Quit your pushing

I don’t like talking about it since it makes me wonder whether I’m starting down that inevitable decline towards the day when all I want to talk about is having a “good bowel movement.”

But the C word–constipation–has come up several times here when people go wheatless. “Won’t I lack fiber?” many ask. For example, in response to the Wheat Belly Blog post, The Wheat-free “Movement,” Janne posted this comment:

I am very happy on a no-wheat regimen but I wish I knew what I should do to add enough fiber to my diet. I am not quite on the verge of constipation. When I ate lots of whole grains (I haven’t touched refined grains in years), I would have easy daily bowel movements. I am still going daily but it’s not as ‘easy.’ I eat lots of vegetables, and sometimes a little brown rice. What am I doing wrong?

Granted: Wheat products are a convenient source of indigestible fiber. But the idea that you must have whole grains from wheat to obtain sufficient fiber is pure fiction. There are plenty of other foods that are rich in fiber.

Here are some ways to regulate regularity:

1) Add more raw nuts and seeds, more nut meals, including the recipes in the Wheat Belly book and here in this blog. It means that even treats like chocolate almond biscotti are rich in fiber.
2) More non-wheat fibers low in carbohydrates, especially flaxseed and chia. These are easy to sprinkle on foods, mix in with your wheat-free baked dishes, mix in with wheat-free granola. They do not have any effect on blood sugar.
3) A magnesium supplement–Magnesium provides an osmotic effect that increases stool moisture content. This is why many laxatives contain magnesium, like Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide). The majority of people are deficient in magnesium anyway, since modern water purification removes virtually all magnesium. The form of magnesium to choose depends on what you are trying to achieve. Strictly for purposes of regularity, magnesium citrate, 400 mg twice per day, will provide a modest boost. Those of you desiring better absorption of magnesium and less bowel softening, look for magnesium malate, 1200 mg twice per day.
4) A probiotic to help your poor wheat-damaged intestine to recover. While we need more data on these effects, wheat consumption changes the bacterial composition of your intestinal tract. Taking a probiotic for a few weeks can provide organisms like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium that help regain normal bacterial populations.
5) Hydrate–A helpful habit is to drink two 8 ounce glasses of water immediately upon awakening when you are substantially dehydrated. Do the same several more times per day and be sure that, whenever you urinate, urine is only lightly yellow, almost clear, never dark and concentrated.

So going wheat-free does not mean a lifetime of pushing and straining, then calling your surgeon to clip the hemorrhoids. For some, it can even mean reversal of incapacitating constipation to new-found regularity. It means intestinal health that is improved because it now avoids the most destructive of diet ingredients, wheat.

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64 Responses to Quit your pushing

  1. blanka S. says:

    are eggs constipating???

  2. Tim says:

    Any suggestions to an alternative to Metamucil?

    • Boundless says:

      > Any suggestions to an alternative to Metamucil?

      Plain psyllium husk capsules. The Metamucil capsules are fine, but generic alternatives are dramatically cheaper.

      The things to avoid with these products are wheat (in the wafers), sugars, possibly wheat-derived maltodextrin or questionable artificial sweeteners (in the powders), and wheat dextrin in the non-psyllium competitors. Inulin has issues of its own.

    • Brooks says:

      I have lost about 20# on the Dukan Diet. He recommends Oat bran—not oat meal for fiber. I put 1/3 cup in 1 cup water and boil with a tsp. cinnamon and a tsp. vanilla plus Equal.

  3. Pingback: FIBER: Movement, Beyond the Grain « All the Love– Without the Wheat

  4. Pingback: Eat, Pray, Push | Wheat Belly Blog

  5. MTZ says:

    Yes, eggs are constipating. Metamucil is merely vegetable fiber – you can get it by eating veggies. Try some of the summer squash or even winter squash and you will find it works wonderfully. As suggested, something to drink upon rising – hot is best – and that will get the system going. I have taken a supplement called ‘Herb-Lax’ make by Shaklee for occasional irregularity. (organic and gluten free) I find I don’t need as much once I went wheat free. Frequent constipation can cause bladder issues as well. Keep the fluids – especially water – coming. About 8 glasses a day MINIMUM.

