. I am simply pointing out that who knows what healthy poop looks like? Sounds like CW to me.… Read more »
Nomad
Nomad
3 years 2 months ago

Oh, and another thing, it is possible that when we poo less, we may not be constipated, we may be using most of our food and not have so many waste products left.

Darcie
Darcie
3 years 2 months ago

*Raw* potato? That sounds considerably less tasty than not-raw potato…

otzi
otzi
3 years 2 months ago

I think that was meant to mean raw potato starch and raw tapioca starch. A lot of people are using those to increase their intake of resistant starch without all the calories.

There is a complete list of resistant starch contents in foods here:

.freetheanimal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Resistant-Starch-in-Foods.pdf

Harriet Sugar Miller
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for this, Kevin. Any chance you could provide a list or a link to an accurate and complete list of foods with prebiotic fiber?

Amy
Amy
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah…my to do list is already to long. I think I’ll pass. (Tee hee)

Harriet Sugar Miller
2 years 8 months ago

I’m preparing one and will post it one day soon on my website. First, I have to run it by a couple of researchers.

Mark P
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Siobhan
Siobhan
3 years 2 months ago

Once again you have provided a great deal of food for thought as well as the rest of the body!

Nocona
Nocona
3 years 2 months ago

Execute a double decker at an enemies house! I almost #@#@ my pants when I read that. Great scoop on the poop.

Scott UK
Scott UK
3 years 2 months ago

+1

otzi
otzi
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Tim
Tim
3 years 2 months ago
Yep, to deny that our gut flora need proper care and feeding puts one in the dark ages. The only problem I have with your post, Mark, are the terms ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ as descriptors for ‘fermentable’ and ‘non-fermentable’. There is soluble fiber that are non-fermentable, and insoluble fiber that is fermentable. Also, some soluble, fermentable fiber is targeted more by pathogenic bacteria. If we look at the FODMAPs, some of them are good ‘gut-bug’ food, and some are not. Better descriptors for fiber recommendations would probably be ‘bifidogenic’, ‘butyrogenic’, or just ‘prebiotic’ fiber. These terms all relate to how… Read more »
mark
mark
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Harriet Sugar Miller
3 years 6 days ago

And what about beta-glucans? Aren’t they a type of fermentable fiber? Oh how I wish someone would create a list of the various fermentable fibers and good dietary sources!

Here, I’ll start one:

Beta-glucans: mushrooms, barley and oat bran (Oops, did I say a bad word? I’m new to this Paleo movement and just starting to learn my way around…)

Harry Mossman
3 years 2 months ago

Outstanding, as always. Thanks!

Amy
Amy
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Donna
Donna
3 years 2 months ago

Whew!! Thank goodness the Big Ass Salad can stay. That’s what I called them way before I read The Primal Blueprint, so I was very happy when I read that’s what Mark eats as well. I think I was almost primal before I knew what primal was. Thank you, Mark! Great read.

Scott UK
Scott UK
3 years 2 months ago

Bottom line: “It’s not clear what exactly constitutes “healthy gut flora” “…

Graham
Graham
3 years 2 months ago

I still don’t think Konstanin was recommending that we not eat fiber last week—just that we not go crazy trying to *make* it part of our diet. Eating normal amounts of fruits and vegetables is a healthy thing to do, and a reasonable amount of prebiotic fiber is just another benefit. I don’t think anyone said otherwise.

Harry Mossman
3 years 2 months ago

+1 agreed

I also think Mark’s tone here is more sardonic than Monastyrsky’s was. And I love it when Mark writes posts like this!

Ron
Ron
3 years 2 months ago

I’m guessing he means upper decker.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
3 years 2 months ago

execute a double decker at the home of a sworn enemy

Am I the only one thinking Burger King here?

Amy
Amy
3 years 2 months ago

+1

Josh P
Josh P
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah, you’re the only one. You should Google it….

Scott UK
Scott UK
3 years 2 months ago

In the spirit of promoting debate, can Konstantin chime in here to tell us whether he agrees or disagrees with Mark’s post… ?

