Tag Archives: constipation

Get Your Mag On

Mg12

Photo from the helpful Periodic Table

I’ve talked before about how I recommend using topical magnesium oil as a better method of supporting the body’s magnesium needs (see the “Start Here” link under “Home” in the menu bar). But let me break down my recommendations again:

  1. Rub an almond-sized dollop of topical MAGNESIUM OIL on yourself every night about half an hour before bedtime. Magnesium oil makes your skin a bit itchy, like how you feel after getting out of an intensely salty sea. I rub the oil on my stomach and the leftover on my legs. After half an hour, if the itchiness is still irritating me – I wipe it off. All the magnesium should have been absorbed through my skin by that time.
  2. Take epsom salt baths. There are other kinds of salt baths – like Dead Sea Salts, Brittany Fine Sea Salts, Himalayan Salts etc. All of these are great, and I love to alternate. But if it’s magnesium you are after, epsom salts have the most. Epsom salts are also by far the least expensive. I buy huge tubs of it at Whole Foods in the bulk section for about $2.
  3. Consider taking a magnesium supplement, especially if you are prone to constipation, arteriosclerosis or kidney stones. Magnesium chlorate might be best for you, possibly in powder form – but others are also good. But skip magnesium oxide – it doesn’t absorb very well at all.  This should be taken ideally in the morning and then again at bedtime. You need to pace it out. The problem with oral magnesium is that if you take too much, you can get diarrhea. So at least you always have an easy and relatively harmless way of knowing if you have taken too much. The topical magnesium oil above bypasses the digestive system, so will never give you diarrhea. Hooray for that.

A TELLING EXPERIMENT

Take an ounce of water. You know: a shot glass. Now crush up a calcium pill and try to dissolve that in the water. You will see that it doesn’t dissolve very well and leaves some chalky bits suspended in the water. Now crush up a magnesium pill and add that to the same glass. Suddenly the calcium starts disappearing. The magnesium helps keep the calcium dissolved in solution.

/END OF EXPERIMENT

When you take calcium or even just get a lot of it from your diet – without enough magnesium – this is what can happen to calcium in your body: Calcium will precipitate out of solution and form nasty things like kidney stones, stiff cell walls and arterial plaques.

So first of all, never, ever, ever take calcium supplements on their own. I don’t want you to take them at all, not for any reason. But if you absolutely must because of some deep belief or fear – then please, please take a calcium/magnesium combo. And of course make sure you are also taking Vitamin K2, which also directs calcium to your bones and teeth and away from soft tissues. Please see my book review of “K2 and the Calcium Paradox” under the “Books” tab in the “Home” menu above. (I will provide a direct link below.)

Magnesium won’t reverse arterial calcification on its own; only Vitamin K2 can do that. However to reap the full benefits of Vitamin K2 (and A and D), you will need magnesium for the maximum vitamin metabolism.

magnesium miracle

THE MAGNESIUM MIRACLE

I learned about this easy-to-visualize experiment from a book by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND called “The Magnesium Miracle”. If you want to get hot and heavy on magnesium, this is a great place to start. She promotes a very specific pico-ionic magnesium which is apparently absorbed “100% at the cellular level”! So maybe if you are not seeing profound enough effects with the above recommendations after 3 months, these crazy blue bottles are the way to go. I will link to the product at the bottom of this post, though I haven’t used it.

FOODS THAT ARE HIGH IN MAGNESIUM

  • Wild nettles
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt

I am going to skip right over grains. That’s because although grains have incredibly high levels of magnesium, the magnesium is bound up with the grain’s high phytic acid content – so it is unavailable. Furthermore, the phytic acid can bind with the magnesium in your body and further deplete you. It is a total misunderstanding and marketing ploy to indicate that you can get magnesium from modern grain products. A caveat: if you soak your grains (at least overnight in an acidic solution), you can reduce the phytic acid content and make the magnesium more bioavailable. This is the case with traditional, whole grain sourdough bread. But come on people, we’ve come so far… Just skip the grains altogether!

Likewise legumes, which have the same phytic acid business going on.

