Curing Chronic Constipation
The saying that someone who is heavily bound by strict rules is "anal retentive" is absolutely true. I am my own primary study of this. I've suffered from chronic constipation my entire life. I could define constipation at the age of four, much to the discomfort of adults at my daycare.
I know all the tricks. Here are some . . .
- ½ cup chia seeds
- 6 minced prunes
- 1 cup water or distilled aloe juice
- 2 pinches cinnamon (recommended), organic vanilla powder (fun for variety) or raw cacao powder (extra consta-cure kick)
Directions: Stir all ingredients together and let thicken for five to ten minutes or leave in the fridge until you're ready for it.
Note: Stays good in the fridge for four days.
- 1-2 bananas (fresh or frozen – I recommend one of each or half of each)
- 2-6 tablespoons fresh aloe vera (cut from a house plant, spines removed – you can leave the skin on for extra consta-cure)
- 2 tablespoons raw carob powder (recommended for flavor, nutrition and intestine-soothing properties)
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 2 cups water or distilled aloe juice
- 1 pinch chia seeds (optional)
Directions: Put all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blender until smooth. (This recipe will still come out good in a regular blender.)
Note: If you've never consumed fresh aloe before, start with one tablespoon and see how you respond. For some people, even a small amount (like a teaspoon) will cause intense diarrhea. For people with chronic constipation, usually it takes a lot more (like a quarter cup) to get things moving.
The Constipation Blues
The above two recipes have been enough at times to force my body to move stuff out. Symbolically, I couldn't figure out why I was so anal retentive when I let things go so much more easily than others. I've given away so many possessions. I've given away much of my time, attention, and affection.
So why was I holding on to so much shit?
The Cause of Constipation
Rules. That's the key. I've lived a life of ever-growing rule systems. I came up with rules (roles) for my relationships. I came up with rules for how to keep my apartment/house clean. I came up with rules for exercise. I came up with rules for my diet. And I followed these rules religiously. So much so that I have trouble breaking them.
How could I possibly eat breakfast if there are any dirty dishes in the kitchen? This is a rule I created when I was eighteen to finally force myself to keep a clean kitchen. I created this rule to protect myself from becoming disorganized like my mother. I often used "food rewards" as the basis for my discipline.
At times I've had rules like:
- If I get up at dawn, then I'm allowed to spend the morning playing video games.
- If I do one-hundred crunches, then I can make myself a fancy raw dessert (almonds, dates, apples, cinnamon, dried apricots, etc).
At times I've had rules without rewards like:
- I must create at least one page for my website each week. For each page I make, I must promote it through at least four different avenues (facebook, e-mail list, stumbleupon and twitter, for example).
- I must contact my extended family and old friends at least once a year via e-mail, snail mail or in person.
I found the latter sort of rules (those without rewards) much harder to stick to, and often they just died out. But the rules with food-rewards have stuck with me. Particularly when they actually make sense. For example:
- Before doing dishes, first empty the drying rack of all the dry dishes.
If I don't do that, I might run out of space for dishes, and then have dishes piling up on the counter, and this might cramp my style if I'm trying to make a fancy meal or make several dishes at once.
Other rules that have stuck with me are ones that I created for myself to protect myself from pain, such as:
- Don't call someone every single day.
- Don't pick at my lips when they're chapped.
- Don't ever eat bread, refined sugars or meat.
- Don't combine any kind of grain (rice, quinoa, millet, oats, etc) with any kind of fat (milk, oil, avocado, etc).
- Don't handle micro-fibers or dusty clean-up jobs without first thoroughly coating my hands in jojoba oil.
- Don't leave the house without a neck-warmer (in case of cold, and in case of fumes and needing to cover my face).
The above rules are some of the most sticky, convincing rules I have. Doing otherwise has caused so much pain, so many times, that the idea of breaking these rules is painful. Other rules I've created for myself are easier to bypass because they might cause pain, but I'm not sure because the outcomes have been inconsistent. For example, sometimes eating any cooked food at all has caused me pain, and sometimes it has caused me enjoyment, or been neutral, or given me a little extra constipation but no serious pain.