Jeremy Creed
Jeremy Creed
3 years 2 months ago

So basically fiber is necessary for those of us that poop our pants because our stool is too loose. Hopefully the fiber will build up the gut flora necessary to thicken up that stool.

Fritzy
Fritzy
3 years 2 months ago

Just wanted to add that some lists of FODMAPs foods to avoid list lettuce as problematic for some people–as it definitely is for me. Let the N=1 guide you on that one, I guess.

Nomad
Nomad
3 years 2 months ago

I concur! I love – LOVE – broccoli and cabbage, but cooked or raw, I get terrible gas and sometimes stomach pains/issues. Sometimes some people just don’t handle some foods well. Believe me, I wish I could.

Fritzy
Fritzy
3 years 2 months ago

And I know this is against the rules, but I think Mark needs to be nominated for quote of the week for his “double-decker” statement. Almost laughed out a double-decker in my chonies when I read that!

Josh P
Josh P
3 years 2 months ago

Mark, you HAVE to give yourself comment of the week, even though it was in your article. “Execute a double decker…..” Brilliant.

Laurie
Laurie
3 years 2 months ago

Due to several oral surgeries and bone grafts this summer, I’ve had to take several rounds of antibiotics. Hated to do it but I had some infections that had to be dealt with. I eat primal and no junk food, but I’m sure my gut microbiome got zapped.

What do I eat to help repopulate it with the “good guys”? I do take a high powered probiotic. But RAW onions for prebiotic? Can’t handle them raw. Is cooked ok?
Thanks for any suggestions!

Andrew D.
Andrew D.
3 years 2 months ago
Obviously a probiotic is a good start. But if you have a clean water source and access to your own garden or a farmers market where no pesticides and such are used… try eating a few ground plants without washing them. Sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots… or things growing on the ground like squash, etc. Their contact with the ground will expose you to more microbes and micro-organisms than most probiotics can provide. Pick off the big stuff… wipe ’em down… even cook them if you want. But skip the whole washing them part. That said… only do this where… Read more »
Bill C
Bill C
3 years 2 months ago
Agree with Andrew: eat *cide-free, poison-free dirt. You could also get some by taking a walk in the woods with a small container. As long as you aren’t crunching grit (bad for teeth), go ahead and eat with slightly dirty hands or even lightly season your food with dirt. Use your own judgement on sources, frequency, and amounts. To follow up on that, for some reason, bacteria (and viruses, and perhaps single-cell protists as well) are able to copy/incorporate some of the DNA of other species they come into contact with. This is why you can, for example, gain the… Read more »
Hanna
Hanna
3 years 2 months ago

Depending where you live in the world would depend on advising on washing your home grown veggies.

Julie
Julie
3 years 2 months ago

Lord. That’s hysterical. And yet oddly informative.

Andrew D.
Andrew D.
3 years 2 months ago
Having read last week’s post, my take away was that we shouldn’t be intentionally seeking out fiber as a supplement but to get it naturally from our food. The fact is, most of the carbs you consume will naturally come wrapped up in some form of fiber. An apple is a perfect example. If you take a dozen apples and squeeze them for their juice and drink it, you get sugary water in a form that affects insulin almost as much as eating a spoonful of processed sugar. But eat a single apple by biting into it and chewing it… Read more »
Patti
Patti
3 years 2 months ago

The line that got me giggling was “It makes for extremely impressive toilet bowl displays and potentially expensive plumber fees”. Thanks Mark!

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 2 months ago

Uptaking my fiber has led to an increase of 0.25 courics.

Joe B.
Joe B.
3 years 2 months ago

More Chang sauce!!1!

Adrienne
Adrienne
3 years 2 months ago

As for prebiotics — rejoice hazelnut lovers. Eat em raw and with the skins intact — the skins are loaded with prebiotics. They’re my fave so of course I’m a bit biased…

michele
michele
3 years 2 months ago

Thank you for treating this subject with your usual care and circumspection.

