If you've got chronic diarrhea, then one of the things you've likely tried to slow down your bowel motility is psyllium seed powder or ground flax seed. Likewise, if you suffer from constipation, you've likely tried the same remedies. How is it that the same substances work for completely opposite maladies?
Stool bulking agents, like psyllium and flax, improve cases of chronic diarrhea because they absorb a lot of liquid. When you remove the excess water from the intestines, it reduces the pressure and bowel movements become less urgent and less explosive.
These same bulking agents improve constipation since constipation often involves very hard, dried out stools that are difficult to pass. When you regularly ingest bulking agents, they keep water in the stool, so the stool remains softer and easier to pass.
In both cases, it's easier on the peristaltic mechanism to move stool along that is normal-sized and soft, yet formed. Likewise, this type of stool is easier on the rectum and anus and helps prevent fissures and hemorrhoids.
The typical way to consume a bulking agent is to mix it well with half water and half fruit juice and then drink it quickly before it forms into a gel. However, many people (including me) simply loathe having to drink these thick, gloppy mixtures. And just try to get a child to drink one without gagging!
So, what I do for myself and my kids, is to mix a bulking agent in together with food. I prefer ground flax seed – not only does it taste better, but you also get the benefit of the omega 3 essential fatty acids it contains.
The easiest way to have fresh ground flax seed on hand is to buy a bag of whole flax seeds and keep these in the fridge. Then, each morning, just take out the amount you need and grind them fresh in a little coffee bean grinder. Using a coffee bean grinder requires minimal clean up and a good one usually costs less than $15 at large stores like London Drugs or Target. (http://www.target.com/Proctor-Silex-Grinder/dp/B00006IUX5/ref=br_1_2?ie=UTF8&frombrowse=1&searchView=grid5&searchNodeID=13385401&node=13385401&searchRank=pmrank&searchPage=1&searchSize=30&id=Proctor%20Silex%20Grinder)
Here's our morning regime that you may want to try - soaked oats with ground flax added. This is a very easily tolerated food (the oats are pre-digested from the soaking and gluten-free) that helps bulk up the stool without having to drink any gelatinous liquids. In both recipes, you add the amount of ground flax seed you require to normalize your bowel movements – for a child, this is often 1 tsp of flax, for an adult, 1 tbsp is often sufficient. But feel free to experiment and add more or less, depending on your needs.
Soaked Oat Porridge
The night before (or at least 12 hours before)
1. Put 1 cup of slow-cook (rolled or steel-cut) oats and 1.5 cups of filtered water in a bowl.
2. Add 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (or whey is ideal if you have it)
3. Cover and leave sit at room temperature overnight or at least 12 hours (this will pre-digest the oatmeal, making it very easy to digest and will also make it cook very quickly)
When ready to eat
1. Put 1/2 cup of water in a pot (Optional: Add 1/2 cup of diced apples and/or raisins) and bring it to a boil.
2. Add the soaked oats mixture (as is, no need to drain off the soaking water) to the pot of boiling water.
It will take about 5 minutes to cook, stir frequently.
Put cooked porridge in a bowl and stir in 1 tsp - 1 tbsp of ground flax. If you can tolerate it, put 1 tbsp of butter directly on the hot porridge and let it melt.
Then add your milk of choice (or water) and sweetener as needed (brown sugar, honey, stevia). And enjoy!
If you do not like porridge, or, if you have leftover porridge, you can make Oatcakes from it.
1. Take 1/3 cup of porridge (made according to instructions above)
2. Add 1 beaten egg and mix thoroughly until there are no lumps
3. Add 1 tsp – 1 tbsp ground flax seed
Heat a frying pan on the stove with 1 tbsp of butter melted in it.
Pour the oatcake mixture into the pan, flatten into a smooth pancake, and fry on both sides until crisp and brown.
Serve with more butter on top and your choice of honey, jam or maple syrup.
*This oatcake can be floppy, so you may need to flip it over in sections when cooking in the pan.
Benefits of Soaking Grains
All traditional cultures soak their grains before consuming them. But, as with much of traditional dietary wisdom, we have lost this knowledge and the vast majority of us have no idea that grains need to be soaked in order to be properly digested. This may also be one of the main reasons so many people today are intolerant of wheat – how many people do you know that soak their wheat berries first, before grinding them into flour?
The cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig has detailed instructions for soaking and preparing every kind of grain for vastly improved digestion and absorption of nutrients. This excerpt from Nourishing Traditions tells you exactly why you need to soak grains (including porridge oats) before cooking and eating them
"All grains contain phyticphytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron especially zinc in the intestinal track and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may led to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzyme, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits."
Like anything, as soon as you make porridge (and oatcakes) this way once, it will seem so easy – yet delicious – that you'll be hooked for life!