After nearly two decades of being vegan, I’ve somehow recently managed to end up with constant constipation.
It’s come as a bit of a shock actually, especially since I’ve long prided myself on having the perfect poo (as according to the theories of diet guru, Gillian McKeith): years ago, one of my ex-girlfriend’s had a copy of ‘You Are What You Eat,’ and we sniggered our way through the parts of the book that talked about all the things that your stool shouldn’t look like, before I smugly came to the conclusion that my number twos were consistently of the right consistency during my twice-daily bowel movements. My ex, we decided, had too much fat in her diet (because her poo floated) and her brothers ate too much dairy (because theirs’ always stuck to the inside of the pan).
I am not joking. I was really quite pleased with all I achieved in the bathroom.
Anyway, I never had this problem till I moved to Sudbury – except for the times when I came here on holiday. And I’ve always maintained it was to do with hardness of the English water. Antonia had the opposite problem when she first moved to Glasgow: her IBS flared up.
The thing is, I don’t understand how someone with a very high fibre diet that includes at least one daily dose of beans (either on toast, in a chilli or simply from a carton of soya milk) can have trouble going to the toilet. I mean, if my bowels were just sensitive to the local tap water, then surely after almost a year of living in England they should have adjusted, not gradually ground to a halt?!
To be fair, I have recently changed my breakfast habits: instead of wholemeal toast or cereal I’ve been whizzing up smoothies made from bananas and berries and whatever other fruits I can find, together with kale and pond-scummy spirulina; because I wanted to be healthier and get a head start on my seven-a-day fruit and veg portions – and although I totally understand that eating the skins of fruits would be better for me, I don’t think it matters since I also usually chomp my way through a couple of apples, a half punnet of cherries and at least one large salad every day.
Lunch is usually a sandwich with hummus or plant-based cheese or avocado salad, and ninety percent of the time I eat seeded wholegrain bread. Dinner is almost always a mixed bean chilli, a lentil-based dish or something with lots of iron-rich leafy greens. And the snacks I have in between are five seed crackers or oat cakes or toast, all of which provide plenty of roughage.
So I’m perplexed.
I wasn’t keen on the idea of taking laxatives as it took me back to my days of being a teenage bulimic, but I had a look in Holland and Barratt just out of curiosity and was surprised to discover that none of their ‘natural remedies’ were vegan as they all contained lactose. Antonia’s response to that when I told her was: ‘That would have worked really well for you, hen… because you know dairy products give you diarrhoea.’
In the end, I got a two-hundred-and-fifty gram bag of prunes from Waitrose – I used to liked prunes when I was a teenager and regularly had to put up with my parents’ stupid ‘well, you’ll shite tonight’ comments. Maybe it was because I was vegan, or maybe it was simply because I ate a lot of other dried fruit, but I never noticed any difference.
One hour, two large glasses of water, and half a bag of prunes later I started to feel a bit sick. Two hours later, Antonia arrived and I began complaining that I still hadn’t been able to go. She said that me talking about prunes and constipation made her want to run to the toilet. Shortly after, on exiting my bathroom, she announced: ‘Mine’s smelly but otherwise fine.’ Charming.
Three hours later and I am still waiting…