It has been a while since I wrote the first three parts to this series:

Now that I have a moment, I would like to attempt to answer some of your questions. I would love it if you all would jump into the comments and add your ideas to the conversation.

Note: because of the sensitive nature of this topic I left out links that would identify those who asked questions. Normally I would love to link to my readers, but I did not want to embarass anyone.

1. Battling Constipation While Pregnant

Beth Asked: I’d be interested in hearing how to battle constipation while pregnant. I’m pretty much constipated all the time (and even more so when pregnant). I’ve taken psyllium fiber pills before, which helped, but I want to know the root cause and how to be healthy enough to not need them in the first place!

My Thoughts: Ah, yes, one of the joys of pregnancy – constipation. I believe it is the excess hormones that cause the digestive tract to "slow down". Here’s what I’d do:

  • Eat fermented foods a few times per day- yogurt, kefir, raw cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc.
  • Eat raw foods with every meal.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Walk a lot.
  • Take a good quality probiotic. (see sources)
  • Avoid foods that cause constipation: white flour, sugars, pasteurized dairy, and unsoaked/unfermented grains.

2. Helping A Severely Constipated Child

Jo Asked: I would love to know what your suggestions are for children who suffer from type 1 & 2. My 3 yo daughter only goes every few days and it is such a painful experience for her.

My Thoughts: It sounds like your sweet daughter is fairly severely constipated. Short term I would try to alleviate the symptoms by feeding her lots of raw fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and soaked beans. Give her some psyllium dissolved in warm water and have her drink lots of water to move the psyllium through. The fiber in these foods should get things going.

Long term I would take the same steps that I outlined in question 1. Once you have at least eased her symptoms, I would look into a long term solution. Her gut may need a major overhaul depending on her birth experience, antibiotic use, past diet, etc. Many of my readers have had great success with the GAPS Diet (you can find it at the GAPS Diet Store). That is the diet I would implement if it were my child.

3. Finding Commercially Produced Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Kristin asked: What are the best commercially-produced lacto-fermented vegetables to eat? Are all pickles, sauerkraut, etc. probiotic, even those bought from a mainstream grocery store? Any other suggestions besides pickles and sauerkraut?

My Thoughts: Most pickles and sauerkraut found in the grocery store are not probiotic foods. If they are shelf stable or contain vinegar than they are not lacto-fermented.

There is one brand of vegetables sold in health food stores that I think is lacto-fermented and that is Bubbie’s. Two brands that I trust that you can order online from are Caldwell’s from Cultures for Health and Zukay.

I have found that the easiest introduction to lacto-fermented vegetables comes from cultured salsa. It tastes like a living, tangy salsa and we love the stuff. Kimchi and cortido are also delicious ethnic variations of sauerkraut. But I have found that you can ferment just about any vegetable.

4. Crohn’s Disease and Identifying Trouble Foods

Katie Asked: How does one figure out what is causing abnormal stools, as in which meal causes diarrhea? My husband has Crohn’s, so he’s always had off digestion, but certain meals seem to give him diarrhea – but it happens right after the meal. In recording and trying to figure out his trouble foods, maybe the culprit is a few meals back? How quickly can anything move through your system?

My Thoughts: I have read that food can pass through your system very quickly if it is not able to digest it properly. So it is certainly possible for it to occur just after eating.

When attempting to identify which food is causing digestive distress it is best to eliminate all other variables. If you are eating wheat, sugar, and dairy – three common allergens – in one meal, or even in one day, it is difficult to know which food caused a reaction.

This is why I like the GAPS Diet so much. It allows you to press a reset button on your diet, if you will. By eliminating all possible trouble foods, re-establishing gut health, and then reintroducing foods one at a time you are able to nail down exact irritants.

5. What About Gas?

Many of you asked about this one.

My Thought: My first thought is: I may be too immature for this discussion.

But seriously, I have read reports that say passing gas 15-20 times per day is totally normal. I used to nod in agreement, but after witnessing what dietary changes can do I have to say that while it may be normal on the SAD diet, you don’t have to live like that. (and neither do the people around you)

I believe that if your gut is in good health and you are not eating foods that cause you distress then you can be nearly gas-free. (snicker) All kidding aside, when I eat foods that don’t agree with me – unsoaked grains & beans, pasteurized dairy, and sugar – I am reminded of the gut issues that I dealt with for years.

But when I eat well and avoid trigger foods I don’t have a fraction of the issues that I once considered"normal".

So, those are my thoughts on your questions. Remember (FDA) that I am just passing along my own personal beliefs, without any trained medical knowledge.

What are your thoughts on these questions?

{photo credit}


19 Responses to Digestion and Elimination: Your Questions Answered

  1. michelle says:

    Hi Shannon,

    I read this this post-thanks for it! I just wanted to mention though that I have digestive issues and if I were to eat psyllium husk my system would be in a tizzy. I follow the specific carb diet and psyllium is illegal. Just a thought.


  2. Bonnie says:

    I want to chime in on the gas question. I’m an acupuncturist and that is one of our questions. In acupuncture theory, if the digestion is healthy there should be no gas–it’s a sign that the digestion is weak. However, you have no idea how when I ask how many people say, “Just normal amounts.” We are so accustomed to having poor digestion that we think that something that should tell us something is off is “just normal.”


