IBS, fiber therapy, and string in poop

WARNING: IMMATURE CONTENT!

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Just kidding … sort of.

For those of you allergic to “too much information,” read no further.

I mean it!

OK.¬† As you may remember, I’ve been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome since 1999.¬† (Nope, I didn’t get to party like it was 1999!)¬† Though I’ve had it at least since 1990.¬† Mostly IBS-Diarrhea (IBS-D).¬† But I didn’t get to see a truly helpful gastroenterologist until 2002 or so.¬† He put me on high-fiber therapy, specifically fiber supplements (pills like Fibercon) and any other fiber I could cram into my eating habits.*¬† Since then,

and here’s where it gets graphic,

sometimes when I’m on the toilet, I feel something hanging out of my bunghole, just taking its grand old time passing/dropping.¬† Recently, with greatly increased soluble fiber dosage (Thanks, Heather, the acacia powder ¬†really does seem to help! [aka “gum arabic“]), sometimes I see whitish strings in my stools there in the bowl¬†— too long to be worms, an inch or more¬†—¬†and eventually I solved the mystery of the hanging business by getting a fistful of TP and just grabbing what was hanging … and it was a rubbery/plasticky stretch of material that I could feel breaking stiffly just inside my anus, like there was more in there — definitely not a lifeform, Mr. Spock.

Well, I just got around to Googling “string in poop” (without quotes), hoping for some unvarnished, un-PC, honest, forthright¬†discussion.¬† And although Yahoo Answers isn’t necessarily C. Everett Koop, all told, several links seem to have the ring of truth in them, like this one, this one, this one, and this one.¬† Could your gastrointestinal tract really do that to fiber, twist it and pound it into unrecognizability?¬† Think about how long the tract¬†would be all stretched out, like they say, and all the muscles squeezing and twisting, acids, weird and normal fluids and bacteria and other things you’re eating, fermentation, reactions¬†… and I could see it.¬† I may run it by my doc just to make sure, but I feel alot better about it just now, so much that I wanted to spread the word, because apparently I’m not alone!¬† Even beyond Yahoo there was this page (text-search for “string” — quotes not necessary).¬†¬†In its basic nature,¬†fiber is sort of waxy, hence I guess the occasional weird forms it gets metamorphosed into.

WHEW!  Thank you, Jesus!  Amen!

(*–Dietary fiber, to be clear, in light of what follows!¬† However, he failed to differentiate between soluble and insoluble fiber.¬† Most Americans trying to eat reasonably-healthily — not our traditional steak-and-potatoes — have no shortage of insoluble fiber in their diets: raw vegetables, even some cooked ones like broccoli, carrots, and other ‘yummy’ things like that.¬† This is the kind that goes right through you.¬† When you have IBS-D, you don’t wanna overdo that, though you shouldn’t go without it either, or so I’ve read, and so I do, mostly.¬† [Screw whole grains!!]¬†¬†Soluble fiber isn’t greased lightning [correct spelling!], but goes slow enough to soak up all that excess fluid that otherwise sends you “running.”¬† That’s what IBS-D’s need tons of: beans [they’re not just good for your heart], other fibery, mushy stuff like that, and other soluble fiber.¬† Wikipedia is all over fiber.)

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What makes poor Americans overweight?

Speaking as an overweight poor American, I’ve had enough of unknowledgeable right-wing BS on this point.¬† So let’s look at a few realities, shall we?

(UPDATE 3 October 2008 with another possible reason.)

