The Big Brown Elephant In the Room: CONSTIPATION!

I’m only a little bit embarrassed to admit that one of my favourite topics of conversation is in fact “moving of the bowels”.  My fascination with poop started way  before I became interested in nutrition, and long before I decided to become a Nutritionist.  Maybe it’s because for many years of my life, I simply couldn’t poop properly – it’s not like I never went but it was a once or twice a week deal.


I remember my first nutrition teacher exclaiming to the class “can you imagine that some people only go once a week” and the class was dismayed to say the least.  People were shouting in disbelief “NO!  IMPOSSIBLE” to which I silently said “oh, it’s possible Sally and I’m living proof”.  Going once a week isn’t normal, and all joking aside is a major indicator that something isn’t quite right with the digestive and gastrointestinal system.  Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, I thought constipation was a good place to start in optimizing the health and balance of our colon and ultimately, entire body.


The Mayo Clinic defines constipation as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools.  It feels unfomfortable and can leave people with bloating and gas and according to this BBC article, leads to “rabbit pellet” like bowel movements.  When one is constipated, the bowel movements are normally small and hard which can tear the anus causing further discomfort and pain – and often causes people to “hold it in” to avoid more pain which further exacerbates the issue.


The issue with constipation is that it allows waste to sit and stagnate in your colon for a longer period of time than it really should.  Imagine that the colon cell walls probably don’t like to have toxic waste touching them day in and day out.  Over time, this toxic environment causes intestinal cells to become weak.  In fact, not having a bowel movement daily increases your chances of getting colon cancer, heart attack, colitis, and IBS.  Stagnating toxic stool, when sitting in the colon longer than it should, causes inflammation and allows toxins to be reabsorbed into the body where they can cause cellular damage system wide.


So, you can see that having a poorly functioning colon can negatively impact your entire body and we can safey “poo poo” constipation.  Bowel movements are actually classified based on their appearance according to something called the Bristol Scale – constipation would be a 1 or 2 on the scale below.  What we are actually aiming for is something more like Type 4 “like a sausage or snake…smooth and soft”.


Constipation is diagnosed as an infrequent bowel movement and so I think it would be helpful to quantify the term “infrequent”.  Conventionally, anything less than three bowel movements a week is considered constipated.  From in the holistic nutrition/naturopathic viewpoint a food should pass through your system between 18-24 hours after ingestion – so the long of the short is that you should be moving your bowels daily.  The time taken, by the way, from when you eat a food to when you excrete it is called Oral-Fecal Transit Time (OFTT) and you can test this at home with one simple ingredient – sesame seeds.  Swallow a tablespoon of sesame seeds in a 1/4 cup of water without chewing the seeds.  Then wait and prepared to  be amazed when you see those seeds again in your toilet – hopefully within 24 hours.

Oral-Fecal Transit Time

What if your OFTT is  more than 24 hours?  What is causing this?  It’s likely due to lack of hydration or not eating enough fiber.  Both of these elements are required to lubricate the intestine and bulk up stool so that it easily passes through your colon.  Other factors include lack of movement because not getting enough exercise keeps you both physically and mentally stagnant and perhaps even a change in your routine could throw off your bowel balance.  Another common culprit is stress and not taking the time to go to the washroom when nature calls.  Some medications and illnesses are known to factor into a slow transit time but really, if you want to avoid constipation here are four simple steps.

STEP 1:  drink lots of water.  Start you day off with two large glasses of water with fresh lemon (1/4th of a lemon should do).  Make sure that by bedtime you have had 10-12 glasses of water.

STEP 2:  you need fiber to have healthy bowels.  Aim for 50 grams a day.  Good sources of fiber include beans, raspberries, leafy greens, whole grains (barley, brown rice, oats), flax seeds (milled), beets, carrots, Brussels Sprouts, apples, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, bell peppers, cabbage, celery, avocado, buckwheat, sweet potato, prunes, onions, bananas.

STEP 3:  make time for going to the washroom.  Enough said.

STEP 4:  move your body and that will move your bowels.  You need to get daily physical activity.

Some supplements that may help support your colon and healthy gut flora include omega-3 fish oil and probiotics which can lubricate the stool/reduce inflammation and help provide “good” bacteria respectively.  If you have tried the above steps and are still experiencing less than ideal oral-fecal transit time, it could be related to a food allergy or sensitivity or a hormonal issue related to thyroid function – these are options which you can explore further with a Nutritionist (see the services page of this website) or a Naturopathic Doctor (click here for how to find an ND in Canada).