Sophia
3 years 2 months ago

Fascinating article. My source of priobitics, in addition to veggies and fruits, is kefir. I sort of “make” myself take it due to worry about gut bacteria, especially when I slack off on my veggie intake. Perhaps I don’t really need to?

J.
J.
3 years 2 months ago

Perfect. You pretty much described my upbringing, digestive health and how I solved it! Eliminating fiber, understanding which ones were not promoting health and slowly reintroducing new ones and to this day I can tolerate ‘normal’ levels of fiber.

Paul Rowan
Paul Rowan
3 years 2 months ago

Can’t wait for the iPoop app.

Angeline
Angeline
3 years 2 months ago

So, insoluble fiber like lettuce and cabbage is ok?

After having gallbladder transplant I cannot tolerate starch at all, and most of the vegetables that have soluble fiber are starchy vegetables. Im confused..

Colleen
Colleen
3 years 2 months ago
Does anyone have a child (or themselves) suffer from Encopresis? It’s basically chronic constipation where softer stools start pushing through and it looks like the child is soiling their pants, but they’re not doing it on purpose. My 9-year old has struggled with this for several years now, so this study intrigues me as I’m trying to find the “A-HA!” thing with him. We previously did the whole Miralax/Enema things as his Pediatrician originally prescribed but his condition wasn’t improving, the process was becoming traumatizing and after becoming Primal last year it was clear to me this could not be… Read more »
Harriet
Harriet
3 years 2 months ago

Cooked rhubarb helped me when things were bad – though I needed some sugar with them. As do raw kiwi fruit – but no additional sugar needed.

George
George
3 years 2 months ago
Definitely STOP with the insoluble fiber supplements IMHO. Make sure your child stays hydrated, I don’t mean slogging down water constantly, but a consistent amount between meals. You might also consider waiting to drink fluids until a half hour after meals. Of course, no soft drinks and NO milk. Maybe cut back on the strength of the probiotics for a while but make sure it has the right kinds and number of strains (some research will point you to those). The are also some homeopathic soil organism products out there, but you don’t want to hit him will too many… Read more »
Heather
Heather
3 years 2 months ago
I suffered with constipation-related IBS since my early teens (I’m 42 now). I went on a cruise in 2001 and didn’t have a BM in 7 days. Trips were excruciating because all gut movement would come to a halt. Coffee and cigarettes are what I used to help me s**t. I did the low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber, lots of healthy whole grains, veggies/fruit, etc. I dropped 10lbs and didn’t fix my IBS. The first thing I did was remove bread. That was the start. I literally started to empty out. My stools were looser than before. 3 weeks later I went… Read more »
Heather
Heather
3 years 2 months ago
And I always look at my stool – my man thinks I’m gross but it is amazing what you can find out. I will even get a bit closer to it before flushing. That is why I no longer eat sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. My man’s stepdad was stumped as to how we manage to suck the nutrition out of corn and leave the shell intact. WTF!!! I had to tell him “you don’t”. I don’t think he believed me. If it shows up in the toilet looking exactly like it did when it went in the mouth then… Read more »
mark
mark
3 years 2 months ago

Colleen,
I personally recovered from constipation by taking Magnesium. My dear old mother suggested it and it worked. I no longer take Milk of Magnesia, just magnesium citrate tablets, 2000 – 3000 mg daily.
I initially tried high fiber, … disastrous.

Nomad
Nomad
3 years 2 months ago

I found lots of fat helped me tremendously. Gives me energy and I don’t get constipation at all. In fact, that is my sign if I’m not eating enough fat. That and carb cravings. And weight gain… I think even if we know better, we are still programmed to think fat is bad. Hell, even after all this time I feel guilty when 1 throw a tablespoon or 2 of butter on my meat and veggies, but it makes me feel so healthy. I don’t know if this will help, but I really feel for your son…

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 2 months ago

Have you ever tried cocnut water with pulp? It is sweet, it hydrates, and it has a decent amount of magnesium. I learned the hard way about its natural laxative affect.