BACK UP. REMIND ME ABOUT THIS PHYTIC ACID BUSINESS AGAIN?

Okay listen up. Phytic acid is a storage form of phosphorous which is bound up with grains, legumes, nuts and seeds to prevent them from sprouting. This is why you can store grains, legumes, nuts and seeds for so long without them growing into plants or rotting. Phytic acid does this by “locking down” these minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc (and others). Locked up means you can’t get them! Not for you!

So if you want to source fresh organic wheat berries grown on magnesium-rich soil, stone-grind them at home for freshness and to prevent oxidizing the fatty acids, then soak the ground flour overnight in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar or whey, and then pour off the phytic acid-rich water and make a sourdough with an extended rise over a couple of days – like, go for it. You can probably get a good dose of minerals from this effort.

What I do is split the difference. I buy raw, organic almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds – which are all rich in phytic acid – and I soak them overnight with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. In the morning, I rinse them all and then put them in a dehydrator at 105F to keep the seeds “alive”. You can also use a low oven setting (ideally 140F or less) for a day or so. If you don’t dry out the nuts, they will go rancid pretty quickly.

Alternatively, you can do the super Ayurvedic thing and soak just 10 almonds overnight, and maybe 2 Brazil nuts, and then eat them “wet” the next day.

Nuts and seeds have more nutritional density and less effect on insulin than grains and legumes.

MORE BORING PROBLEMS: OXALATES

Green leafy vegetables are also rich in magnesium (and other minerals), BUT WAIT! They are also high in oxalic acid, which works just like phytic acid to bind minerals and make them unavailable to you.

Now of course there is a bit of natural buffering going on, but essentially what this means is that if you are trying to do yourself a favor by eating a lot of raw spinach, Swiss chard, and even kale to a lesser extent – you are inadvertently depleting your body of minerals. Which is pretty ironic because spinach, Swiss chard and kale are pretty packed with minerals.

SO HOW DO YOU WIN AT THIS INFURIATING GAME?

This part is easy. COOK your dark leafy greens. Swiss chard, which is particularly rich in oxalic acid, should be boiled, for a long time (!), and then drained of its oxalic acid-rich water.

I know there is a big movement afoot to eat raw vegetables for all of their fabulous enzymes. But the fact is that minerals trump enzymes. Why? Because enzyme action is driven by minerals. Not enough minerals? No enzyme action. Minerals are the chicken that comes before the enzyme egg.

So you should eat the majority of your vegetables (ALL VEGETABLES) cooked. It’s not my fault that we evolved this way.

SOME RAW IS PERFECTLY FINE!

Oxalic acid is not all bad. It’s also a fine antioxidant. So don’t freak out so much.

QUICK SAMPLE LIST OF MAGNESIUM-DEFICIENT SYMPTOMS

  • migraines, pain and insomnia
  • strokes, brain problems
  • cholesterol and hypertension, heart disease
  • obesity and diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia
  • PMS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • infertility, pregnancy, preeclampsia, cerebral palsy
  • osteoporosis, kidney stones and tooth decay
  • anxiety and depression
  • chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma

WHY DID I EVOLVE TO NEED THIS MUCH MAGNESIUM BUT I’M NOT GETTING IT NOW?

It’s our industrialized food system, stupid! Growing food on depleted soil means no minerals. That’s why they add fertilizers like Potash, which is essentially a cheap potassium solution. Potassium is great! But it pushes out the magnesium. Now it’s not available in your crops! Those cheap crops are fed to your “protein sources” like factory-farmed cows, chickens and farmed fish. Are you getting it? What you’re not getting is magnesium.

OTHER THAN SUPPLEMENTING, WHAT CAN I DO?

Buy your vegetables from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group or farmers’ market, and check in on their farming practices. You’re looking for some biodynamics going on – crops fertilized with cow and chicken manure either from the same farm or a local neighbor. You’re looking for naturally mineral-rich soils, or soils that are supplemented with balanced minerals (like Redmond Clay).

