Laxatives vs. Fiber for your Digestion

The Tonic Podcast

Published: June 1st, 2023 | by Alexandra Leon


tonic introducer: You’re listening to an interview taken from the talk show and podcast heard exclusively on Zoomer radio to download or listen to the original episode or other episodes of The Tonic, please visit the


Jamie: Alexander Leon is the second generation at Nutripur and has participated in the family business throughout her life. She’s earned two university degrees in science, at McGill before returning to take on the Quality Assurance Department at Nutripur. She’s now the public face of the company and travels across Canada to participate in consumer shows. Her goal is to develop a close connection and a better understanding of people’s needs in order to offer the best formulated products possible. Welcome to the show. How are you?


Alex: Very good. You?


Jamie: I’m doing excellent. So we’ve got a topic. It’s a fun topic today, right? It’s you know, we don’t usually talk about it on the show, but I think it’s important and that’s about digestion. And why do you think digestive issues are such a hot topic?


Alex: I think it’s becoming slowly a bigger problem. So there are a lot more digestive issues that are arising. I think we’re also realizing that the digestive system is impacted by a lot more than just the food that we eat. In the last five years, we’ve seen a lot, or speaking about, the gut brain axis. So the intestine affects the brain, but it’s also the other way around. So the brain is affecting the digestive system. You’re talking here about how your mood actually affects the way that you digest. So, for example, if you’re stressed out, you’ll see that you have knot your stomach or that you feel nauseous. So you can really see how the digestion of your food is impacted. So it doesn’t have to be just stress. It could be if you’re happy or if you’re angry or if you’re sad. Another aspect that I actually found very interesting about the digestion is how it’s impacted by the core muscles. So the core muscles, I’ll just add quickly so everybody’s on the same page, it’s not just about the abs. So you’re talking about the muscles that start in the back of your spine and goes all the way to your belly button. So the transverse and the obliques are also included in that ok? Yeah, your core muscles have been shown to be correlated with your digestive health, which means that it’s less impacted by the amount of time that you’re training or fat content. It’s really more correlated with the time you spend not moving around. So the best predictor of your digestive health is the amount of time that you move around. It’s quite interesting, right? Yeah. So which is probably why when you talk about eating big meals and you’re told to go for a walk afterwards, it’s going to help with your digestion. Well, that’s what you’re doing; you are activating your core muscles.


Jamie: So is it the core muscles are helping the food to move through the intestines. Is that is that what it’s doing or is it your position because you’re not sitting well?


Alex: So we’re not exactly sure. The research just shows a correlation, but it’s probably has to do with something with how the core muscle is activated, yes. There’s a direct link between activating the muscles that line the intestinal wall, yes, there seems to be a direct link between those two activations. It does also create a kind of a pressure where it compresses the intestinal wall, which means that it helps with the rest of the movement.


Jamie: Yes, cool. So one of the topics that I think is arising for a lot of people and certainly as we age is constipation.


Alex: Yes. So constipation is one of the major issues when we talk about digestive complaints, usually constipation and heartburn. So those are the two major ones that people come to us to find solutions. It’s not that constipation is the only symptoms or the only problem when it comes to digestive issues is just that, it’s more easily recognizable. It’s something that stops people from their daily routine. It causes a lot of cramping and things like that. And it does cause issues in the long run as well. So it’s important to really go and target that constipation if there’s an issue.


Jamie: OK, and obviously, aside from the obvious that, you know, it can be painful and, you know, you can have bloating, but why is constipation problematic for people?


Alex: So the way that you have to see it, is that constipation means that your waste that you’re creating is not being eliminated. Right. This means that it’s staying in your intestines. And what that means is not it’s not just floating around. It’s coating the side of the wall. Your intestinal wall is used or the main purpose is for absorption. So it’s absorbing all the nutrients or the vitamins, the minerals that you need. So if the waste is stuck to the wall, that part of the intestinal wall is not doing its job, so you’re basically eliminating or reducing the capacity of absorption. So, even if you are eating a really great diet, if you’re constantly constipated, you’re actually not fully absorbing everything that’s in your diet.


Jamie: OK, so it’s not just the issue of pain and cramping, we’re just not getting the nutrients in through our intestines that we normally would. Is that what you’re saying?


Alex: Exactly, yeah.


Jamie: So there are different ways to deal with constipation. And, you know, the two of them that I think everybody are familiar with are laxatives and fiber. So can you give sort of a rundown on the differences between the two?


