I was recently reading a piece by one of my favorite MD’s and health gurus, Dr. Mark Hyman. Smart man. Really smart.
Dr. Hyman is founder of the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine and the “UltraWellness Center” in Lenox, MA, and author of countless New York Times bestselling books.
In one of his recent articles, Hyman speaks of the indigenous African Bushmen and their “stool”.
And how an average bushman had a stool weighing about 2 pounds, while that of the average “civilized” western man weighed in at only about 4 ounces.
The Bushman’s Secret Health Ally
The Bushmen also surpassed western man in another area: they seemed to be free of the chronic diseases that have become so prevalent today: heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, obesity, gut issues, etc.
So what does poop have to do with disease?
According to Hyman, the Bushmen got lots of something modern man didn’t; something that not only caused their prolific poops but also delivered many health-altering benefits…
- Lowers cholesterol
- Helps us lose weight
- Keeps blood sugar levels stable
- Curbs appetite
- Turns off various cancers
- Helps detoxify the body
- Relieves constipation
- Helps to maintain healthy insulin levels
- Reduces the risk of heart attack
- May even offsets certain neurodegenerative diseases (Stephan Guyenet – The Hungry Brain)
- Improve metabolic health and energy
What is this powerful something?
In a word: FIBER.
Fiber – the indigestible, structural part of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds that are expelled from the body once we have absorbed all the vitamins and minerals the plants have to offer. And our bushmen existed on loads of it – no pun intended!
Fiber, also referred to as roughage, scrubs out the walls of our intestines and keeps our systems moving. Even better, it feeds our good gut bacteria who in turn produce a substance called butyrate which supports our immune function and has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
In animal tests butyrate also “…massively increased the function of their mitochondria”, the battery packs in our cells that produce our energy.
Word of caution…
Do not go out and try to be a Bushman, adding pounds of fiber to your diet all at once! This can cause more problems than you want. Like the man who decided to ingest multiple bran muffins a day to meet his fiber needs and had to have the mass of solid bran fiber surgically removed from his small intestine.
Don’t do that!
Take is slowly and naturally.
You might start by simply measuring the amount of fiber you’re actually getting. My Fitness Pal is an easy way to do this. That’s how I got started and how I found out that I was well under the 25 grams recommended daily.
Once you have a baseline, you can gently increase and work up to the minimums: 25 gram/day for women, 38 grams/day for men.
Also, if you currently have IBS or other digestive issues, this may not be the salad for you and may cause more problems with the high fiber content.
Chris Kresser, a Functional Medicine practitioner and another of my favorite resources, suggests that those with gut issues and dysbiosis focus on soluble fiber sources, like winter squash, carrots, turnips, beets, and starchy tubers. He also recommends reducing the variety of vegetables you include in a meal.
Some simple suggestions:
- Start adding more raw fruits and vegetables to your day. Here are some of my favorite fiber foods:
- Avocado (13 g)
- Apple (4.4 g)
- Artichoke (9 g)
- Chia seeds (10 g/2 tablespoons)
- Jicama (6 g/cup)
- Popcorn (4 g/3 cups)
- Almonds (4 g/1/4 cup)
- Sprouted pumpkin seeds (2 g/1/4 cup)
- Lentils, black beans, chickpeas, etc. (lentils – 24 g; Beans – 29 g; chickpeas – 35 g – for 1 cup servings)
- Blackberries and Raspberries (8 g/cup)
- Add a chopped salad to your day. Here’s mine…
- Use Chia or ground flax seeds – They’re virtually tasteless and can be added to yogurt, salads, cereals, cottage cheese, smoothies, and just about anything you can think of. Here’s my favorite chia pudding recipe to try.
- Ever heard the saying “An apple a day”? Great advice!
A Short Cut
If you’re really having difficulty getting your fiber in, Dr. Hyman suggests supplementing with a high-quality fiber supplement. Here’s one that he recommends called WellbetX. He suggests 2-4 capsules with water 30 to 60 minutes before a meal.
One more thing: make sure to get enough water as you’re increasing your fiber intake. Fiber pulls water into the GI tract, so if you’re not getting enough, things may slow down and that’s exactly what you don’t want! Get at least 8 glasses a day.
If you need help developing a food plan, finding tasty fiber-filled recipes, getting your system moving again, or just figuring out how to tweak your system to its most youthful state, schedule a free session with me here.
Have questions, concerns, comments, just want to connect? email me at email@example.com. I love hearing from you!