The CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION of Bowel Function
…or How to Engross Guests at Your Next Dinner Party
Forget popular diagnostic methods, from CAT scans to psychics with 0800 numbers. If you really want to know the state of your digestive system, adopt a CSI detective focus and study your fecal remains (and some people think nutrition is dull!).
Health is not just about what you eat. It is even more determined by how well you break down, absorb and metabolise what you eat. All this is evident by studying what emerges at the conclusion of the process. Like any damaged item found on a factory production line, the nature of the problem gives clues as to what went wrong, where and why. Just getting rid of the item is not the intelligent response, investigating it is.
So what constitutes a healthy bowel motion? There needs to be regular elimination at least once per day, no more than three times per day, and at similar times of the day (always including the morning). Evacuation should be thorough (with little or no remains on the toilet paper used), easy and comfortable, speedy but not too urgent. The smell should be mild or slightly sweet, and the colour a golden to medium brown. The stool should be comparable to a long banana in shape, diameter and length – nothing shriveled, compacted, loose, or in chunks or pellets. There should be a smooth texture that is similar to (wait for it) creamy peanut butter, without chunks of undigested food, or strands of mucous. The water in the toilet bowl should not be discoloured or oily, and the stool should flush easily. If all these factors are not true of your ‘final evidence’ then attention should be on why and how improvements can be implemented.
Some people have what appears to be regular elimination, such as a bowel motion each morning, but this can still be classified as constipation. The true test of bowel efficiency is related to all the characteristics above, plus what is referred to as ‘transit time’. This is the time it takes from the intake of food to the discharge of its remains. Transit time should not be less than 18 hours or longer than 24. The reality for many people though, is a sluggish 3 days or more.
One way to test this is to take 4 charcoal tablets after a substantial meal. The tablets will stain the resulting fecal matter black so you will be able to observe the exit time. Another option is to eat lots of beetroot at one sitting and then check for red results. Charcoal tablets though are good to have in your medicine cabinet. They are a natural antidote to many poisons and can be swiftly palliative for occasional gas and bloating. When people develop chronic loose bowel function, often sluggish transit time and other features of constipation preceded this. The treatment is then centered on rectifying the underlying condition, such as by increasing soluble fibre, water and key minerals.
The quality and quantity of fuel you have for every bodily function and every building material (from hormones and brain messages to blood, skin and bone) depends on the efficiency of your entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Here’s how to service each aspect of your digestive engine for top performance.
PHASE #1: Cephalic. This relates to the head. As soon as you see, smell or think about food then digestive enzymes, juices, and hormones prepare for the task. Taking time to relax before eating is not only pleasant, it is essential for mustering critical resources. Sit upright and loosen any tight clothing. Eat consciously and deliberately. Intention powerfully influences brain/body priorities and deployments. If food choices can be compulsive or unwise then: 1) Decide what you will eat, and what portion size, before entering the kitchen, café or store. 2) Only eat food from a plate. 3) Only eat seated at a table (not desk).
Set the table attractively. Have no distractions (eg TV) except for conversation or soothing music (parents with small children will need to set an example with little hope of obvious effect for some years – but the imprint of civilised food culture does eventually imbue the young!).
PHASE #2: Mouth. Many digestive complaints can be solved by sufficiently chewing each mouthful. Put down your fork or food after each bite. Food that is wholesomely flavourful offers more satisfaction per mouthful; linger and savour it. Fast foods rely on stimulants such as fat + salt and/or sugar which – without other balancing subtleties such as seasonings – induce compulsive intake. People eat more to try and find the satisfaction that eludes them. Have 2 hour breaks between eating or drinking (even water) so saliva can re-mineralise teeth (don’t brush teeth for 30 minutes after food). There is less saliva at night so rarely have sweet foods/drinks after dinner. Wash hands before touching food; floss and brush teeth daily to help prohibit entry to gut-inflaming pathogens (viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal such as yeast).
PHASE #3: Stomach. Stimulate adequate hydrochloric acid (HCL) by drinking 2 teaspoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in glass of water 10-30 minutes before eating 1 main meal daily. HCL kills pathogens, enables minerals and B vitamins to be absorbed – micronutrients essential for all aspects of GI function. If HCL is excessive than have 1 tsp Mint Chlorofresh in 1 glass water 2 x daily (highly alkaline). For mouth, GI and blood pH, limit high acids: coffee, sugar, wine, soft drinks, juice, high doses vitamin C. For inflamed digestion have 1 tsp slippery elm daily mixed with food or drink; follow with 1 cup water/herb tea.