  6. Doris Johnson says:

    I have the same problem, have only been off of wheat for about 2 weeks. I’ve only lost five pounds. I feel like my bowels are full and I can’t seem to go enough. Also, I still eat a little bit of sugar. I walk anywhere from 1/2 mile to a mile every day on a areo glide machine. I have balance problems to it’s hard to walk outside. Will probiatics help?

  7. Darla Meister says:

    Dr. Davis,

    Is there a probiotic that you can recommend for us?

    Thank you,

    • Dr. Davis says:

      There are several very good products, Darla. But I have become comfortable with the Renew Life preparations. I know the owners of the company and they are incredibly meticulous people who pay attention to all aspects of production and formulation.

      • Donna Poirier Connerty says:

        Hi Dr. Davis,
        I went to their web site and they have quite a few products – I’m overwhelmed; I never taken anything like this…can you suggest the right product that’s wheat and gluten free?

        Thank you!

  8. Alisha says:

    I have noticed that I am not using the bathroom as regularly. I lost 10 lbs in 9 days but then its like I am gaining again because I am not eliminating as I should. My son even complained about constipation. I eat alot of green veggies and drink for the most part only water. I do eat eggs every day for breakfast. I think I need to incorporate more flax in my diet. Im not sure what to do!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Think probiotic, Alisha.

      Minus the bowel flora-disrupting effects of the components of wheat, your gastrointestinal tract needs to repopulate with healthier organisms. Constipation is a common result in this transition. You can accelerate a return to normalcy by supplementing with a high-potency probiotic, e.g., 50 billion CFUs per day for 4-8 weeks. Also, others obtain further benefits by hydrating and considering a magnesium supplement, e.g., magnesium malate, 1200 mg twice a day.

  9. Suzanne Miller says:

    Hubby and myself have been taking first Benefiber for at least five years 2 tsp each meal. Now since Benefiber no longer available we use store-brand tasteless, quick-dissolving fiber powder made of wheat dextrin. Also, high fiber diet of veges – large salads lunches and dinner, low carb meals, also for years. We drink at least 64 oz or more of water daily, exercise 5 days a week. We wondered if the wheat dextrin fiber was the culprit in keeping the “wheat-belly?” because otherwise we have very very limited bread – no sandwhiches – just salads with our meals. Only have bread treats occasionally with guests. I see psyllium husks capsules are recommended. So we’ll head to store and get some. The question is mainly about getting off the wheat dextrin fiber powder… that might do the trick, you think?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, absolutely. Lose anything that might contain gliadin residues that amplify appetite and increase bowel permeability.

  10. Fiber‘s affect on the oral cavity: As sticky as glue

    The human mouth is primarily intended to cut and chop flesh, not grind indigestible fibers. Unlike humans, cows have so-called hypsodont teeth, which extend very far above the gum line and grow continuously to accommodate a lifetime of wear-and-tear from grinding fibrous grasses


  11. Scott says:

    Dr. Davis, I am persuaded by your arguments about eliminating (as much as possible) wheat from one’s diet. I am not, and never have been, overweight, primarily due to a lifetime of healthy eating and regular cardiovascular exercise. However, I am conflicted by another factor which has been helpful to my digestion for over thirty years: wheat bran, stripped from the rest of the wheat grain, which I have taken in its natural form for all these years. I prefer insoluble fibers to soluble fibers due to the gel produced by the latter, although my diet is rich in both, but I have ingested natural wheat bran for all this time without any noticeable negative health effects. So my question is: Is wheat bran in its natural form as bad as the whole wheat grain? Thanks for your guidance.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      No, the bran is simply a source of potential wheat protein contaminants at low level.

      Personally, would not chance it, but the risk is likely small.