Hence why I've spent two full years of my life eating completely raw (2010 and 2015) without any exceptions, but have had other years where as much as half of my diet was cooked food. For example, in 2012 I ate a lot of potatoes and steamed kale because they were "unlimited" through my Thorpes Farm C.S.A. while living in Buffalo, N.Y. and in 2013 I ate a lot of cooked breadfruits, papayas, green bananas that I harvested off of the land while living on Kaua'i island. In the first of those cases (lots of cooked potatoes and kale) I noticed that I was less energetic and having more health problems, and at the time I blamed it completely on the cooked food. Yet while on Kaua'i island I was eating as much cooked food, or more, but I was much healthier. Later, I realized that raw food helps compensate for environmental and emotional challenges as well as other bad lifestyle habits. While I was on Kaua'i island I was getting more exercise, sun, fresh air and fresh food, and so even with a high proportion of cooked food, I was doing quite well.
Changing Climate For Curing Constipation
And now I see even further into the truth of the difference between the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2013. The summer of 2012 (in Buffalo, New York State) was dominated by rules, routine and efficiency The summer of 2013 (on Kaua'i island, a Hawai'ian island) was dominated by adventure, growth, spirituality and change. It wasn't just a different climate externally, it was a different climate internally!
Thus, despite many clever rules designed specifically to prevent constipation (daily chia-prune pudding, daily half-gallon of water, daily this, daily that) it has still been a chronic issue for me, even as a raw foodist. When I first went raw, I stopped having digestive problems for the first year or two. Then I developed a digestive sensitivity to bananas, and I stopped consuming smoothies, which had been one of my magic tricks. Even after I regained my ability to consume bananas (years later), the smoothie magic was gone.
My Rules Protect Me
Then I met someone in 2013 who used the phrase, "Oh, yeah, so-and-so is very anal retentive," and it got me thinking about it. Then in 2016 I met someone who opened my eyes to how rule-based my life is. They pointed out how rigidly I hold myself to my rules.
Well, what's wrong with that? My rules are to protect myself!
"But why do you need protecting?" he asked.
"Because how else could I trust myself to do things that avoid pain and bring me joy?"
"Why don't you trust yourself?" he asked.
"Because too often I get caught up and do stupid things that hurt myself," I said.
"Why don't you just listen to yourself in the moment, find out what is really best for you, and do that?" he asked.
"Because too often I don't have enough time for all that. It could take me hours to uncover what I really want and need most. I have to make decisions in less than a minute in order to coordinate with other people. If I can't do that, then other people will be impatient," I explained.
"Why does that matter?" he asked. "Isn't your well-being more important?"
"My well-being is important, but so are my relationships with other people. That's why I've created rules to protect myself," I said.
"And your rules never hurt you?" he asked.
"Sometimes they give me stress, but generally, they protect me," I said. And I believed what I was saying.
But then, through a series of social interactions with this man and his girlfriend, I came to see another pattern in me: I've chosen many of my rules for the benefit of others. I've defined my role in relationships based on what society taught me was desirable, rather than based on what I really wanted. And even the rules that I made to protect myself from pain ignored my deepest desires and needs.
I started asking myself: "Who was I before I began changing myself to make other people happy?"
I couldn't find the answer easily. Another difficult question was posed to me by the above-mentioned girlfriend: "Have you ever had anything in your life that wasn't a source of fear or anxiety?"
I found myself searching through my memories for times where there wasn't even a hint of fear and anxiety. There were times, but they were rare. But one thing was consistent in these memories: Complete trust in my environment mirrored with complete trust in myself.
Meditate on that for a moment. When in your life have you felt complete trust in your environment mirrored with complete trust in yourself? Come up with at least three times. It is a very illuminating exercise.
Contemplating trust brought me back to rules. Why did I create these rules in the first place? Why did I need protection?
I created rules for myself because I didn't trust myself. Ever since my first-love broke up with me when I was fifteen I have hardly trusted myself at all. If I couldn't trust myself to keep the person I valued most at the time, then how could I trust myself with anything?
I chose then that I would – instead of being myself – hold myself to higher and higher standards of what it meant to be a girlfriend, to be a wife. Can you imagine having extremely high standards for what it means to be a wife and then having two husbands? I've hit some breaking points. And then I just developed stronger rule sets for myself. It worked before, didn't it? More rules! More rules to the rescue!