Alex: Yeah. So a laxative is going to be working on the conduit. So it’s working on, like we were discussing before, the muscles that surround the intestinal wall. OK, so what it does is it reactivates the muscles, it activates the peristaltic movements of the natural productive movement of the intestine and it helps to eliminate. OK, so the main plant that you’re looking at is going to be the aloe. While the fiber, on the other side, works on the content. So it helps to bind the waste together to create the feces that’s going to be afterwards eliminated. OK. And it also helps with the fluidity through the canal. So it’s going to help with the mucous membranes to create a kind of a film that helps with the fluidity. OK, so fiber, you’re talking more about the Psyllium. So laxative is the Aloe and the fiber is more of the Psyllium.


Jamie: When you’re saying Aloe and Psyllium, you’re talking about the natural products or the natural ingredients that you would use. Yeah. Yeah. In a nutraceutical form of either a laxative or fiber, correct.


Alex: Exactly. Yep.


Jamie: OK, so assuming that I’m constipated. Yes. Let’s just say that Jamie’s constipated, how do I know whether I should be taking a laxative or whether I should be focusing on fiber?


Alex: That’s the million-dollar question. It is, but it’s what people ask all the time. The best way for you to know and to kind of self-diagnose a little bit, obviously, it’s better to go to your doctor and make sure that everything’s OK before, but you can base yourself on your symptoms and your lifestyle. So if you have the urge to go to the bathroom, but you have a hard time evacuating, so you have the feeling you have the push. But every time you go, it’s it feels inadequate. It feels like there’s still something there or you see that your stool is small or clumpy balls instead of just being like one big or small one. It can also be sticky. Going to stick to your, I’m sorry to say, but your toilet bowl. Those are signs that there’s something wrong with the content. So like we were discussing before, the content is a problem. OK, so it’s not that there’s no muscular movement, it’s just that the muscular movement is inefficient in order to push down the content. OK, so these are individual who are dehydrated, usually have poor sugars to fiber ratio, so their diet has a lot more sugar and not enough fiber.


Jamie: Right. So somebody like that is probably having too many refined foods and not enough whole foods. And my guess is your recommendation would be to include more fiber in the diet. Right.


Alex: You’re so good. Yes, exactly. On the other side, so, if you have someone who is bloated, has cramps, flatulence, but they don’t have the need to go, so they do feel that there’s waste that needs to be evacuated, but they don’t go to the bathroom. So that’s a conduit issue. So there’s no muscle activity. The content may or may not be good. That depends on people, but there’s nothing pushing it forward. So these are usually people who are anxious or perfectionist or what you would call like a control freak. So they try to control their environment.


Jamie: Yes, I might be one of those people.


Alex: There are a lot of people that actually tell us that they’ve trained themselves to not go to the bathroom during the day. So, for example, they don’t like going to the bathroom in public places, so they’ll only go in their home.


Jamie: I was only commenting on my type A personality. None of the listeners want to know about the details of the bowel movements, although I must say this is very interesting and I’ve never heard like we’ve never discussed this before. So keep going. Don’t let me stop you.


Alex: No, that’s fine. So, yes, some people have learned to hold it in so long that is actually inhibiting their capacity of natural movement of the intestine. So you have to learn how to create those movements.


Jamie: Wow. OK


Alex: Yeah. Those people are usually people who are not going to respond to fibers. They’ve probably been chronic constipators, so they’ve been constipating for multiple years and these are the best candidates for laxatives.


Jamie: OK, so now that we sort of have a primer on which type of product we should be going for, I presume there’s people who may need both, but leaving that aside for a moment, how do we choose the right product?


Alex: OK, so I think in general, when choosing a product, the golden rule is always that you cannot treat just a symptom. OK, so you can’t just go for the symptoms. You have to look at the issue a whole. OK, so for this instant, let’s say constipation, the goal is not just to move the stool down the track. OK, so constipation causes irritation. It causes inflammation. It causes micro fissures in the lining of the intestine. So those things also have to be healed or else it becomes further issues down the line. Mm hmm. So when you choose a product, you have to find a formula that also helps to heal these wounds. So you’re going for anti-inflammatory plans that help soothe and heal the mucous membranes. Examples of these plants would be licorice, red elm or Mallow. Mm hmm. So these are natural plants that have these specific abilities to really help to rebuild the wounds that are being created and decreased inflammation. So you have a better chance of eliminating constipation on the long run.


Jamie: Mm hmm. And we have time for one last question. And what should you look for, for a fiber product?


Alex: I would say the fibers that you’re looking for is obviously the psyllium. So when you’re talking about digestive issues, digestive products in general, because the digestive tract is very sensitive, you cannot choose a formula that has fillers or stabilizers or colorings or additives or sugars ok so you’re looking for a really clean formula. Obviously, if you can find the ingredients that are organic so there are no chemicals or no pesticide either. So you can look for a formula that would have psyllium, licorice, red elm, mallow, those would be the best combination together.


Jamie: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Will you come again soon?


Alex: Yes, of course.

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