One complaint I hear from many new foreigners living in Shanghai is constipation. Seems when you get your residence permit, your digestive system comes to a screeching halt. Constipation is complicated and can have many root causes, including emotional stress (hello, moving to Shanghai, China?!?), lack of fiber in the diet (white rice anyone?) and not enough water (what is in that bing shui exactly?). Coupled with a frequent lack of exercise from getting escorted from one place to another in the back of a GL8 or a taxi, and you have a recipe for a serious backup.
For mild constipation, adding more fiber to your diet is really important. In Western countries, grocery store shelves are often lined with high-fiber products such as whole-grain pasta, whole-wheat bread and bran cereals, not to mention health food stores tauting everything from raw bran to wheat germ to psyllium. So, I went on a little dig around Shanghai to find my top high-fiber items that may help keep you moving and feeling good.
1) Arbenbrot -High-fiber Bread – http://www.abendbrot.com.cn/products.php?group_id=2These guys are definitely my go-to for high-fiber bread. They are also kind enough to let you know how much of which grain they use in each loaf, including their new spelt bread. Spelt is a good source of fiber and a host of B-vitamins. Also, check out their ryes, since rye has been shown to help promote weight loss. Or grab one of their mixed fiber breads, a cup of coffee and hope for the best.
2) World Health Store – Organic Oats – http://www.worldhealthstore.com.cn/en/index.php/organic-cereals/679-organic-rolled-oats.html – Oats are an awesome super food. High in soluble fiber, they not only help keep you regular, they can also help lower cholesterol levels and promote heart health. These organic oats cook longer than quick oats and can help promote digestive health when coupled with dried fruits, such as raisins, dried cranberries and you guessed it, prunes.
3) City Shop – Prune Juice – http://www.cityshop.com.cn/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_10601_10551_7297_-1_20534_20524_20524_ProductDisplayErrorView. If more whole grains are not helping the situation, go for the big guns. But it is recommended you start off slowly with 1/2 cup of prune juice mixed with some water or apple juice before breakfast. Wait 30 minutes. If nothing happens, try again, up to 1 1/2 cups per day.
Also remember that adding exercise and extra water are really important. If you can’t stomach large quantities of local bottled water, I recommend adding some lemon or cranberry juice to add flavor and palatability. If none of these changes are sending you in the right direction, try a TCM specialist who can help you address the root cause of your constipation through herbal medicine or acupuncture.