Our stools are important. So important that even Dr. Mehmet Oz suggests that we make a mental note of stool size, shape, and consistency before we flush. (1)
While getting to know your bowel movements, everything from timing to odor, makes preventative medical sense, the conventional high-fiber diet that Dr. Oz suggests does not.
The Fiber Solution
According to Dr. Oz and most medical textbooks, dietary fiber contributes to the texture and the moisture of stool. Otherwise known as “roughage,” it is also said to sweep the large intestine clean.
Having trouble staying regular? Although many people believe that the solution to constipation can be found in a high-fiber diet, healthy bacteria in the gut are vital to nourish the digestive tract and ensure regular bowel movements.
Conventional medicine tells us that a low-fiber diet leads to constipation. And, if you suffer from constipation or from constipation-dominant IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a high-fiber bulking agent will make stools large, soft, and easy to pass.
In reality, fiber does play an important role - however, not as a bulking agent. Much of the fiber that we eat, specifically the soluble fiber, can only be digested by bacterial and fungal enzymes.
Soluble fiber feeds bacteria. And bacteria, being friendly, use this fiber to produce short-chain fats that nourish the lining of our digestive tract. This means that when bacteria numbers or species dwindle, constipation can become an issue.
Instead of fiber, it is the pounds of microbial communities populating the colon that give stool its moisture and bulk.
While antibiotics can save lives, overuse can lead to chronic infections and gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis occurs when bad microorganisms outnumber the good.
If gut dysbiosis does not sound too serious, maybe like an occasional tummy ache, consider the man who received a stool transplant (otherwise known as a fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT) from his wife. (2) His wife’s healthy stool put an end to weeks of burning diarrhea and saved his life.
What makes bad bugs so bad? Mainly, it has to do with how smart they are. All microbes, beneficial and pathogenic (or disease-causing), have the ability to trade genetic information and to quickly adapt.
Antibiotic Resistance: “A Growing Public Health Threat”
The gut is quite literally the seat of the immune system. Antibiotic therapy can clear the field, giving plenty of room for the bad bugs to proliferate. If an imbalance in gut flora can be life threatening, why are we so heavy-handed with antibiotics?
Just last year, Dr. James Hughes, a professor of global health and medicine at Emory University, asked this very same question. (3) Dr. Hughes made a formal plea on the matter in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). With as much as 50% of antibiotic use deemed as “either unnecessary or inappropriate,” Hughes reminds us that antibiotic resistance is “a growing global public health threat.”
The Probiotic Cure-All?
The microbial community in your gut houses trillions. If you think that among those trillions, there are only 5 or 6 species of bacteria, think again. The population is wide, diverse, and genetically evolving at lightning speed.
This is where kefir, cultured vegetables, and probiotic beverages come into the picture. In order to maintain healthy gut flora, it is essential to eat all these foods. Relying on one variety of yogurt where the bacteria is added after pasteurization is simply not enough to furnish your gastrointestinal tract with the living probiotics it needs to stay healthy.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
Leading health expert Dr. Oz has recognized the importance of paying attention to our stool as an indicator of our health. But Dr. Oz makes a common mistake in recommending a high-fiber diet to keep digestion healthy and regular. Many people believe that dietary fiber will sweep the large intestine clean and prevent constipation.
While fiber does play an important role in the diet, it primarily contributes by serving as food for bacterial enzymes that will nourish our digestive tract. When healthy bacteria dwindle, constipation becomes an issue. Unfortunately, common antibiotic therapies can wipe out populations of healthy bacteria in the gut to lead to chronic infection and even gut dysbiosis.
- Hughes, James. Preserving the lifesaving power of antimicrobial agents. JAMA. Published online February 22, 2011.