But on October 20th 2016, that all changed. I came home from a trip where I had visited some highly empathic, influential individuals. My first full day back I developed a high fever coupled with intense pain in my spine and throughout my body. Yet I felt deep, personal faith as the fever was coming on. I said to Lytenian: "I'm supposed to have a fever. It is going to get much, much worse. It will lead me deeper." This scared him a little at first, but after a few minutes of silent integration he accepted it.
The fever got worse and worse. Any time I looked at Lytenian or Greg, the pain became unbearable. When I thought of things I ought to be doing, especially anything I ought to be doing for them, the pain became worse. If they spoke to me, the pain became so intense I began to cry. I asked them to be quiet.
I also noticed that any touch hurt. This was particularly startling. Touch is one of my primary languages of love and communication in an intimate relationship. How could touch – (affection! love!) – hurt? Yet it hurt in rippling pains throughout my body, so I asked not to be touched.
I couldn't go downstairs, so I asked for food. Astonishingly, I hardly wanted anything (which is very, very rare for me, even when sick).
Over the course of several days (Thursday evening through Sunday evening) the fever grew worse whenever I paid attention to anything that was not myself. Any touch or contact with my husbands immediately transferred a reflection of their pain and baggage into me. I could feel all of Lytenian's chronic back pain in my body. It was overwhelming.
During that time I ate only things I felt truly inspired to eat, and on Sunday evening I wrote a log of what I had eaten in that time period:
- ½ cup apple with cinnamon (raw)
- 16 dried schisandra berries (raw)
- Tea made from raspberry leaves, 2 chaste berries and a pinch of licorice root (cooked)
- ¼ cup watermelon (raw, yellow)
- ½ package Brad's "Nasty Hot" kale chips (raw)
- 2 Tablespoons cranberry juice (pasteurized)
- 1 bottle Garden of Flavor Aronia probiotic tea-juice (raw)
- ½ cup elderberry kombucha (raw)
- 1 head iceberg lettuce (raw)
- 2 Tablespoons cauliflower (raw, yellow)
- 6 spinach leaves
- ¼ of a pomegranate (raw)
- 6 romaine leaves
And the above felt amazing. Each nibble, each sip, was a process. I discovered that food is loud. What I take into my body screams messages at me and about me. It becomes me on more than a physical level. Food becomes me at an emotional and vibrational level. What I feel about myself is deeply linked to the messages I put into my body – books, movies, environments, people and food.
Using Food To Drown External Messages
I realized that I often have used food to drown out other messages I was receiving. At a sub-conscious level I was protecting myself by drowning out music, or subliminal messages from other people through chewing, tasting, swallowing, and digesting. It was my intention (subconsciously) that the division of attention would keep some of my focus inward. Instead, it numbed me both externally and internally. And contributed to my chronic constipation.
Through the isolation that my body and subconscious demanded in October 2016, I spent a lot of time in meditation. I learned to ask for alone time for the first time since I was twelve. I didn't think I needed or wanted alone time, but apparently, I do. I've been one of those clingy, never-wants-to-be-alone kind of people. In fact, Lytenian and I didn't spend more than six hours in separate buildings at a time from April 2011 to August 2015. Most of the time we were in the same room as I worked from home and he was my stay-at-home-husband.
Yet during this transformative, fever-awakening in October 2016 I found myself desiring and developing healthy boundaries; I started to hear my own quiet voice speaking from the inside.
Sensory Deprivation As A Tool For Looking Inward
Without food, light, conversation, movement, activities, books, videos, music, or even much sleep, I found my self in the stillness. And while I was there, really with myself, I honestly did trust myself. Presence. This is my new definition of presence: to really be there with myself. Not mindlessly cramming food in my mouth. Not nodding and agreeing to what others are saying. Not impatiently driving myself from one activity to the next. Not chasing the next dose of feeling accomplished. None of that.
Just presence. Focus. Allowing myself to experience my primary relationship: the one with myself. Allowing my selves to speak from all the different versions of Me that I have been.
