To Your Health Tuesday: Keeping Your Colon Clean

It’s something we may not think about often, and something we talk out loud about even less.  If you have small children (like I do), you may talk about it on occasion.  But how often do you think about your own bowel movements?  No really, think about it.  How often do you have a bowel movement?  How much you use the bathroom is a pretty good indication of your health overall.

Did you know you should have at least one bowel movement every day?  Even two to three per day can be normal and even healthy.  Did you know that going several days between bowel movements can be a sign of poor health?

We’ve talked about gut health and the importance of probiotics, soaking your grains, and eating cultured foods like yogurt and buttermilk.  If you have eaten the standard American diet for any period of time, you most likely have some work to do on replenishing your good gut bacteria as well as getting some junk out.

You are also probably familiar with all of the signs of poor gut health: frequent indigestion, gas, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea.  These symptoms are not normal and over the counter and prescription medications will not fix the problem!  Only a diet overhaul and getting your gut in check can help you begin to experience colon health.

If you are not having a bowel movement every day, you probably have impacted fecal matter in your colon!

Imagine this: you continuously throw trash down a garbage chute.  The chute becomes clogged at the end and the garbage can no longer come out.  So what happens to the trash that you continue to put down the chute?  It just accumulates in the chute, backing up and getting more rotten as time progresses.  From time to time, a small piece of trash may slip out, but by the time it does, it has been sitting in that chute for a couple of days and has become terribly rotten.

I know this is a really gross analogy, but it is very similar to the way our colons operate.  If you are not having bowel movements every day, your feces is becoming stopped up in your colon, and by the time it makes it out, it has become pretty rotten.

An Internet search will produce a myriad of results about what a healthy bowel movement should look like, but there are a few consistencies to look for when it comes to, well, consistency.  It should not be hard and dry, nor should it be loose and liquid.  You should not have to strain to have a bowel movement.  You should not have pain and cramping during a bowel movement.  Excessively odorous bowel movements are a sign that your feces is not making it through the colon quickly enough.  Other signs of poor colon health and impacted waste may include frequent and foul-smelling gas and bad breath.

So what causes waste to become impacted?  The standard American diet typically includes white bread and pasta, both of which are guilty of sticking to the colon walls and slowing down proper digestion/movement.  Lack of fiber in the diet is also a culprit.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, and, barring the presence of previous poor gut health, someone eating a diet rich in these foods should experience good colon health.  Adequate water/liquid consumption is also necessary for proper movement and health in the digestive tract.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of poor gut health or are not having frequent enough bowel movements, it is time time to begin taking steps to improve digestion.  Cut out white bread, rice and pasta as well as sugar and pasteurized dairy (which we never meant to consume anyways!); learn about soaking your grains and begin getting probiotics into your diet through kombucha, yogurt and other fermented/cultured foods.

Above all else, be aware of your bowel habits, keeping track on a calendar if you have to.  If you aren’t paying attention to this very important bodily function, you won’t know whether or not you may have a problem!

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