Stay tuned for more posts this month related to colorectal health and learn how you can keep your colon supported throughout the years to come.

* I would like to note that I no longer suffer from constipation…horray for water, fiber, and lots of veggies!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even
as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a
piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

–  Charles Bukowski


Weekly Recipe Bulletin: Chicken Tetrazzini, Cocoa Banana Blueberry Pancakes, and Cold Fighting Tea

This week’s recipes are not only delicious, but they were really easy to make and of course…healthy!  Enjoy.

Last Sunday, it was a very cold sort of gloomy day.  Just the sort of day that called for something hearty, warm, and filling.  The hearty and filling descriptors can be tough do do when attempting a healthier meal – but I believe this recipe will surprise you.  Everyone in the household enjoyed this meal…even the cat(s) who we found illegally eating from the casserole dish on the counter – totally against the rules!  Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, here Chicken Tetrazzini has everything;  veggies, protein, and healthy carbs.


  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup dried rice pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, halved length-wise and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1/3 cup), divided
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 5 oz roasted chicken breast, torn into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw almonds, optional

Directions (serves 6)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta until al dente and then rinse under cold water and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add mushrooms, onion and carrot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add salt and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are golden brown and carrot has softened, about 4 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer gently until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer three-quarters of broth and half of vegetable mixture to a blender and purée until smooth.  Add sour cream, parsley, half of Parmigiano-Reggiano, tarragon, lemon zest and juice and pulse blender until mixed. Return puréed mixture to skillet and toss with pasta, chicken and peas. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle remaining half of Parmigiano-Reggiano and almonds, if desired, over top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Sweet glory, these were good.  I made them twice this week – once at home and once with the kids at school.  Both times, they were a hit.  Cocoa Banana Blueberry Pancakes were a surprise because they have no added sugar and are packed with nutrient dense, antioxidant rich ingredients.  Adapted from Meghan Telpner’s recipe, this is sure to become a staple.


  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca powder (can be found at any health food store)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (now available at most No Frills grocery stores!)
  • 1 cup blueberries or raspberries…or strawberries


In a large mixing bowl, blend all dry ingredients together including brown rice flour, raw cocoa powder, arrowroot starch, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a blender or with an immersion blender, blend together ground chia seeds, warm water, bananas, honey and coconut oil.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir in berries.  Heat your skillet to medium heat and add coconut oil – add 1/4th cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook till bubbles appear in the middle of the pancake and then flip.  Serve with honey or maple syrup.

It’s that time of year…cold and flu season is a comin’.  I felt a little itchy in the throat and had the chills this past weekend but a few cups of this Ginger Lemon Honey Tea concoction really helped.  Ginger is an anti-inflammatory agent and helps improve circulation while lemon is a source of immune boosting Vitamin C (it’s also an anti-oxidant).  Finally, honey is super soothing on the throat and acts as a natural anti-bacterial – you can see why the three ingredients in this tea really do help fight colds and the flu.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups)


1 x lemon




Cut off about a thumb sized block of ginger – peel it and throw it into a pot with 2 cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, squeeze 1/2 a lemon into a large mug and add 1 tbsp of honey.  Remove the block of ginger from the water after 20 minutes and add water to the mug.  Stir.  Sip.  Sleep.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Sea Vegetable 101 in 100 Words

Underwater Kelp Forest

I hadn’t given much thought to SEA VEGEGABLES until a couple of weeks ago when my teacher suggested that they should be eaten regularly.  In a 100 words, here is why you might want to consider making sea veggies part of your diet.

The fiber that binds sea vegetables together contains a compound called algin.  What’s cool about algin is that once it’s inside the body it attracts certain toxic substances to it (like lead and mercury) and once you eliminate the algin from your body through your stool, you’ve also eliminated the toxins.

Sea vegetables also contain iodine (good for your thyroid), calcium, potassium, iron, and can also be high in protein.

An easy way to include these into your diet is by throwing them into your soups and salads.  Here are some tasty sea veggies to consider:

Arame:  looks long, thin, and is normally brown

Dulse:  red/purple and leafy looking…nice in salads.

Hijiki:  usually looks “shredded” – and is very high in fiber

Kelp:  green flat leaf normally used in smaller amounts because of it’s strong taste

Kombu:  is a type of Japanese kelp.  A great one for soups

Nori:  it’s what you find in sushi rolls but is nice crumbled in a salad as well

Wakame:  they put this in soups a lot in Japan.  It’s a nice green colour and tastes a bit sweet


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