I’ve long believed that good health depends on eating a proper diet, getting plenty of exercise, keeping a positive attitude, and avoiding stress as much as possible. That includes acknowledging our emotions as they arise but not allowing them to control our behavior. Feelings are to be felt and to be recognized as messengers to our rational side that something in our past has triggered a reaction. There is the tendency to blame the person or event that has triggered the feeling and to lash out, but that only causes more pain for ourselves and those around us and leaves us stuck in our patterns. There are many approaches to personal growth that can be effective in helping us to become more happy and whole. I leave it to the reader to seek them out.
But this essay is about a specific physical problem I’ve had and how I’ve been dealing with it. With advancing age, problems with constipation become more chronic and worrisome. Bowel movements often become less regular and more difficult, the elimination urge less intense, and stools drier and sometimes hard to pass. Over the past few years that has been my own experience. “I’ve tried everything” as they say, and had not found a satisfactory solution, until recently. Although I’ve gotten results from herbal laxatives, magnesium supplements and glycerin suppositories, I’ve been concerned about becoming dependent upon them from continual use.
Now I think I may have found the answer I’ve been looking. It involves the addition of plain wheat bran (not bran cereal) to my diet. I’ve been using it now for several weeks, including it almost daily in many of the things I am accustomed to eating, plus a few new ones. I’ve been adding some bran to the smoothies I make to pour over my homemade granola a few mornings each week, and when I make pancakes or waffles I substitute bran for about a quarter to one third of the flour. I like to bake and I’ve started making bran muffins and it seems that if I eat one or two the next day I have better regularity, stronger urges, and softer stools. Bran, which I buy in bulk at a local supermarket, is inexpensive, has an excellent nutrient profile, and works even better than the expensive fiber supplement that I had been using previously.
Besides the consumption of bran as I’ve described, I take most mornings a teaspoonful of the magnesium supplement, Calm, which is a powder that fizzes when warm water is added. I think that may also be a factor in my bowel improvement but I will try gradually reducing the frequency to see if that makes any difference.
The muffin recipe I use has been adapted from one I found at https://www.tasteandtellblog.com/classic-bran-muffins/#tasty-recipes-49688. I’ve reduced the amount of sugar because I find that most recipes make things much sweeter than I like, and because I add raisins which are naturally sweet.
Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try it.
Classic Bran Muffins
Adapted from https://www.tasteandtellblog.com/classic-bran-muffins/#tasty-recipes-49688
- 1 1/2 cups wheat bran
- 1 cup buttermilk
(You can simulate buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp lemon juice to a cup measure and filling with milk to the 1 cup mark. You can do the same using almond milk instead of cow’s milk, which I’ve found provides excellent results.)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil or coconut oil)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup light brown sugar (or more depending on your taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup white or whole wheat flour (or a combination of both)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup raisins
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter.
- In a medium bowl, combine the wheat bran and the buttermilk. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add the soaked wheat bran mixture and stir to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir just until combined. (If the batter is too stiff, add a little more milk or water).
- Mix in ½ cup raisins.
- Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups .
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes.
Here’s the nutritional profile of wheat bran that I found on Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wheat-bran#what-it-is, which in turn is based on data provided at the Self Nutrition Data website: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5742/2.
Wheat bran is chock-full of many nutrients. A half-cup (29-gram) serving provides (1):
- Calories: 63
- Fat: 1.3 grams
- Saturated fat: 0.2 grams
- Protein: 4.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 18.5 grams
- Dietary fiber: 12.5 grams
- Thiamine: 0.15 mg
- Riboflavin: 0.15 mg
- Niacin: 4 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg
- Potassium: 343
- Iron: 3.05 mg
- Magnesium: 177 mg
- Phosphorus: 294 mg
Wheat bran also has a decent amount of zinc and copper. Additionally, it provides over half of the daily value (DV) of selenium and more than the DV of manganese.
Not only is wheat bran nutrient dense, it’s also relatively low calorie. Half a cup (29 grams) has only 63 calories, which is minuscule considering all the nutrients it packs.
What’s more, it’s low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as a good source of plant-based protein, offering about 5 grams of protein in half a cup (29 grams).
Arguably, wheat bran’s most impressive trait is its fiber content. Half a cup (29 grams) of wheat bran provides almost 13 grams of dietary fiber, which is 99% of the DV (1).
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