The Me that just wanted to play with my Barbie dolls.
The Me that admired Sailor Moon.
The Me that was angry and listened to Limp Bizket and raged at my parents.
The Me that wore black lipstick and dyed my hair black.
The Me that swore in every sentence, drank alcohol and smoked pot.
The Me that had the faith to go to Kaua'i island.
The Me that loves snow.
The Me that loves the tropics.
The Me that hates doing dishes.
The Me that is obsessed with cleanliness.
All of these versions of myself are present within me. All of these selves have a voice, a place, a purpose. The Me that measures time and food, and the Me that just wants a big plate of French fries. Both are valid, true, authentic parts of myself that deserve my attention, love, and compassion.
So, in November 2016 I threw rules and roles out of the window. I ate French fries. I ate out at farm-to-table restaurants. I ate a lot of cooked food. I let the kitchen be dirty. I let Lytenian take over organizing and cleaning the kitchen. I spent hours upon hours meditating in my bed, not doing any of my usual "productive" things. I stayed indoors even when the sun was shining. I went outside in my socks and without underwear to admire the snow. I broke commitments to social events, allowed myself to be flaky, stopped answering e-mails and facebook messages, and went days at a time without touching my computer.
I let myself rediscover who I really was beneath all the rules.
- I like cleaning my floor . . . with my hands. Just one little bit of floor at a time, sweeping every little thing up with my finger-tips. Until November 2016, I had not done that since I was eight.
- I like jumping for joy.
- I like laying on my back with my palms facing up in complete darkness.
- I like writing by hand, feeling the pen moving across the paper. Since I learned to type at the age of ten, I've spent as little time as possible writing by hand, only doing so out of desperation. Yet from October 29th to November 17th – in 26 days – I've filled up an entire notebook cover-to-cover.
- I like trying new things.
- I like getting old tasks, projects, obstacles, etc, out of the way.
- I like cleaning out stuff I no longer use and giving it away.
- I like coloring in a pretty coloring book with colored pencils.
- I like playing with different kinds of art supplies.
- I like tap dancing. (This was something I revisited for the first time last week after completely dropping off with it after my classes ended last winter. And last winter was the first time trying it again in fifteen years.)
- I like dreadlocks. I've been fondling the dreadlocks I cut off my head in February (on Valentine's day, 2016) and thinking about putting four dreadlocks along the bottom of my hairline.
- I like dreaming up things in my head and visualizing them in as much detail as I can.
- I like making wraps, especially for Greg and Lytenian.
- I like touching the leaves of plants.
- I like letting my period just flow without any barriers, so I've taken to putting black towels on my bed and washing periodically in the bathtub instead of using any sort of method for collecting the stuff.
- I like vanilla sex, sweet foreplay, and gentle caresses. (Gasp! This is a huge change for me.)
- I like waking up before first light and watching the landscape slowly illuminate until the dawn breaks over the horizon. (Which I did almost every morning from October 18th 2016 to the new year and many, many mornings since.)
- I like revisiting my past selves through my old journals, recordings, videos and writing.
- I like being blindfolded and focusing on what I can hear and feel. It is amazing to discover how well I know the house. How easy it is to get from my room to the bathroom and to use the bathroom without ever peeking at anything. Not having my vision is a fantastic tool for leading me deeper into presence.
- I like eating alone so that I can fully attend to the flavors, smells, textures and internal changes at play within me as I eat.
- I like using the sun as my clock, letting go of what time it is, and sleeping when I am tired, and waking whenever I am ready.
- I like intuitive "body work" that is based on presence with myself and empathy with the other person's body. No rules, no concepts. Just feeling myself and compassion for them.
- And much more! There is so much me to discover!
Rediscovering Childhood Selves
At first I went back to my earliest years and searched for those things that were precious to me before anyone changed me. I searched for the body postures, mannerisms, and delights of two-year-old Me, and four-year-old Me. I went back to my favorite childhood foods (ice-berg lettuce, watermelon, French fries). Last week I had lima beans for the first time in over ten years, another of my childhood favorites.
