Here is Part 2 of our 6 part mini health series. You can achieve excellent bowel function, and it is important to realise that optimising your digestive health is critical if you want outstanding health in the long term.
Today we focus on your bowel – are you going each and every day?
Your Bowel Function – Part 2
Do you go every day, easily? As a general rule, you should have at least one preferably two motions daily, and not too far away from your meals either. If you not at least have one bowel motion each and every day, or if you have inconsistent motions – in terms of how often (frequency), how they look (texture) then you have constipation.
I have yet to find a case of constipation yet which cannot be corrected with natural methods, and over 90% of constipation will respond to simple adjustments in lifestyle. The doctor’s answer is generally either a laxative, or a fibre supplement like Metamucil® . I’ve got a better idea, let’s find and treat the actual cause of the constipation.
Some practitioners would define constipation as the passage of a hard stool. Whilst a doctor I once knew told a patient that it was perfectly acceptable for her to have a bowel motion every ten days, if that was “normal for her”. In my opinion, it is the frequency and texture of your bowel motions as well as the ability to pass a motion easily (and, feeling like you have “cleaned out” as well) which are all important factors, not the term constipation, which will always remain arbitrary.
The actual frequency of bowel motions (how often you go) is important because it tells me how good your digestive system is functioning, and will eventually dictate your overall state of health.
Did you know that bowel cancer is more prevalent today. From my research, some of the biggest causative factors here are:
• Poor passage of sufficient bowel motions over many years (inconsistent bowel function)
• Poor bowel flora – dysbiosis, or an imbalance of “good” and “dab” bacteria in the digestive system.
• Regular alcohol (wine) consumption.
• Meat eating – simply too much and too often.
• Not enough fresh vegetables and fruits.
Constipation Causes •
Improper chewing of food, not paying attention with eating: watching TV or reading whilst eating. This can be a real problem, is this you? If you are finding it difficult to go and you can relate to the TV watching or reading– just turn the TV off or stop reading while you eat! Chewing food to a fine particle size makes sense – it facilitates digestion and absorption, improves peristalsis and bowel function. A quote from the Bible: “Chew your grains until they are liquid”.
• Dehydration – not enough water. Probably one of the most common of causes. Aim for 30 mls per kg of bodyweight each day when the weather is hot. You may not be having anywhere near that amount, particularly if you have been quite constipated for years.
• Insufficient intake of dietary fiber The diets above may well fall into this category, too much protein and too little fibre. Keep you fluid intake high and make sure you eat ample fibre.
• Long periods of immobility, stress or depression.- Having regular bowel motions to me is a bit like a woman having a regular period. It comes in cycles, and when things go well they tend to stay well – until something happens. If you have recently had problems in going, look what happened just recently. A change in lifestyle? A separation or divorce, change of occupation? Did you start new medication? Stress reduces blood flow to your digestion as well as reducing “peristalsis”, or the actual movement of stool through your bowel.
• Medication – Loperamide is an anti-diarrhoea drug which reduces peristalsis and increases intestinal transit time, causing constipation in some. Codeine & morphine are used to control pain but also unfortunately reduce the motility of the stool, and some antidepressants do this as well. Even aspirin can seriously affect the digestive tract, particularly the stomach, liver & small bowel. You may want to get your medications checked out carefully to see if they are a factor in your constipation. So many drugs affect your liver’s function, and can cause congestion here.There will be alternatives to drugs in case there is a constipation connection.
• Gallbladder problems – This is an area that comes up so often in the clinic. The 4 F’s – flatulent, forty, fat and fertile. Is that you? I find that many women aged between about 35 – 45, they may like chocolate, wine & nibbles like cheese & crackers, and this group is often affected with constipation or a sluggish bowel. When the gallbladder becomes sluggish, your bowel slows down. Bile is produced by the liver & stored in the gallbladder & helps to soften the stool and facilites excretion. Gallbladder removed? – then take Digestive Enzymes, e.g., fats & oils are not digested/absorbed well by these folk. Take a digestive enzyme when you take a fish-oil supplement, or Vitamin A. Is your cholesterol levels up? – then try a Lipotropic Factor supplement for several months, it will help metabolise and burn off that fat. Remember the eye-ball test – After you go to the toilet, look!
Naturopath Domenic Pisanelli Sensible Constipation Tips:
• Eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid overeating at one sitting. Take time to eat, breathe slowly and chew food thoroughly.
• Try beans as kidney and chick peas, lentils, fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fruits (not too much), If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber slowly increase your intake as you may initially have increased flatulence, gas. Soaking beans first in water (and freezing them after soaking) and discarding the water you soaked them in, may help to reduce flatulence from this group. A hot tip I picked up in the States: add a few drops of Lugol’s Solution ® or potassium iodide to the water when you soak beans – you will have less gas. It really works! (unless you are allergic to iodine)
• Reduce your caffeine intake as caffeine may promote constipation by causing you to loose fluids. Caffeine is a diuretic and you’d better believe it! You willbe surprised how much better your digestive system works just by cutting back on caffeine.
• Add unprocessed oat bran to hot cereals and yogurt. Eat bran cereals or shredded wheat, foods made with whole grains.
• Eat more foods that lubricate the intestines – beet, okra, kiwi fruit, seaweed spinach, sesame seed & oil, honey, pear, prune, peach, apple, apricot, walnut, pine nut, almond, alfalfa sprouts, carrot, cauliflower
• Eat more foods which promote motions – cabbage, papaya, peas, sesame seeds, coconut, kumara, asparagus, figs, kiwi fruit
• Here are some herbs & foods that soothe the intestines – marshmallow root, flax seeds, fenugreek seeds, psyllium seeds, licorice root, slippery elm bark
• Good bacteria enhancing foods – miso, sauerkraut, yoghurt, kombucha mushroom, kefir, quark
• Decrease intake of saturated (animal) fats (animal and increase essential fatty acids (cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds). A diet igher in fat will be harder on the liver & gallbladder and this can cause constipation.
• It is best to take Omega 3 daily in small amounts which will aid in passing motions and discourage “bad” bugs in your digestive system.
• A top quality probiotic is essential today, we simply like to consume a bit of alcohol, caffeine and have the inevitable sugar here or there. This along with our busy, often hectic and stressed lifestyle will create an imbalance of the bowel flora.
• Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Basic stuff, but often taken for granted.
• Drink more water. Warm lemon water taken before meals stimulates digestion. Try the juice of ½ a lemon in water in the morning before breakfast. Remember to drink plenty of liquids. You need more fluid particularly when you have more fiber for fiber to work effectively.
• Stewed or soaked prunes, 1 to 3 a day, have a slightly laxative effect. Prune tea – 3 prunes in a 250ml cup, add boiling water, leave stand until warm, drink & eat the prunes. Have 1 cup per day.
• Flax meal, 1 heaping tsp. in 8 oz. of apple juice, provides fiber and soothes the digestive tract. Follow with an additional 8 oz. of water. LSA mix is excellent too. Slippery elm bark powder is good, but is a bit pricey lately. We stock this product.
• Colonic hydrotherapy – I have solved very tricky cases of constipation with recommending a course of colonics plus other complementary and alternative methods of healing. There is no question about the huge difference a professional colon therapist can bring to the patient by utilising colon hydrotherapy.
• Liver and bowel detox Come and see us, you will be glad you did. And, you’ll probably loose a fair amount of weight as well.
• We stock several products which can assist you in helping your bowel to move more easily and with regularity.
Next article we focus on your energy levels.