    Primal Toad Reply:

    So you’re saying that passing any amount of gas is from poor digestion and is a sign that you probably shouldn’t eat the foods you just ate and/or you did not chew your food enough?

    I used to pass gass all the damn time for a few months. Then I went primal and my problem is basically non existent. But, I still pass gas occasionally – maybe a few times a day… even this isn’t normal your saying?


    Shannon Reply:

    Primal Toad – I don’t think small amounts of gas are an indication of distress. For most people eating cruciferous vegetables could bring on a bout or two of gas. My point is not that any gas is wrong, but that normal does not include excessive amounts.


    Shannon Reply:

    Bonnie – Thanks for chiming in. That is my point exactly.


  3. Tuck says:

    “Real Pickles” is sold in stores in the New England area. They make pickles and sauerkraut, both of which I’ve tried and are good.

    The fact that my home-made sauerkraut smelled the same as the Real Pickles sauerkraut is what convinced my wife that mine was safe to eat. ;)


    Shannon Reply:

    Tuck – Thank you for the info!


  4. Jamie says:

    Just a thought for the severely constipated child (or adult!)… my 8yo has Celiac and has had severe, life altering constipation as a side effect… even when we think her diet is clean, I believe it’s because she’s a kid and we’ve caught her sneaking off limit foods at school.

    Anyway, we started culturing our own dairy kefir (using at least non-homo whole milk if raw isn’t avaliable) and making daily kefir smoothies with blanched spinach, banana, berries and a bit of honey. I like to culture the kefir longer (48hours) because it seems to have a more laxative effect, but it hasn’t negatively affected anyone in our house. The difference has been amazing. We also make kefir sour cream and “ranch” dip, which my kids will eat by the spoonful!

    For someone with the opposite bowel issue, I’d culture the kefir for only 12-18 hours and includes lots of soaked/ soured whole gluten free grains (amaranth, sorghum, quinoa) and plenty of homemade applesauce (unsweetened or with honey) into the daily diet.


    Shannon Reply:

    Jamie – Great point! I have heard wonderful things about the healing powers of kefir. While we don’t use kefir in our homes simply because we prefer the flavor of yogurt, if my child was in distress I would definitely refer to your comments.


  5. Faith says:

    Anyone who grows a garden, has a share in a CSA or buys lots of veggies in season (don’t we all?? LOL) needs to learn to ferment their own veggies and eat some each and every day. Go online and learn how to do it, or go buy a few books on the subject. It is so easy, you will be surprised. All fall and winter I ferment the root veggies I get from our CSA and now my frig is full of all different kinds. Enough to last us through spring and summer until we start getting those good root veggies again. I have fermented shredded beets/carrots, turnips, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi AND even taught myself how to make kim chi (which my husband and my 96 year old father dearly love). Go for it folks,,,your insides will love you for it. The best part is that fermented veggies in my closest natural food store cost $13.00 for a 12 oz. jar. I can make a gallon for about half that price. Is that enough incentive???


    Shannon Reply:

    Faith – Excellent points. Lacto-fermented veggies help so much with digestion and are a great, inexpensive way to preserve food.


  6. Meg says:

    Hi Shannon –
    Thanks for addressing these questions. Thankfully, (other than the gas ;) ) we haven’t had any major issues with our digestion, but it is always nice to have a list to refer to.

    About the Bubbies brand of cultured foods – as far as I know, only their dill pickles, dill relish, and sauerkraut are cultured without any extra vinegar or sugar. Make sure to double check the labels! :) But they are the closest to “homemade” that I’ve been able to purchase from the store.


    Shannon Reply:

    Meg – Good points. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.


  7. tina says:

    All roads lead to GAPS. If anyone has any digestive issues, you need to look into the GAPS diet. It’s done wonders for my two young sons and me, their mother.

    I can’t recommend the GAPS diet enough.


    Shannon Reply:

    Tina – I wholeheartedly agree.


  8. I have suffered from digestive issues almost my entire life – even when I was a child. This has changed especially in the past 5-7 years, once I started cutting processed foods out of my diet. Now that we eat a large variety of fermented and cultured foods, it has gotten even better. My husband claims it has fixed his acne problems completely!


  9. Lora says:

    I love Bubbie’s pickles. Do you have info about making use of the leftover liquid after the pickles are finished?


  10. [...] is part three of a series on intestinal health over at Nourishing Days. The first two posts were about how to determine if your “gut” is healthy, and while I [...]

  11. TF says:

    I’ve never been “officially” diagnosed but I’m pretty sure that I have something called diabetes insipidus. Because of a minor head injury as a teen I have issues regulating the hormone that tells the kidneys to allow more water into my system. I struggle to stay hydrated because every time I take a drink of water I have to pee in a few minutes! This means that I’m constipated most of the time. My body takes as much moisture as it can from the large intestine because it isn’t getting it the way it’s supposed to.

    I’m hoping that improving my gut health will help me stay hydrated better.


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