And I've been eating popcorn and oatmeal. I've discovered that I personally symbolize my father's love as popcorn, and my mother's love as oatmeal. And my self-love as rice. This makes perfect sense when looking back through my history. My father used to watch movies with me and make popcorn for us with creative seasonings. My mother used to make oatmeal for me for breakfast.
When I first began to cook for myself (at the age of seventeen, as a result of necessity after developing stomach ulcers), I discovered that I truly enjoyed cooking and eating rice. For a period of time I cooked long-grain brown rice in broth several times a week in addition to eating rice cakes, rice crisps, rice milk and other rice-based foods (all unsweetened). This period of my life (2007-2009), looking back, symbolizes self-love because it was the first time I began to take a care-taking role for myself.
Thus, in the autumn of 2016 I began eating rice cakes and rice. I savored the symbolic feeling of self-love in association with rice. By being present with it, and giving all of my attention to the rice I was eating, I lessened the association between specifically rice and self-love. I began to re-attach food to self-love – an association worn very thin over the many years of tromping all over my childhood cravings in the name of healing myself. Yes, I was protecting myself – at the cost of slaying myself.
In June 2017 I had a third fever-awakening experience. Again I was confined to my bed with a fever that went up when I had certain thoughts and melted in to a sweat-down when I had other thoughts. This third experience is another story for another time, but I realized the one major common theme in these awakenings is trust. Each one can come upon me at a time when I was heavily relying on rules instead of relying on self-trust. Each fever and its accompanying symptoms has only left me fully when I came into a vibration of self-trust.
A New Tool For Analyzing Food Cravings Intuitively
Each time, food has been a large part of the journey. In June 2017 I was on a new mission with food – not to recapture the past, but to embrace the present. Now what would be the most delicious and satisfying food I could have? I found that by asking myself, "How much do I really want that on a scale of one to ten?" I could get answers from my internal committee about my integrated desires for a food. Often I would be hankering after something and ask myself that question only to find that the answer was merely a "two"!
I began to realize that many of my food cravings have to do with remembering how I felt the last time I ate it rather than feeling in my body what I actually want now. Yet somehow, by asking myself this question ("How much do I really want that on a scale of one to ten?") I get integrated answers. It is working for me because I have no legitimate way to come up with an analytical answer, so my intuitive, feeling-based answer emerges instead – in the form of an entirely understandable number!
Many times I've found my highest desires ('eight!") to be for for foods that caused me pain in the past. But I'm not afraid of that anymore. I will be present with the pain, and if I'm never called to eat it again, then I won't. I'll be okay. I can trust myself. What a revelation!
Through all of these fever-awakening food patterns – hardly eating at all and gorging myself on oil-rich foods (like "fried veggie chips") – I have not been constipated. Through the month of November 2016 I had regular bowel movements, including my ten days in England. Through long air-port waits, through dolmas and falafels, through French fries and Indian food . . . The worst I had is some bad-smelling gas. This, from the woman whose bowels have been so sensitive that even a single boiled potato would have me blocked up for a couple days! This from the woman who wouldn't be able to poop because I hadn't consumed at least a half-gallon of water in the last twelve-hours! What a dramatic change!
My conclusion is that profound presence with myself is the only answer or rule I need. Yet, even that is limiting. Trying out various rules, roles and regulations for my life has allowed me to experience a great many things that make up the Me that I experience myself as. Trying out other people's perspectives and allowing them to invade my internal reality, violate my boundaries and overall leave me feeling raped has been a series of powerful growth experiences.
Taking Ownership of Past & Present
I chose all of it.
I choose this now.
Much love and blessings to you!
From a truly inspired place where I've been typing for the joy of typing,
What to read next? You can find more recipes great for a stuck digestive system in my article about preventing menstrual cramps. Also, learn more about how we got to be this way – segmented, rule-based and out-of-touch in my article on developmental trauma. If you're interested in more of my personal story, you may enjoy reading why I almost left my husband
Consciousness Alchemy Questions to ask yourself:
- Who was I before I began changing myself to make other people happy?
- What rules do I impose on myself on a daily basis?
- What in your life is never a source of fear or anxiety?
- When do I feel most free and liberated?
- When in your life have you felt complete trust in your environment mirrored with complete trust in yourself?