Eat pastured meats (grass-fed, grass-finished) like lamb and beef, and true free-range poultry – animals that can absorb the minerals from the soil in the grasses they eat. Use these mineral-rich bones to make stock!

Eat brains and hearts! Brains and hearts are super concentrated with magnesium. Choose young lamb brains and hearts from a butcher you trust.

THE MAGIC OF ROCKS

Did you know that having rocks in a field used to signify mineral-rich and fertile soil? But now we think rocks in a field means the farmer is too poor to remove them and buy himself a tractor. That’s because rocks mess up tractors – from tilling to seeding to harvesting, so we have developed a bias against them. Industrial farmers have to remove the rocks from their fields.  But the rocks were the sweet naturally slow-releasing mineral depositories. Now they have to replace those lost (free) minerals with purchased fertilizers and nutrients. That’s an expensive proposition, and besides, a lot of the fertilizers just get leached away when it rains… Which then accumulate in wetlands and create salty, acidic, life-averse environments. So on every front: bummer.

The CSA I buy my vegetables from uses horses to plow their fields. I’m serious! There are rocks everywhere!

THE VERY BOTTOM LINE

Magnesium is deficient in almost everyone. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is between 300 – 400 mg for adults. Any overdose is self-correcting (you will get diarrhea if you ever take too much). It improves the body’s ability to metabolize other minerals and vitamins. There’s not much magnesium doesn’t help with, and it doesn’t cause any harm.

FURTHER READING

The Magnesium Miracle” by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND

ReMag Pico-Ionic Magnesium drops

Ancient Minerals Magnesium oil, available at Smith’s Pharmacy on Yonge Street in Toronto

My book review of “K2 and the Calcium Paradox”

Arteriosclerosis linked to magnesium deficiency.

Migraines and magnesium

Diabetes and magnesium

Plowshare Organic Farm CSA outside of Toronto that uses Sally and Milly, two fine work horses to plow

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Fiber: So Over It

Fiber: So Over It

That’s right, I’m going against the trusted medical advice of every frigging doctor, research hospital and medical treatment center out there. I’m standing out here alone to deliver this important message to you: Fiber is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact fiber is addictive, harmful to your intestines, and destructive to the microflora in your gut. Fiber is a short-term remedy that leads to long-term dependence and chronic illness.

I started going down this path when several of my acquaintances were complaining about constipation after switching abruptly to what they considered a no/low grains diet. In each case, the acquaintance told me they would have it under control as soon as they started taking fiber supplements. For some reason this didn’t sit right with me at all, and I needed to find out why.

The conventional dietary advice is eat a low fat, high fiber diet from “healthy whole grains” and plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. And if you are going to eat a low fat diet, you will notice your bowel movements grind to a halt without fiber. Why? Because fat is the key factor that induces the peristaltic reflex and actually makes your bowels move. Not protein, not carbohydrates, not fiber. So if you are on a fat restricted diet, you are unknowingly limiting your intestinal efficiency. Which means that you are going to need to come up with a substitute for fat in order to get your feces out of your damn colon.

Everyone is going to tell you to either increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables (soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your consumption of whole grains (insoluble fiber loaded with carbohydrates) or else tell you to take a fiber supplement (insoluble fiber in the form of powders and pills).

I’m going to tell you why all of these ideas are flat out crazy, but in order to do that I’m going to have to talk about feces.

ARE YOU READY TO TALK ABOUT FECES?

By dry weight, feces is supposed to be made up of about 50% bacteria. Bacteria is the bulking agent, which also holds the water content. So bacteria gives feces substance and moisture. Fat is the motility agent. The remaining weight is pure waste products, undigested carbohydrates and fiber, and denatured proteins.

Chances are high that YOUR feces is NOT made up of 50% bacteria, because either you were a C-Section baby, you have had a lot of antibiotics and medicines in your life, you’re addicted to hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps, you live under unusually stressful conditions or you eat a lot of carbohydrates. As I know at least one of these five conditions is true for you, I can guarantee that your intestinal flora is not up to the job. You need to fix this and I’m talking about right now!