  • Americans are overweight.¬† What is it now, two-thirds of all adults?¬† So all the reasons that apply to the non-poor also apply to us, and some even more to us, such as advertising, cheap and convenient bad food, the corporate-owned USDA “nutrition” guidelines all these years, little else available all these years what with overrefined grains and vegetables, an increasingly-sedentary workstyle and lifestyle, TV-watching, computer-watching like you and I are doing right now, no time for exercise, the automotive lifestyle, etc etc etc.¬† But more specifically:
  • Many of us poor have health problems that cause weight gain or interfere with weight loss, directly or indirectly; in my case, IBS and “nonspecific ambulatory painful foot syndrome” – an uncompensated work injury.
  • Many of us poor are from cultures / races / ethnicities¬†especially sensitive to the traditional Northern European diet of the U.S.
  • Supermarkets and grocery stores move out of poor neighborhoods; “convenience” stores and liquor stores move in.
  • Sometimes when you’re down on your luck, you just say, “Screw it,” and indulge.
  • Even if you’re not so unlucky, we too have holidays, barbeques, birthdays, graduations, where we don’t wanna eat just broccoli like those Puritans would have us do!
  • We disabled or unemployed get more TV advertising thrown at us at home, including for bad food.
  • For those of us working two or three jobs to stay afloat, Whole Foods and PCC aren’t open 24/7, while 7-11 is.
  • And even if they were, who can afford them?!¬† Health food is more expensive than the crap.
  • As the Salon article points out, high fructose corn syrup and other bad things are federally subsidized, holding down their cost.¬† (Talk about gummint programs!)
  • Every time my SSI Disability goes up, my Food Stamps go down, robbing me of some of my “cost of living adjustment.”¬† The poor get poorer….
  • Some of us can’t stand at a kitchen counter long enough to prepare a “home-cooked meal,” like because of my feet problem, so we have to “outsource” some of that to convenience and microwave foods.
  • For us Indians, cows vs. bison!
  • Government butter and cheese and cow’s milk and peanut butter programs: Are they intentionally fattening us up?!!!¬† And then complaining about it?!!!
  • Of course they aren’t.¬† Fats are calorie-dense and thus tax-dollar-efficient; it takes fewer of them to provide basic energy than carbohydrates or proteins.¬† They also help you feel satisfied sooner when eating them.¬† Sounds like a hunger panacea, right?¬† WRONG!
  • This one from my own IBS-Diarrhea perspective: When health foods push “high fiber,” usually it means insoluble fiber, the kind that goes right through you, rather than soluble fiber, the kind that absorbs intestinal fluid and bulks-up, passing more slowly and humanely.¬† Perhaps when some had a bad experience with the former, they said, “Forget this!”¬† (NB: Everybody needs both.¬† The traditional US diet – starches and proteins, aka meat-n-potatoes –¬†hugely lacks both.¬† The average “healthy diet” here probably contains too much insoluble and not enough soluble fiber.¬† Some packages are starting to list these separately.¬† Thank you!)
  • This one may date me, but for many perhaps health foods are associated with different people, such as health-food freaks, Fundamentalists, liberals, suburbanites, the rich, Protestants, the anal-retentive, perfectionists, Californians, the educated, etc.: an image problem.
  • If you’ve got a family, the cost goes even higher than for an individual like me.
  • How many health-clubs get built in poor neighborhoods?¬† And who can afford them anyway?!¬† And are they 24/7?!
  • City parks cutbacks.
  • A short-term or temporary mistake or bad luck, you can pay for the rest of your life: diabetes, overdrinking, overeating, blowing-off exercise, depression-eating, etc.¬† It’s harder to lose it than to put it on.¬† Maybe you weren’t poor when you started out, became poor, and now can’t get out so easily as someone with more money can.
  • Historically speaking, before the Enclosure of the Commons forced many of the poor to work for wages in the cities’ industries (owned or invested-in by their rural landlords!), they had family farms they worked, with all that physical exertion and relative self-sufficiency to boot.¬† Here in America we never even had a chance!
  • It’s possible many of us aren’t aware of what would be better for us, or aren’t used to caring about it.¬† That’s certainly the kind of lower-working-class eating atmosphere I grew up in, and I’m middle-aged.¬† Not everybody’s as ‘plugged-in’ to food/health media or information as I happen to be right now, disabled with time on my hands, or having worked as a journalist for a while,¬†or spent much of the ’90s as a vegan.

There’s probably lots more I haven’t thought of.