Nitty Gritty

While I do not want to make it seem like this was JB’s biggest issue this week, it certainly was the most amusing to me. One could make a very strong argument for the fact that we are both adults based upon life experience, responsibilities, age, and  other markers of age and maturity. An equally strong argument against us being adults could be made based on the amount of time we spent talking about his floaters this week.


This was not JB’s biggest concern. Not by a long shot. I do get a decent amount of poop related questions from time to time. So its probably about time to lay it all out in the open and talk about digestion while transitioning to Paleo.


About three days into it I got a question texted to me asking basically: why are all of my craps really oily and floating?


There are a few reasons for this:


  1. A different consistency of diet will lead to a different consistency of stool
  2. His digestive lining is beginning to heal itself
  3. The population of his digestive bacteria is beginning to shift
  4. There is more fat in his system and fat is lighter than water
  5. Years of poor dietary choices make it hard for him to digest these fats


Your poop is what you eat. Genius, I know.


When your diet shifts than your digestive end product will shift too. For almost everyone going Paleo, this is a rather dramatic dietary shift. I think that everyone has probably experienced something similar on a vacation, a field problem, camping trip, or some other life experience. Hell, almost everyone has experienced the dreaded “beer shits” after a really rough night of drinking.


So before I go any further down this rabbit hole, it should be no surprise that there is a dramatic change in the consistency or regularity of your bowel movements when you start Paleo.


Another common problem along this line is people feeling stopped up or like a broken faucet when they start Paleo. In either scenario, people will come to me asking about fiber. They immediately want to start taking a fiber supplement or throw in the towel.


In either case, fiber is not the answer. Fiber does play a role (link to earlier post), but its not really the issue here. The issue is the permeability of your intestines, or (in plain English) keeping your poop in its proper place.


There are a lot of other factors that can play into this (too much protein, too little fat, etc), but for most people just starting out the issue will be a change to your regularity based on changes to your digestive tract.


Most of the cells in your body are not human cells. They are bacteria that exist in a symbiotic relationship with you to help you digest foods. In fact, we could not live without these bacteria and they’re by-products.


The fact that you’ve been eating a certain way (high carb/sugar) for so long means that the ones that primarily feed off of these chemicals will be the prevalent ones in your gut and that the ones that digest fats will be out numbered.


You can think of your digestive tract like a nature preserve that has Pandas and Koalas. If you plant mostly bamboo than you’ll get more Pandas and if you plant more eucalyptus than you’ll get more Koalas.


This lead to JB’s question about going through a cleanse or taking a prebiotic. A cleanse would really just exacerbate the problems. It would simply maintain the bacterial status quo, catabloize more muscle, and do nothing to help the root cause of the problem. All the while increasing the amount of dietary suffering you are already experiencing.


I think a prebiotic would be appropriate here if this is a lingering issue. He’s only a week into it, so there is just a lot that is new and changing about the digestive process. If this was an issue that lasts a few months into the diet than there is some ground to freak out on. I’ll come back to a recommendation later because there is one product that should solve both issues.


The floaters are due to either a large fiber content and/or the fact that there is a lot of fat in your stool. This is generally a sign that the fat is undigested and that you are not absorbing most of the nutrients that you should be (read: bad sign).


The last point is that your dietary history has poisoned your body with protease inhibitors that prevent the absorption of nutrients. Your body has also spent a good amount of time time producing antibodies and white blood cells to fight the grain proteins (like gluten). These defenses often attack your own organs causing autoimmune diseases like celiac and Hashimoto Thyroiditis.


So what’s the solution?


First off is time. Eventually time will allow the body to heal and normalize itself. This will be a by-product of all of the other benefits of going Paleo, but it will be a relief for all involved.


The only product that I would recommend is the Now Foods Super Enzyme. It is a probiotic that also contains Ox Bile Salts to help emulsify (digest) fats. These can also be used as a diagnostic for how poor your digestion is.