Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fiber Isn't Just for Geriatrics

You've heard all the jokes about old people and prune juice. But I want to drive home the point that if you take care of yourself when you are younger, you have a good chance of protecting yourself from some of the degenerative problems that plague older people. Take care of your colon!

I repeat what the professionals are saying: get your colonoscopies and eat lots of fiber; you need a minimum of 25-30 grams daily, most people probably don't get half that amount. Drink lots of water. Get some exercise. These will help contribute to a happy colon! Believe me, when your colon ain't happy neither are you.

Check out this list showing the fiber content of common foods. Measure your diet against it, print it and carry it with you. It is surprising how challenging it is to get enough fiber from diet alone especially if you are of low metabolism like me and must eat many fewer calories than most normal people.

If you have bowel issues, be sure to check out Heather's Help for IBS website. Even if you don't have IBS, she has some great info on bowel health. It's really important to think about!

I was standing in the laxative aisle yesterday to pick up some fiber (aside: am I the only one to see the irony in selling laxatives in the incontinence aisle?) , and there were some young women standing there looking puzzled (and uncomfortable abou being in that aisle), poring over the laxatives. I wanted to shake them and tell them to get fiber instead! Laxatives are a short-term solution to an immediate problem, and shouldn't be used continuously. Fiber will keep you going (under most normal circumstances of course)!

Looking over the array of available fiber supplements can be daunting; I've found few that I like the look of. It is difficult to find supplements that aren't loaded with calories from sugar, or loaded with artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. There are two types of fiber and we need both. Insoluble is found in whole grains; wheat and rice bran, flaxseed, vegetables. Insoluble fiber provides the laxative effect; it speeds things through your colon. Soluble fiber is found in fruits, oats, beans. There is soluble fiber in Fibersure or Heather's organic Acacia Tummy Fiber. Citrucel (methylcellulose) is also soluble. Metamucil contains both soluble and insoluble but some folks just don't like the texture; it doesn't bother me and I use it. Metamucil has the advantage of feeding your intestinal flora.

There are some chewables out there that look pretty good. FiberChoice sugar free looks nice, not sweetened with sugar nor with artificial sweeteners (though it does contain some coloring). It's a great one to tuck into your purse or pocket, easy to travel with if you don't want to cart powders halfway around the world with you.

OH! I almost forgot Unifiber, a new one on the market that does not have to be kept apart from your other medicines. That is a great feature! The only place I found it around here was Walgreen's.

Feel free to mix and match as long as your total daily dosage ends up being the one that's right for you. I use the clear-mixing powder in my morning smoothie, take the caplets with lunch, toss back a Metamucil chaser with dinner. I'll be carrying some chewables in my purse in case I'm eating out or traveling and away from my regular products. Not easy to mix that tall drink while sitting in an airplane. And as always, I will eat my fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Not a subject we like to talk about over lunch, maybe that should change!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or medical professional, remember these are the observations of someone who is finding things that are helping ME. I cannot make personal recommendations for you, be sure to discuss these issues with your own doctor. I have not been paid to plug any particular products, just telling people what *I* like.

I Almost Forgot!

After finalizing my colonoscopy post, I realize I forgot to tell you...sounds like there is nothing too bad going on in there. No polyps or cancer, no ulcers, just a few diverticula and some scarring where the diverticulitis infection was. Doc says that's what's causing me to have continued pain, he thinks it should fade by 6 months time. I hope so.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You Know He Love You When...

Earlier this week I experienced one of the "rites of passage" to senior citizenry. People are urged at the age of 50 years to submit themselves to a colonoscopy. Many delay it, others choose to avoid it completely. I was in the latter group (ignorance is bliss, right?) until my painful diverticulitis attack in May.

I won't chronicle the scientific details or give a play-by-play of my own event. You can watch a video at the Mayo clinic link in the previous paragraph, or any of many entertaining videos on YouTube. Information abounds on the Internet, as well as horror stories.

I was very nervous for many days before this test. I am a control freak, and the idea that I do not have consciousness of what is happening to me (and thus do not have input to any decisions made *about* me) is difficult to accept. For the five days before the test I followed the doctor's instruction sheet to the letter, and more; no nuts or foods with whole seeds, no lettuce, no cabbage, no spinach. No popcorn, my favorite snack! I totally gave up eating for three days (not just one, as recommended) so I would be nice and empty before using the "clean-out" solution. This, on top of eating so little the last two months I have now lost 30 pounds. Believe me, I was hungry and very thirsty when I arrived at the endoscopy center! How stressed was I? My blood pressure was 150/100. I'm usually 120/70.

The sweetest thing about the whole thing is that my dear husband got up at 4:00 in the morning so he could take care of his demanding clients before my 8:00 AM appointment. The test is only about 30 minutes in good circumstances, but there is a good bit of waiting before it starts and a bit after it's over. He spent 3 hours just waiting with me. While we were in the pre-procedure waiting mode, I sitting on the hospital bed in hospital gown and tied to IV and patient husband nearby, he reached into his laptop case and pulled out (insert shocked gasp here) A KING-SIZE SNICKER BAR!

"How dare you bring that here!" I exclaimed. "How dare you even SHOW that thing to me in my current state of starvation!" He teased me with it for a bit of time, then tucked it into the sheet folded at my feet. He said, "Emergency rations for you." Bless his heart, he brought it for me!

The nice people let it stay on the bed with me while I was carted into the exam room, they placed it with my clothing on a little shelf built in to the underside of the bed while doing the procedure, and retrieved it for me when I was awake. They wheeled me to the recovery area and brought my husband from the waiting room. He immediately opened that Snicker bar and gave me the first bite.

I am blessed to have this man as my husband and my friend. He looks out for me, loves me when I am least lovable, makes me laugh. He calms me when I am afraid, helps me solve problematic issues practically when I would run on pure emotion, keeps me from obsessing on things that just don't matter. He reminds me that God is in control when I get angry at the things I can NOT control. The Bible says husbands are to "love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it..." My husband lives this out every day. I am thankful for this precious gift.