So the conventional advice would be to start taking a probiotic. I’m going to go one further and tell you to take it at night on an empty stomach so that it can really get in there and do its job.

But unfortunately this is just not going to work – not if you are still hellbent on eating all those carbohydrates and sugar and fructose. Because those carbohydrates are going to feed the sugar-loving “bad” bacteria in your large intestine, which will kill off all that good bacteria you were trying to grow from the probiotic supplements. So don’t waste your time and money on probiotics if you are still a sugar junkie. Hurry up and deal with that issue and then get back to me.

GREAT.

So since the previous paragraph you’ve removed simple sugars from your life like juice, candy, baked goods and pasteurized milk. Then you even removed complex carbohydrates like fruit, bread, pasta, grains, beans, lentils, legumes, pulses and root vegetables. Wow, you are serious. Thanks for getting on board so quickly so that I can continue with this post.

If you need help remembering what to eat, I don’t blame you. Go here.

Now that you are officially on a Low Carb diet (less than 50g carbs/day or even way less), that probiotic is finally going to start working! You should try everything you can think of at this time to increase your microflora: kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, kombucha, gardening, hanging out with pets and farm animals, spending time in a nursery school during the winter months, infesting yourself with parasites, worms or other helminths. Do whatever it takes. Yes, I’m talking fecotherapy people. Google it!

Now let’s get back to the conventional advice to either increase your fruits and vegetables (increase your soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your whole grains (increase soluble fiber with serious carbohydrates) or else to take a fiber supplement (increase your insoluble fiber with powders and pills).

If you go backwards and increase your soluble fiber with fruits, first of all you are going to have a whole insulin reaction to deal with – not to mention that fructose is going to ferment in the colon creating bloating, gas and an overly acidic state that will kill off your beneficial bacteria. Now, vegetables are not so bad – they are low in carbohydrates and contain soluble fiber that the intestinal bacteria will ferment into helpful short-chain fatty acids like butyrate (remember it from grass-fed butter?) and proprionate. Butyrate mitigates colonic inflammatory response and harmful metabolic effects, detoxes ammonia and other neurotoxins, and can cause cancer cells to mature into normal cells, while proprionate lowers lipogenesis, serum cholesterol levels and carcinogenesis in other tissues. So while I’m not telling you to gorge on insoluble fiber, I am saying that the soluble fiber from low-GI vegetables can be a very good thing. But you just need a regular amount, and by regular I mean go easy people.

Now if you choose to increase your insoluble fiber with whole grains, the huge carbohydrate load will also actively feed the wrong, harmful bacteria in your intestines that love sugar. You will create a profound imbalance that will just kill off all that healthy intestinal flora you worked so hard on propagating. You are heading down the road to Candida, my friend.

So what if you try the more measured approach of simply taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil, Benefil or just plain old psyllium seed husks? I mean, the old people on TV sure think it’s a great idea. Well these insoluble fibers by nature cannot be digested, that’s the point. So they will travel through your stomach and small intestine, absorbing water and bulking and eventually creating an initially useful plunger effect in your large intestine. You will probably be able to push out any plugged material. But here’s the catch. You are pushing it out with another, even bulkier plug. Now you will need even more fiber to push out that plug. And so on. Eventually the comical bulkiness of your feces is going to distend and distort your large intestine so that it looks like this:

Colon Problems

GROSS

And your colon will have pinched bits where feces is permanently impacted. Trust me, it’s going to suck.

And yes, I am trying to scare the bulky, dry, fibrous crap out of you.

As if this isn’t bad enough, fiber supplements are rough and abrasive. Somehow this is marketed as a good thing, like our intestines are made of copper piping that need to be scoured with a wire brush. But our intestines are less like copper piping and more like wet tissue. They just tear and leak when abraded, which leads to undigested food particles getting into the bloodstream and causing all sorts of “leaky gut” and “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” issues. In other words, if you have ANY sort of auto-immune issue, you want to be as gentle on your intestines as possible.

