Constipation is something that has haunted for me a long time; accompanied with straining and hemorrhoids. I wanted to share my constipation experiences with you (I’m throwing myself out there for you guys) and what I have found to make it easier for me to go to the bathroom.
I took Metamucil for a while a few years ago, which helped, but it’s not the best thing (ingredient wise) for you to take. I’ve explained what the problem with Metamucil is and what you can do, naturally, to helps things move along.
(I sincerely hope this helps!)
My Bowel Movement Issues
I’ve never had “normal” bowel movements. I still struggle today but things are getting better as I’m learning different techniques to help me eliminate. I would have a bowel movement one day and then it would be up to 5 or 6 days later that I would have another bowel movement. Not good.
I really started having issues after I gave birth to Andrew. Because I had an epidural for his birth, I couldn’t feel my pushing. It resulted in really bad hemorrhoids. I’m talking, really bad. Even the doctor said they were worse than normal. The healing from it was ridiculously painful.
About 2 months after I had Andrew, I got diarrhea really bad one night. It wasn’t until 5 days later that I had a bowel movement and when I did, it was immensely painful. I literally felt like broken glass was coming out of my body. I had bloody stools and when I wiped, there was blood on the toilet paper. After I had the excruciating bathroom experience, the pain did not go away. I could barely sit because of how much pain I was in.
I had a bowel movement a couple days after and I had the same thing — I felt like I was moving jagged glass pieces along with excruciating pain with bloody stools and bloody toilet paper. The worst part about it all was the fact that it wasn’t a quick release. I sat on the toilet for up to 20 minutes, struggling to move the poop. During that period of time, I’d sweat and literally cry because of how much pain I was in. It progressively got worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit and I was fearful of having a bowel movement because of the pain that came along with it. I tried everything; warm salt baths, laying on my stomach, you name it. The pain would take about 12 hours to subside to where I could walk and sit normal.
Not being able to move while having to care for a newborn really sucked.
I finally went to a colon doctor and she did an exam on me. Turns out I had an anal fissure. An anal fissure is a small tear along the entrance of your colon. Mine was located on the top which felt like it was in the worst possible place, ever. She gave me some medicated cream and told me to take Metamucil to help with softening the bowel movements. I never looked at the ingredient label.
The Metamucil helped and eventually I healed from it. It took about a month or so to get back to normal and I continued to take Metamucil for quite some time and then eventually stopped taking it. At this point in my life, I had not had my “real food” epiphany and was eating the Standard American Diet.
About a year later, when we moved to California, I was beginning to have bad bowel movements again. I would go through a pattern of not having a bowel movement and then having a complete blow out. I’d get cramps so bad that I would literally sweat, shake and feel light headed.. and on top of all of that, I would strain — a lot.
I suffered from hemorrhoids regularly until one day I got something called a thrombosed hemorrhoid. A thrombosed hemorrhoid is a hemorrhoid that has formed a blood clot and does not go away, causing extreme pain and discomfort. I was so upset to be going through yet another issue because of my bowel movements. I had it for about 7 days before I went to the doctor and they told me I had to get it removed via rubber band ligation.
I was totally over the butt issues! Not only was I miserable all the time because of my “issues” but I also felt a little embarassed and grossed out about myself when it came time to being intimate with my husband. There really is nothing sexy about having a hemorrhoid.
Around that point in my life, I had experienced my “real food” epiphany and had slowly been transitioning to an unprocessed diet.
Since that hemorrhoid issue about a year and a half ago, I have completely changed my diet to a more cleaner and less processed approach. Let me tell you what, it has helped TREMENDOUSLY! I haven’t had a hemorrhoid in quite some time and although I do not go every day like I would want to, I’m beginning to have more regular bowel movements and it’s been making me feel better. I also notice the amount of fluids I drink in a day really determines how my bowel movements go.
I’ve been doing this without the use of Metamucil which is a good thing because up until a few weeks ago, I actually looked at the ingredients. Sadly, I was not surprised with what I saw. It is definitely not something a person who is concerned with GMOs, artificial colorings/flavorings or minimizing chemicals/toxins in their diet would want to take.
What’s the Problem with Metamucil, Anyway?
Although this powdery substance helped me tremendously recover from my anal fissure, it has very questionable ingredients in it. Had I known about aspartame, maltodextrin and artificial colors and flavorings prior to having Metamucil suggested to me, I probably would not have taken it. Why? Well, first let’s take a look at the ingredients of their powdered orange flavor.
The ingredients read as follows:
The things that scream out to me are; 1. GMOs, 2. Natural & Artificial Flavors, 3. Yellow 6. Let’s look at why those three things are so alarming!
First I want to point out that maltodextrin, citric acid and aspartame are all genetically modified. Genetically modified foods have not been adequately tested for safety and there are many studies (including this one about GMO’s and pigs) indicating the grave dangers and health problems possibly associated with GMO’s.
