In the End…It’s All about Colon Health
By Marcia Zimmerman, CN, June, 2010
During a normal lifetime, 60 tons of food passes through the gastrointestinal tract – a tube that measures about 30 feet in length from mouth to anus. In previous Zimmerman Files, we have focused on digestion and the interaction between the G.I. tract and the immune, endocrine and nervous systems. Now we are at the ending chapter of the story.
Americans are obsessed with bowel regularity. According to the Harvard Health Letter, constipation is responsible for 2.5 million visits to doctors and accounts for $400 million spent on laxatives each year.1
It is one of the three commonest complaints I hear during my consumer seminars. If you are plagued with this problem, read on. . .
Bowel habits vary greatly between individuals and they can change throughout one’s lifetime. What you eat and drink has a great effect on your bowel. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains provide valuable fiber that helps the bowel function normally. On the other hand, excess intake of red meat, fatty and sugary foods is irritating to the bowel.
The important thing to note is your pattern, the consistency of stools, and ease of evacuation. Note changes in what’s normal for you. If changes do occur, such as during travel or stressful periods, try a bedtime cocktail of 1 tablespoon organic acacia soluble fiber by itself or in combination with inulin and flax meal. Effervescent vitamin C, in any of several flavors, adds zest and is a pleasant way to take this essential vitamin.
If your bowl habits have changed dramatically, or if you experience frequent pain, gas and bloating in your lower abdomen, it’s time to check in with a health care practitioner. You may be one of a growing number of people who are gluten intolerant. Glutens are the proteins found in some favorite foods such as bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and anything made from wheat. Common names for wheat are durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, malt, couscous, bulgur, and triticale.2 Wheat is a component in soy sauce and other condiments, requiring careful label reading if you are intolerant to it. In addition to wheat, glutens are also found in barley, rye and sometimes oat.
Rice, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, and other grains contain small amounts of gluten proteins that are generally not as irritating as those in the wheat family. Yet they can bother some sensitive individuals by creating and sustaining an inflammatory response. Consequently, they may be initially eliminated in gluten-free diets until it is determined that they are not contributing to the problem.3 Fortunately, there are a wide variety of gluten-free foods available today. You can also benefit from a gluten digest enzyme preparation for times when you aren’t sure if gluten is present. For a few gluten intolerant people, an occasional encounter with a gluten-containing food will not cause significant upset.
The Toxic Bowel
Hippocrates recognized the deleterious effects of a toxic bowel in 400 B.C. Yet, it wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the concept of “intestinal dysbiosis” was recognized. This term refers to the balance between the “friendly” and “unfriendly” bacteria that normally reside in the colon.
Some 500 to 1,000 kinds of microorganisms reside in the large intestine, outnumbering all the cells in your body by as much as a factor of ten.4 This living “organ” or “gut biomass” plays a vital role in colon health and by extension – that of the entire body. A recent research project headed by a team of doctors at Stanford University Medical School, deciphered the genetic makeup of gut microorganisms. The doctors found these bacteria contain genes that are involved in cholesterol production, activating immunity, regulating energy, and repairing cell damage.5 A shift in the makeup of the gut biomass has a profound effect on health.
Adding a good prebiotic containing live beneficial bacteria such as several species of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and Streptococcus thermophilus, can help rebalance gut biomass. These friendly bacteria thrive when a prebiotic such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) is added. By preventing the overgrowth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, probiotics can modulate disease processes that may be going on in your body, and also help prevent inflammation.6,7,8
Frishman, R.G.; et al; “The Sensitive Gut” A special report form the Harvard Health Letter 1999.
2 Helms, S.; “Celiac Disease and Gluten-Associated Diseases” Altern Med Rev 2005;10:172-192.
4 Travis, J; “Gut Check: The Bacteria in Your Intestines are Welcome Guests” Science News Online May 31, 2003; 163 (22).
5 Gill, Steven; et al; “Metagenomic Analysis of the Human Distal Gut Microbiome” Science 2006;312:1355-1359.
6 Giles, C.K.; et al; “Probiotics in Health Maintenance and Disease Prevention” Altern Med Rev 2003;8:143-155.
7 Almeghaiseeb, E.S.; “Probiotics: An Overview and their Role in Inflammatory Bowel Disease” Saudi J Gastroenterol 2007;13:150-52.
8 Penner, RM; “Probiotics in the Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease” Medscpe Gen Med 2005:7(3) Medscape.
Healthy Tips for Colon Health
Antibiotics. Literally translated, Antibiotic means "opposed to bacteria". It should come as no surprise that antibiotics target the bad bacteria as well as the good bacteria. So, it's a good idea when taking antibiotics, to add a probiotic supplement to your daily supplement regimen or eat yogurt with live bacterial cultures, but be careful of the brands loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
Fiber. Most forms of fiber provide no direct nutritional value, but fiber does play a vital role in digestion and nutrient absorption. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 - 35 grams of dietary fiber daily. You can get your recommended daily allowance of fiber from unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Enzymes. Enzymes are crucial in the breakdown of food and nutrient absorption. Raw foods are rich in digestive enzymes and regular consumption can help support the digestive process. Some of the most enzyme-rich raw foods include avocado, banana, carrots, dates, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, raw honey and sprouts. If your diet consists primarily of cooked, processed and fast foods, consider adding more raw, enzyme-rich foods or consider an enzyme supplement.
Caution: Do not use pliable plastic to microwave, cover or store your food and water. Bisphenyl A is an environmental toxin that makes plastic pliable. If you do drink water from plastic bottles, don’t reuse them. Bisphenyl A can leech into and contaminate your food and beverages.