Heidi
Heidi
3 years 2 months ago
I have a child who holds. He doesn’t know any different because he got immediately constipated the day he started solid foods and stopped pooping because it hurt. He’s now five and he’s been off and on Miralax since 9 months old. He’s been solidly on Miralax for the last 9 months to un-stretch his colon and the Dr. says now to start taking him off it really slowly while adding in fiber so that he gets used to regular stools but I started that and he didn’t go for 3 days so I pulled out the fiber and upped… Read more »
Scott
Scott
3 years 2 months ago
Our oldest was holding his poop in when potty training. He had eczema as a young, breast-fed baby. When we started solids, he got a lot of wheat-based products. Poop was inconsistent, and eczema was omnipresent, then, but it was going into a diaper. As we started potty training, he would hold it in for days until he couldn’t any longer. A few times his breath would smell like poop. It was terrible. His attitude also got worse and worse the longer he held it. After an hour long force to sit on the toilet session, he would poop and… Read more »
Heidi
Heidi
3 years 2 months ago
Thanks so much for the detailed reply. We have been wheat (gluten) free since before he was born. I haven’t had the heart to make everyone give up dairy though. Yogurt and cheese are some of the staples my kids love in their school lunches. We eat plenty of fat, protein and veggies. We are largely grain-free as well except I let my kids have rice crackers. I guess it’s those little things that might be exacerbating the problem. I just think I’ll have a mutiny on my hands if I take away dairy and rice crackers when every other… Read more »
Scott
Scott
3 years 2 months ago
You are very welcome. That part of life is so much better for him and for us, I can only hope someone else can benefit from our experience. My kids’ diet is hardly sugar-free, but most of it comes from fruits and we try to skew a lot of that toward berries. My observation is that sugary stuff promotes constipation. I think cutting fruit juices was one of the more important moves along with milk and wheat. I think cutting the yogurt would help, partly because it is dairy and partly because they add so much sugar to it. There… Read more »
Bev Trudeau Meyers
Bev Trudeau Meyers
2 years 5 months ago
Your post was quite a while back. I hope your son is feeling better. Miralax is not safe for anyone with digestive problems. I developed digestive issues and eventually, colon problems. It turned out my body cannot handle Chicory Root at all. Chicory Root is being added to almost all “prepared/processed” foods including Kashi protein bars, cookies, etc. It is, also, in Fiber One bars, most brands of ice cream, store bought bread, frozen vegetable lasagna, etc, etc, etc. Inulin added to food harms my body. I feel like this prebiotic thing is very much like “margarine is good for… Read more »
ari
ari
2 years 1 month ago
Hi Colleen, our 5yo has this issue too. We’ve also done stool softeners and ‘ kid friendly’ laxatives to clear the blockage, with little success – if anything, I think it made him soil more. We think it happens because he gets ‘ too busy’ to go to the loo. Anyhow, we have had more success with hi fibre cereals (insoluble fibre) to flush It out and I make him flavoured milk with potato starch, plenty of unripe bananas, apples, oh and a very good 14 strain probiotic. Its hard as he is pretty fussy with veggies and meats but… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
7 months 20 days ago
My daughter used to suffer with stomach pain and after increased fiber, she would still have pain even though she would have enormous poops. They would be soft, so I thought there was no way she could be constipated. After x-rays confirmed that she had so much bulk in her intestines a physician’s assistant told me not to give her all that fiber and to start feeding her more berries, apricots, apples… basically things with a lot of pectin in it. He said that we don’t need all that fiber and kids are more sensitive to it. After increasing pectin… Read more »
annette
annette
3 years 2 months ago

Thank you for always linking REAL sturdies to your articles. It really is appreciated

Mike
Mike
3 years 2 months ago

I think “double decker” should have been “upper decker” – much more appropriate for your sworn enemy!

Connor Bryant
3 years 2 months ago

I’ve gone for long stretches eating only meat and my bowel movements have been perfect.
I’d even go so far as to say exquisite and beautiful.

