Sensitive Topic: Bowel Health

Bowel health is a topic that many people don’t like to discuss in public, for obvious reasons, LOL! I don’t suggest making your digestive system a daily topic of conversation with your friends… but it is necessary to study and discuss the topic of bowels if you really want to understand nutrition. Especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, a bloated stomach, and/or gas.

To start out, this blog post is going to discuss WHY it is important to focus on bowel health. Many people don’t consider this topic until they are facing a problem that is causing them discomfort. But, in order to gain optimal health you should understand how food affects your bowel movements and how those bowel movements affect your overall health.

Many people think of food being digested in the stomach, but actually most of the food digestion occurs in the intestines. When food enters the small intestine it is broken down and the body works to absorb the nutrients from the food, and then move the waste out of the body.

Fiber (from whole foods) is essential for a properly balanced digestive system, if you don’t have enough fiber then your body will have a harder time getting rid of the waste. When the waste sits in your intestines for too long it can become toxic and cause your body to be sick. Eating higher amounts of fiber will keep the product moving along until it is excreted.

When you are not eating enough fiber, the risk of colon diseases increases. Many doctors attribute diet as a major factor in diseases such as hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, polyps and even colon cancer.

The reality is that there are many people who are facing some sort of digestive discomfort, and many times an eating plan consisting of whole, natural foods can provide relief. The Standard American Diet is low in fiber and nutrition, and many people are experiencing poor bowel health as a result.

A few years ago, I was one of those people. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (you can read my story here), and it was common for me to have diarrhea on a daily basis. Sometimes I even felt uncomfortable leaving the house because I knew that I needed to have a bathroom in close proximity.

My bowel troubles led me to study more about nutrition, and now that I am eating whole foods I have found major relief from those symptoms. I only have flare-ups when I deviate from my normal eating habits.

If you are experiencing bowel discomfort, here are a few steps that you can take. As you provide your body with healthy, nutritious foods it will be able to function properly– so it is necessary to focus on the food/substances that you are putting into your body:

1. Increase your fiber intake. Fiber can help with both constipation and diarrhea, it will help to regulate the stools and keep the product moving through the intestines at the correct speed. Fiber can soak up water to help the stools be the correct consistency, and it also adds bulk to keep everything moving along.

If you are constipated, the fiber will help to soften things up by absorbing water. The bulk will give the stool a good shape so that the colon walls can contract to move everything along.

If you are experiencing diarrhea, many times it caused by too much water in the stools. Adding fiber to your diet will help to slow down the movement, because the bulk will be able to absorb the water to prevent everything from being flushed out too quickly.

Healthy sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

2. Lower the amounts of processed foods and chemicals that you are eating.
Refined sugars, white flour, chemicals and other unhealthy ingredients that are found in many processed foods will cause your digestive system to have trouble functioning like it should. Limiting (or completely eliminating) junk food from your eating habits can help your bowels function as they are designed to work.

3. Drink plenty of water. I know, we hear this tip everywhere that we go… but it is very important for good health! Having enough water in your body helps the digestion process to function as it should. If you don’t drink enough water, it is common to experience a slow-down of the bowels.

I like to start my day out by drinking 1-2 glasses of water first thing in the morning. I notice a big difference in the way my digestive system functions through the day when I drink the water early in the day.

4. Move! A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to poor functioning bowels. Make sure that you give you body the chance to move during the day. If you don’t want a structured exercise schedule, try going for a walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or run around and play with your kids for 20 minutes.

5. Lower your stress levels. It may seem funny that stress can affect your bowel health, but it is true that the digestive system is affected when the body is under higher levels of stress. Some people may experience the stress as heartburn or diarrhea, it manifests itself in different ways for different people.

As you tune into your body’s functions, you still start to notice how the stress affects your body. For example, I am more likely to experience bowel discomfort when I am stressed and eating unhealthy food at the same time… but, if I am not as stressed, sometimes the food does not make me as sick.

6. Ground flax. If you are following these steps and still need a little extra boost to keep things moving try using some ground flax seed in your foods, it’s nature’s Metamucil, LOL! 😉 You can add ground flax into many foods, try stirring it into your oatmeal, added a scoop to a smoothie, or baking some into your favorite recipe. I love ground flax in my favorite no-bake cookie recipe, it’s a great way to eat chocolate and get the ground flax goodness at the same time!

Be sure that you are using ground flax and not whole flax seeds, because the body has a harder time digesting whole flax seeds. If you grind them before consuming them, your body will be able to better utilize the fiber.

So, what about the over-the-counter fiber supplements that you can buy at the drugstore?

Our world of instant gratification demands a remedy in pill-form for many of the ailments that people experience, and bowel problems are one of those issues.

You can buy the medications or processed fiber supplements to artificially get your digestive system working the way that it “should” be working, but the problem is that these remedies are not fixing the root of the problem… instead they are treating a symptom. If you are experiencing discomfort, there is probably a reason and your body is trying to tell you that something is going on. And if you want a long-term solution then you need to work on fixing the core problem instead temporarily treating the symptoms.

I completely understand this phenomenon. When I was experiencing daily boughts of diarrhea I made sure that I always had anti-diarrhea medications on hand, because it could provide me temporary relief. I kept the medication in my coat pocket, purse, computer bag, makeup bag, etc. so that I always had it available just in case I needed it. I also tried prescription strength medication, but soon realized that the medication was not fixing my real problems.

When I began focusing on a healthier lifestyle, I was able to get the bowl problems under control and stop taking the medications. It is amazing to see how drastically my life has improved, by simply being more conscious about the food choices that I am making.

Instead of automatically defaulting to the medications, try implementing these healthy changes into your lifestyle before looking at unnatural treatments. Understand that it many take a little while for your body to adjust to the changes and your body might experience some “cleansing reactions” as it is getting rid of the excess waste in your body. My next blog post will be about cleansing reactions because it ties in with this topic so well.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Related posts:

  1. Why Fiber is a Necessary Part of a Healthy Diet
  2. The Best Source of Dietary Fiber
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.