Are you Living in Constipation nation? Nobody likes to talk about constipation, yet the health of our bowels is pivotal to our overall health status. Anyone who has experienced constipation knows how uncomfortable it is…but could constipation be just the tip of the iceberg? In this post we will look at what the dietary and lifestyle choices that lead to constipation as well as some ways to improve bowel health.
How bad is it?
The numbers of people suffering with constipation are pretty scary. Some estimates are that between 3.5 – 4 million people in the US alone suffer from chronic constipation. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services reports that constipation is one of the most common problems doctors are asked about by their patients. When we don’t have daily, healthy bowel movements we increase our risk of developing a number of much more serious health conditions. Remember that elimination of wastes are necessary and this is the bodies way of constantly detoxifying; see: What happens when you detox?. It’s no wonder our elders placed a high value on daily rituals to ensure healthy bowel movements.
What happens in the digestive process?
- Food follows a path from the mouth, to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and finally the anus.
- The process begins with digestive enzymes released in our saliva when we chew. As the food enters the stomach protein digestion takes place. Proper protein digestion is dependent upon adequate stomach acid and an enzyme called pepsin. Many people have a problem fully breaking down their protein because they have low stomach acid.
- The stomach is where food we eat gets mixed up starts to become liquid, from digestive juice produced by the stomach. The lower part of the stomach mixes these materials by its muscle action. Then the stomach empties this ground up, partially liquefied food slowly into the small intestine.
- Most of the rest of the digestive process occurs in the small intestine. Food continues to be broken down by many enzymes. Both the pancreas and the liver assist in this process. The pancreas produces a juice that contains many enzymes used to break down the carbohydrate, fat, and protein in food. Other enzymes involved in digestion come from glands in the wall of the intestine. The liver produces bile (which is also stored in the gallbladder between digestions). Bile is used to digest fats in our diet.
- The nutrients (vitamins and minerals) from properly digested foods than are allowed to pass into the bloodstream to be used elsewhere in the body. This is how the body gets vital life giving vitamins and minerals needed to sustain life. What’s left is fiber and some cells that shed from the mucosa during this process.
- What remains is now in less liquid form and more solid in state. This product moves to the large intestine and finally the colon.
- If too much water is extracted from the stool as it passes through the colon, it can become hard and difficult to pass leaving you constipated.
~There are other reasons for constipation as well, such as lack of digestive enzymes to help break down food and lack of friendly flora. Various pathogens may be present as well that impact bowel regularity. Depending upon how fast or slow your individual transit time is as well as what you ate this food may sit in the large intestine and colon for anywhere from a day or more.
You can watch a video of this process here: http://youtu.be/b20VRR9C37Q
Three steps to better bowel health
I. Eliminate the food culprits that create the problem
- White flour products
- Processed foods
- Dairy products (except fermented dairy like yogurt & kefir)
- Highly advisable to be tested for hidden food intolerance’s
II. Include bowel friendly foods in your diet
- Water – drink at least 50 oz a day of pure, filtered water and aim for half your body weight in oz. of water per day
- Eat lots of fiber! Plant fiber is really key.
- Raw and lightly cooked vegetables; Cooked greens: spinach, kale, and chard Cooked vegetables: artichoke hearts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and green beans
- Fruits with the skins on: pears, peaches, prunes
- Pineapple and papaya also aid in digestion
- Add flax seeds, chia seeds, psyllium husks to salads and smoothies
- Beans and legumes: white cannellini, pinto beans, black and red beans, lentils
- Oats (GF)
II. Change your lifestyle habits
- Make time for proper bowel movements every day
- Reduce obligations that cause you to rush your bathroom habits and cause stress
- Exercise the abdomen by walking. Try just standing with feet shoulder width apart and gently swing your arms right to left allowing them to lightly hit your abdomen. Or do some gentle yoga poses such as the seated twist or child pose.
- Keep your lymph flowing by using a re bounder or bouncing or other movement to help sweep away toxins.
Do you have bowel issues? I can help you unravel your digestion and bowel problems and so you can reclaim your health through my Healing from Within Program
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