The first few days without all the usual fiber can be a bit tricky though.
Takes discipline to get through that.

David
David
3 years 2 months ago

I’m concerned we’re missing a correlation here. The post states that gut flora composition from fermentable fibre is critical to “good” health. But is it possible that you only need this particular flora if you consume fibrous foods?
In other words, the claimed “good” flora might only be good if you’re a fibre consumer, but if you’re not, is it possible that the particular flora is unnecessary?

Alex
Alex
3 years 2 months ago

I agree with this viewpoint – it is all to easy to come to erroneous conclusions when you are looking at the evidence through the ‘lens’ of a long-standing, preexisting set of circumstances.

I also find that my bowel movements and stools are much ‘healthier’ without dietary fibre (usually, I consume hardly any – either via plants or supplements). However, when I deviate from my habitual food choices and do eat something with fibre (nuts, for example), I pay for it with gut pains, bloating and hard, difficult to pass stools!

George Regal
George Regal
3 years 2 months ago

I just leaded up with some insoluble fiber…and since I’m my own worst enemy I’m dropping an upper-decker on myself!

Good God! That had me howling!

otzi
otzi
3 years 2 months ago
Thanks for this Mark! Did you know you were seeing the future back a couple years ago when you wrote about ‘parboiled rice’? You said: “Parboiled rice is interesting. Parboiling involves partially boiling the intact rice seed – husk, bran, and all. This, in theory, is supposed to incorporate some of the bran’s nutrients into the interior. The parboiled rice is then dried and milled, producing a white rice with greater nutrient content than regular white rice. How does it pan out? …It kinda works. There’s very little mineral change from white rice (perhaps even a reduction), but some of… Read more »
Jane Britton
Jane Britton
3 years 2 months ago
All I know is that I suffered the worst constipation of my life eating my parents way… high fibre Pritikin type diet all through my teens. We avoided fats and ate lite everything and I ate lots of carbs and starchy veggies. My teenage years I was eating the healthiest food of anyone I knew… went to McDonalds twice before I was 16… parents did aerobics 7 nights a week… etc etc etc. My mother who had bowel cancer in her late 40s should have been the picture of bowel health… talk about eat some serious fibre…. As soon as… Read more »
Ben
3 years 2 months ago

Another great article Mark. Love the fact that you are a healthy person yourself so I know I can trust what you write.

Tom T.
3 years 2 months ago

Wow! I thought people were passionate about fiber. They are way more passionate about their poo.

Tim
Tim
3 years 2 months ago
This came from http://freetheanimal.com/2013/09/resistant-starch-self-experimentation-prelude-sisson-konstantin-monastyrsky-and-my-commenters.html#comment-536129 A commenter said: “I think that Mark Sisson and Paul Jaminet will both say that eating as they describe will provide one with all the pro- and prebiotics one needs to thrive. I think differently. I think their plans are a good start, and adequate for long-term good health, but more indepth looks at the role of prebiotics on proper gut function, and evidence from our ancestors petrified poop, shows that our gut microbes evolved on a diet high in fermentable fiber (prebiotics) and that about 20g per day is needed to optimize the growth of… Read more »
Nomad
Nomad
3 years 2 months ago

Fat is the new fiber! Lol. 🙂

Kim R
Kim R
3 years 2 months ago

Amazing to read this just when my husband had started complaining that his ‘toilet habits’ weren’t like they used to be and he thought he was constipated! Now I realise that what we are both experiencing is normal after a few weeks of eating in a primal style.

Loving this life style change 🙂

Debbie
3 years 2 months ago

Really interesting!

When I first was trying to change my gut health (GAPS diet), I couldn’t get enough onions. I would make a bunch of veggies and onions and I’d end up picking out all the onions because that was what tasted good to me. I wonder if my body knew I needed them?

Romzzz
Romzzz
3 years 2 months ago

Totaly agree with the good and bad bacteria theory!