PHASE #4: Small Intestine, Pancreas, Liver and Gall Bladder. The now soupy food leaves the stomach for the small intestine: the main area for the absorption of nutrients. The pancreas (impaired by excess Alcohol, Fats and Sugars) releases enzymes and alkaline juices, and the Liver (impaired by excess alcohol, fat, Medications, viruses, artificial additives – from food, plastics, cleaning agents, cosmetics etc) signals the gall bladder to release bile for the breakdown of fats and to eliminate its debris (toxins from each of your 100 trillion cells, hormonal wastes, heavy metals, excess cholesterol). But if there is no soluble fibre in the meal all this rubbish gets reabsorbed and stored – which impairs liver function. Enzymes gradually alter the yellow-green of the bile fluid, which transforms the mass from green to brown.
PHASE #5: Large Intestine (Bowel/Colon). If soluble fibre was present then liver debris passes through for elimination. Soluble fibre also feeds good bacteria to thwart pathogens; produces vitamins; and creates fatty acids the liver transforms into HDL for healthy arteries. Insoluble fibre or roughage scours the bowel wall of cancer-prone cells, ensures good bulk and transit time. Promptly obey the urge to defecate or bowel laziness can develop. When traveling or after antibiotics, take a probiotic (eg acidophilus) for 1 month.
More on the specific ingredients and practices that assist each of the 5 phases of the conveyor belt; enjoy:
a) Sufficient good quality fluid to create the 9 litres of digestive juices needed daily. 6-8 glasses of water, herb tea or broth each day. Minimise diuretic beverages, which increase urination and the loss of minerals (coffee, black leaf tea, highly sweetened drinks, chocolate drinks, energy and soft drinks, alcohol). Fruits, vegetables and other top quality carbohydrates also supply water.
b) Both soluble and insoluble fibre. Top soluble sources: seaweed, prunes, mango, linseed, rice bran, oat bran, legumes, cooked apple, mushrooms and psyllium. Particularly helpful to liver and bowel is my Linseed Cereal (see The Shape Diet) 5 x weekly. Insoluble sources: wholegrains, most fruits and vegetables – have 5+ servings of 5 colours daily (legumes, nuts and seeds have both types of fibre).
c) Muscle and nerve governing micronutrients. The GI tract is governed by nerves and muscles, which require minerals (especially Magnesium, Potassium, sodium, Calcium) and vitamins (especially Bs) to function. Top suppliers of most minerals: seaweed, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, dried fruit. Good vitamin B sources: wholegrains, savoury/brewers yeast (see Dynamite recipe in Meal Planning), nuts and seeds.
d) Effective stress management. All other good efforts can be undone by excessive stress response. Use daily exercise, deep breathing, inspirational activities (music, books, taped lectures), communion with friends, solitary contemplation, and time in nature, first to recognise and then to sustain balance.
e) Regular rhythms of waking, eating, drinking, relaxing, exercising, sleeping, and exposure to natural light. The body is governed by a number of internal clocks. Repeated behavioural rhythms in turn stimulate a dependable production and release of supportive hormones and digestive resources.
If these strategies are employed and problems remain, check for undiagnosed systemic conditions. Problems could be due to food and chemical intolerances (see this office for an allergy test); pathogenic invaders or the long-term consequences of their infections; or autoimmune disorders such as coeliac disease. Two stool characteristics that might indicate cancer: spots of blood (often due to hemorrhoids or straining; if this persists longer than 2 weeks, investigate); or sudden and persistent change in stool shape (such as much thinner than usual, which may indicate a growth in the bowel). See your doctor immediately for tests.
|Possible Causes/Links with Conditions & Medications
Please note that supplements such as B vitamins can temporarily and harmlessly colour the stool, as can a high intake of certain foods such as beetroot.
|Grey or pale clay colour
|Low production of bile from liver, or bile duct obstruction.Kaopectate and other anti-diarrhea drugs.
|Food moving too quickly through large intestine, such as from diarrhea, sobile does not break down.
|Bleeding in upper intestinal tract such as stomach. Parasites such as worms.Iron supplements, some antacids.
|Bright red colour
|Bleeding in lower intestinal tract such as large intestine or fromhemorrhoids.
|Excess mucous from bacterial, fungal or yeast overgrowth.
|Pancreatic insufficiency. If also pale or yellow and foul smelling thencheck for coeliac disease.
|Sticky like clay & difficultto flush
|High fat content due to poor absorption. Check liver and pancreaticfunction, excess acidity. If sinks heavily: undigested nutrients.
|Loose and/or foul smelling,or fast transit time
|Bacterial, fungal, yeast or parasitic overgrowth. Check stress, probiotic,and mineral (especially calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium) levels.
|Hard, dry, chunky, pelletshape, rough texture,
incomplete evacuation, slow
|Constipation. Check fluid, soluble and insoluble fibre intake, exercise,tension levels, sleep.
Worsened by laxative dependency.
|IBS or alternating loose andconstipated features (see
|Leaky gut. Check as for loose and constipated, plus allergies, autoimmunedisorders, and other inflammatory causes.
|If accompanied by all other positive characteristics then this may indicategood bowel fatty acid production. If difficult to flush or smelly: poor fat
absorption (see ‘greasy’; ‘sticky’) or excess gas production.