Bald Mountain Retreat

Bowel Health

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"Transit time" is how long it takes for the food you have eaten to be pooped out. According to standard medical textbooks the average American transit time is 72 hours. People protest, "But I poo every day." To which I reply, "Yes, but you could be evacuating something that you ate three days ago." This is a very unhealthy state of affairs. Waste products that should be eliminated are instead absorbed into the body from a sluggish, backed up bowel. Bile acids, secreted by the gallbladder in response to meat eaten, are transformed during their overlong stay in the colon into carcinogenic chemicals. Further, the pressure of an overcrowded intestine has a detrimental effect on the intestine's ability to function, reducing the finger-like villae and so the surface area available to absorb nutrients. Also, this low level constipation can lead to acute constipation in that the bowel's normal response to stretch is lost. Plus, walking around bloated and full of #%&* is generally harmful to well-being.

There are different approaches to remedying this situation. One involves the use of colonic irrigation, a process in which water is used to (repeatedly) fill and wash out the bowel. Colonics certainly do flush out the colon, leaving the person with a healthy empty feeling and a happier bowel. While colonics are an effective intestinal antidote to the standard American diet they have their drawbacks; the main one being that the person may continue on that standard American diet and become dependent on colonic irrigation to restore a semblence of bowel health. Obviously it would be best to adjust your diet so that transit time is greatly reduced, so that everything keeps moving right along without the need for therapeutic intervention.

A diet high in roughage decreases transit time. Eat more vegetables, including beans, whole grains and fruit. Animal products (meat, milk products and eggs) are like clay without any straw in it, hard to work with. Vegetable fiber is the straw that keeps things moving. Increase the ratio of vegetable matter to animal protein. Eat more vegetables and, if you continue to eat animal products, reduce your portions of them; they should become condiments (in a stir-fry, on a burrito...) rather than main courses. (Too much protein is a problem, damaging kidneys, leading to high blood pressure.)

Water is essential. A patient came in and told me he had a problem with constipation, but when he drank 5-6 glasses of water a day his bowels were fine. I laughed, told him to drink the 5-6 glasses of water and dismissed him. Water promotes healthy bowel function no matter which end you take it in.

Cayenne (red) pepper stimulates peristalsis, the muscular contractions of the bowels. It doesn't just "burn" going in and coming out, but also all the way through. It's just that the nerves are different on the way through so we don't feel it, but the bowel responds! Hot pepper is an acquired taste. If you don't have it, you can buy it in capsules and bypass your tastebuds. (Cayenne has tremendous health benefits, especially for the heart and circulation.)

Eating much fruit will loosen your bowels. High doses of vitamin C will do the same. (The optimal, highest oral dose of vitamin C is determined by gradually increasing the dose until the point of "bowel tolerance," the point where the stool becomes loose, and then reducing the dose a little.) Even if Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling's extravagant claims for vitamin C aren't all true (and I'm not saying they're not) the many that are make it a wonderful supplement to include in your daily regime... and it keeps the bowel moving.

Exercise provides physical jarring and visceral massage, both of which promote bowel movement throughout the intestines. The stretching and contraction of yoga along with its inverted positions (e.g., headstand) are all a great aid in maintaining a healthy bowel.

In cases of actual or threatened constipation, actually massaging the descending and sigmoid colons (left and lower left side of the abdomen) are a great aid in stimulating bowel evacuation, as is a squatting position on the toilet; massage the area with your right fist while squatting on the toilet. Stimulating the perineum (the tough area between the anus and the genitals) helps evacuation. It stimulates the stretch receptors in the rectum, just below the surface. The Chinese use an acupuncture needle, but you can use a finger or fingernail. Direct digital manipulation of the anus, as you might do for a constipated baby, is also effective. Most importantly follow that urge. When you've got to go, you've got to go. The new stretch of your rectal walls, the urge to defecate you first feel, if followed will stimulate a "mass movement," a glorious contraction of your whole descending colon. If you resist the urge and wait you lose that terrific movement.

My transit time is 12 hours or less. Empty is a great feeling each morning.

 

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