Tim
Tim
3 years 2 months ago
The replies to this post tell me that most people do not understand the concept of prebiotic fiber. Using a nutrition label to get adequate fiber for prebiotic purposes will do the exact opposite of what you are trying to do…it will get you loads of non-fermentable fiber and fiber that is fermentable by the wrong species of gut microbes. As Mark said in the blog above: “You should introduce foods rich in soluble, fermentable fiber gradually and even cautiously. Allow time for your gut flora to adjust to the new food source. Expect flatulence….But you should definitely introduce them.”… Read more »
ngyoung
ngyoung
3 years 2 months ago

I think guy flora is the basis for a procedure that takes healthy weight people’s stools and puts it in obese people. I think the theory is the healthy person’s flora will help reset the balance of good vs bad in the over weight person’s gut.

Paleo FODMAPs
Paleo FODMAPs
3 years 2 months ago

There is an excellent list for Paleo FODMAPs in
http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/support-files/Paleo-FODMAP-food-list.pdf by Aglaée the Paleo dietitian.
My flatulence and bloating are absent when I stick to that list.

Egglet
Egglet
3 years 2 months ago

I never had constipation issues before I went Primal over a year ago, but after about a month or so my bowel movements became very difficult. My poop is hard and painful to pass, and when I wipe there is only a bit of blood – It’s almost like I don’t really need to wipe at all!

Not sure what to do about this; I’ve just been tolerating it ever since it started.

Joey
Joey
3 years 2 months ago
Okay, I guess this is the best post for me to ask my very basic question: Do I have to eat vegetables? I really don’t like them and have only ate them because I was trying to be a good boy. The ones I do eat since going Paleo are sweet potatoes, onions and garlic (just because they season my meat nicely). I eat fruits rarely, maybe 2 or 3 times a week. In the past I always ate salads, broccoli, blah, blah, blah,… but I rather not. I know that they’re are rich in minerals and stuff, but am… Read more »
gillyd
3 years 1 month ago
Help! Impacted bowel in 85 year old…Been reading all these comments avidly waiting for some comments about the value of chia seeds but no mention! How come? I was hoping that I might find some insight for helping with my elderly Mum’s issue of impacted bowel for which she was hospitalised for afew weeks ago. She has some narrowing of the colon. She has been prescribed Movicol sachets which look just like chia gel when made up. But she’s not taking them regularly as had afew issues with overflow. The consultant (we are in the UK here) had never heard… Read more »
Fancee
Fancee
2 years 5 months ago

I have always known that I need to either eat a salad or a big plate of fresh fruits for lunch every day that’s the only way I stay regular. I have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and one of the side effects is constipation but if I eat my fruits or salad I don’t have that problem.

Katie C.
Katie C.
2 years 2 months ago
Super disappointing in Mark for missing the mark and addressing a bigger picture. Everything about fiber and what it should be doing for your body and what it fails to do… Nothing in the article about Fiber being ESSENTIAL for DETOXification. NOWHERE in this article is the word Detox even used! C’mon Mark, dig a little deeper and look at the next level or what fiber is doing for us not just surface idiocy about how big your stools are. Your system needs to flush and cleanse toxins through which fiber, in addition to water, does. I was inadvertently poisoned… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
8 months 28 days ago

Hi, i’m doing a low carb, healthy fat diet, but I have constipation, very hard stools and I don’t what to take for it, I’m so confused one expert says this the other one says something else, what do you recommend?.

Sylwia
3 months 27 days ago
So… What about FODMAPs? You mentioned garlic and onions are a great way to feed your gut bacteria, but what about FODMAP-sensitive individuals (like me)? I have been observing myself for quite a while, been on an extremely low FODMAP diet and every time I try to reintroduce for example garlic or onions – I can’t. Even in reasonable quantities, I get extreme bloating and gas that prevents me from leaving the house and having any social life… Not to mention the discomfort and the constipation that most FODMAPS cause for me. The literature on FODMAP-sensitive guts is very limited,… Read more »
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