Unfortunately, unless you were well versed in what foods were genetically modified, including their derivatives (I’m actually working on my first e-book about GMOs, stay tuned!), the average Joe or Susan would not know what they were about to ingest included GM ingredients.
Despite over 90% of Americans that want GMO’s labeled and more than 50 countries around the world that have labeling laws in place, the United States government has not taken any action towards the labeling of genetically modified “foods.”
Not to mention that aspartame is included in these ingredients and can be considered a highly toxic artificial sweetener. Aspartame has been linked to:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Panic disorder
- Birth defects
- Lyme disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
- Attention deficit disorder
- Depression and other psychological disorders
- Diabetes and diabetic complications
- Hypothyroidism (source)
Natural & Artificial Flavors
Next I want to point out the “Natural and Artificial Orange Flavor.” What does that mean any way and are they genetically modified as well?
According to section (a)(1) in the FDA data base,
“artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof.”
natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. (source)
The main distinction between an artificial flavor and natural flavor is the source of where it was derived. Natural flavors come from anything that can be eaten (vegetable, milk, etc). Artificial flavors come from anything non-edible, like petroleum.
These words mean “mainly for flavor” and “is not synthetic, or synthetically derived/obtained/processed.”
However, the FDA treats GMO’s as no different that natural foods. They are basically considered the same as the original manipulated plant or animal – completely interchangeable. So what that means is natural and artificial flavorings may be genetically modified and we would never know!
What about Yellow 6? Yellow 6 is an artificial food color that is made from petroleum and used in foods because it’s cheaper, makes the colors more pretty, and is more stable for packaging and processing. Artificial coloring has been linked to behavioral problems in children like ADHD and hyperactivity, triggering allergic reactions, cancer and contributing to the obesity problem.
Ironically, artificial colors are not allowed to use in products over seas.
In the United States however, they are made with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1.
Completely unnecessary, don’t you think?
Only in America can you get the following artificial food colorings in your food. (It feels great to be an American, doesn’t it?)
- Blue 1
- Blue 2
- Green 3
- Red 3
- Red 40
- Yellow 5
- Yellow 6
- FD&C Lakes (can be a combination of colors)
- Citrus Red 2 (used on things like oranges, frankfurters and sausages) — yuck!
To view the complete list of artificial food colorings/dyes that are no longer authorized or have restricted use, click here.
As you can see, Metamucil is basically a genetically modified powdered laced with artificial yucky-ness that probably does more harm than good.
What do you do if you need get it moving but don’t want to use Metamucil besides incorporating an unprocessed, whole foods diet with adequate amount of fluid intake?
Mindful Breathing for Easy Bowel Movements
This one may sound kind of silly but I swear by it — especially recently. For some of us, making a bowel movement can be a little stressful because the thought of sitting too long and causing hemorrhoids is not something we want. Especially if we just got over a hemorrhoid.
I’ve started practicing mindful breathing to relax my whole body to make the movement easier. Stress equals tension. Both of those things do not do a body good. When I’m trying to get things moving, I take a deep breath in and with each breath out, I allow my body to completely release any tension and relax. Usually, I can feel the bowel start moving through as my body relaxes. I do this until I get the poo out.
Along with the mindful breathing, I elevate my feet on a stool. Based on research, the human body was designed to squat to eliminate. Squatting really helps things move because it allows the colon to be at a more natural position. Apparently, the body relies partly on a bend (called the anorectal angle) in the rectum (where feces is stored), and the anus (where the feces comes out) to help control and release bowel movements. (source)
However, when we are sitting or standing the anorectal angle becomes kinked. When the anorectal angle is kinked it puts upward pressure on the rectum which basically keeps the bowel inside, making elimination difficult and most of the times incomplete. That’s when the straining comes in.
Have you ever been to the bathroom and felt like there was still more but you couldn’t “get it all out?” I know I used to get this feeling (and still do) sometimes. This is a pure example of your colon being kinked.
According to the Squatty Potty website, they state:
If you refer to the photo, you’ll notice in the in diagram depicting the squatting position, the puborectalis muscle is no longer kinked. This allows the muscle to relax which causes the bend to straighten out, which as you can imagine, results in easier bowel movements.
But does it work? Yes! It does! I’ve used a little basket that held my son’s bathroom books and I noticed a big difference. However I don’t think it was at the appropriate height. Just like anything, it’s best to buy a product that is made specifically for a problem.
Other Great Articles on Natural Ways to Help Your Bowel Movements
→ 5 Ways to Get Things Moving by Butter Nutrition
→ Rachel of Soundness Body & Mind noticed better bowel movements from taking epsom salt baths
Recommended reading: How I Cured a Painful Hemorrhoid with 2 Natural Remedies