To add insult to injury, insoluble fiber finally ends up still undigested in the large intestine as a plug, and the bacteria in the large intestine attempts to ferment and digest it. This creates an environment of unusually high acidity which kills off the beneficial bacteria. So if you were getting close to 50% bacteria in your feces, you are now killing it off again and will need to use fiber to bulk up instead.

USING FIBER LEADS TO USING MORE FIBER

So why does everyone tell us we need so much fiber? Because everyone assumes that we are eating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains), which will kill our good bacteria with both an overgrowth of bad bacteria and with an overly acidic state. And if you don’t have beneficial bacteria in your gut, your feces is missing 50% of its volume by dry weight. And without the bacteria, your feces can’t stay moist. So you need to replace the bacteria with something that can sort of do both those jobs.

I think the most logical replacement for lost bacteria would be more bacteria. But that would require cutting down on your sugar and carbohydrates and then beefing up your probiotics/kefir/gardening/outside time. Too many steps for most people!

That’s why everyone tells you to use fiber as the replacement. And it will work for a while, which will be good enough to convince you they were right. But in the medium and long term, fiber is going to distend your bowels, bind to essential minerals and prevent their absorption into your body, abrade the lining of your intestines, inhibit pancreatic enzyme activity and protein digestion in the gut, and create a profound dependence on ever more fiber.

I GET IT, YOU JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT TO DO

  1. Switch to a low carb diet, as described above.
  2. Increase your probiotics from supplements, kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, and access to bacteria (gardening, the outdoors and animals).
  3. Increase your fat intake, as it will trigger the peristaltic reflex and start moving your bowels along again. You will not “get fat” from eating a high fat diet so long as you are also eating low carbohydrates.
  4. Make sure you are not drinking too much water, which will wash away important minerals like potassium which directly control moisture in feces. Drinking water won’t make your stool moist, it will dry it out. Try to only drink when thirsty.

HELP ME THIS STILL ISN’T WORKING

Okay you might have made your adjustments too quickly. I should have mentioned that the body needs time to adapt.

There’s nothing worse than having something stuck inside you. If you are already dependent on fiber and fiber supplements and need an easy way off, you could try using apple pectin supplements. While this is a fiber supplement and I have just trashed the whole idea of fiber supplements – at least apple pectin is an insoluble fiber that will feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, which in turn will bulk up the volume and moisture of your feces. It’s not easy to come off of fiber supplements, so this might help so long as you know it is just a transitional step.

If you are just having a bad bout of constipation that can be explained by stress or travel, for example, you can try the age old method of Milk of Magnesia. This is safe on the body and works by concentrating salts in your large intestine, which then pull water from your body by osmosis and flush everything out like a waterfall.

If you are too lazy to go to the store and buy Milk of Magnesia, you can try a Salt Water Flush which will have a similar effect. Just put 2 TBS of good sea salt in a liter of water and drink it all down. Stay near a bathroom for about two hours, because the tide is going to turn and you need to be ready.

Obviously don’t use either the Salt Water Flush or the Milk of Magnesia all the time. It will seriously deplete your potassium and lead to drier, harder stools in the future. But if you have a difficult case once a month, this would be an okay remedy. If you start using it all the time you are going to flush out all your minerals and basically become malnourished. What’s the point in that.

fiber menaceONCE A DAY

Adult humans should be able to have a bowel movement at least once a day, probably in the morning. If this isn’t true for you, reexamine your diet. Maybe you have started eating more carbohydrates than you thought you were. Maybe you forgot about fermented vegetables for a while. Maybe you stopped eating so much fat. Maybe you are going crazy on the water.

You have the ability to fix this with your own eating and drinking habits. So don’t get fooled again by the fiber con.

If you want to read more about this, good luck. You can try ordering this out of print Russian book called “Fiber Menace: The Truth About The Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Colon Cancer” by Konstantin Monastyrsky. It probably doesn’t get more extreme than this. He is super mad at fiber.

But more than likely all the headlines and all the research you come across from very established and accredited organizations are going to tell you the opposite advice: eat more fiber, eat more carbohydrates, get into the medical system and stay there.

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