It’s rare that we ever talk about the health of our ‘bum’ openly or shock, horror in printed material. But in my practice I talk about the state of our digestive system and bowel motions all day long! Why? Because a properly functioning digestive tract is the foundation for good health. It’s essential we have healthy bowel motions daily, not once a fortnight or once a week but every day - but I’ve jumped ahead of myself - I’ll come back to this point later.
Maria Hunt confides ...
So here is the mental checklist:
How many of you have never had constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, smelly gas, bloating, burping, belching, itchy anus, athlete’s foot, acne, candida, food particles in your stools? Lucky you, if you have never experienced these imbalances!
Now how many of you have ever had constipation, diarrhea, bad breath, smelly gas, bloating, burping, belching, itchy anus, athlete’s foot, acne, candida, food particles in your stools?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then these can be just a few signs of an unhappy bum and digestive tract!
To me it’s like an ‘oil light’ flashing on the dashboard of the car, warning us that something is out of kilter. It’s common to ignore the oil light flashing and try to pretend that nothing’s wrong when our insides are feeling ‘blah’ and run down … we can continue with this imbalance for a period of time but eventually it catches will catch up with you.
Recent research suggests as adults we have approximately 2kg of bacteria in our gut and bowel wall. Out of the 2kg we can have up to 85% beneficial bacteria (good guys) and 15% pathogenic bacteria (bad guys).
Now we can happily continue with this balance of bacteria but when we experience stress, poor diet or malabsorption, we are taking the pill, antibiotics (even though there is a time and place for antibiotics), we are surrounded by environmental chemical and pollutants, or our systems have virus’ and parasites, this may cause a gut imbalance, which we then call a ‘dysbiosis’. And why is a ‘dysbiosis’ so important?
According to Dr Michael Gershon, 95% of serotonin, neurotransmitters and happy hormones predominate in the gut (not in the brain as is commonly thought), and 85% of our immune system is manufactured in the lining of the gut wall.
So if we have a compromised gut we may be more prone to immune imbalances such as an increase in colds, flu, allergies, autoimmune disorders, skin rashes, bacterial infections and a slower ability to heal. Or we may experience serotonin and happy hormone imbalances, which result in an inability to handle stress, feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
It’s imperative that we look after our digestive tract and maintain it with good bacteria throughout our lives.
Even if we are on the perfect diet with the best vitamins and minerals we can still be nutrient and mineral deficient if our digestive system isn’t keeping up, as we may not be absorbing our foods effectively or efficiently. For example, many of us are unable to break down our foods and therefore may only be absorbing 20% of whatever we consume. And taking higher dosages of supplements isn’t always the answer – correcting the gut and digestion is a better place to start, and here’s how.
The basic design of our body is very simple: we put food in our body, nutrients are absorbed, and what our body doesn’t want exits the body (hopefully!).
As Norman Walker Ph. D has indicated, a normal colon weighs approximately 2kg, but it's not uncommon for some people to carry as much as 4-6 kg of impacted faecal matter (toxic waste) in the colon - that’s some overload on the body!
Our intestinal tract is designed to eliminate toxins and waste from our system, but many of us have a slow-functioning colon which can be due to stress, poor diet, too many laxatives, lack of physical exercise, medications and an over-supply of bad bacteria which can lead to a poisonous garbage site of toxic waste.
So How Do You Know If You Have A Healthy Digestive Tract – Or Not?
If you are passing ‘pebbles or short pieces’ when you have a bowel motion it can be a sign that you are dehydrated, you may lack digestive enzymes in your digestive tract, or you may have an imbalance in your liver.
If you are frequently passing ‘loose and watery’ bowel motions it is likely you have diarrhoea from a bacterial or viral infection in your digestive tract which means you will also be losing valuable nutrients.
If you are having a bowel movement only 1 to 3 times a week that is hard and solid it is likely you have constipation.
If your bowel motions are dark, it could be a sign of blood in your digestive system. If your stools are pale, yellow or grey, it could be a sign that you have problems with your gall bladder or liver. There are also certain foods that will change the colour of your stool – beetroot and green smoothies are examples.
Sometimes our bowel motions can also be greasy, and will leave a film in the toilet bowl. This could be a sign that you have an inability to absorb nutrients from your food, and/or you have a pancreas imbalance.
If you notice food particles present in your stool this can be a sign that you are not absorbing your food properly and so malabsorption.
A healthy bowel motion will not be too offensive. However, if you have foul-smelling stools, it could be because of a build-up of toxins along your digestive tract, which is likely to be from a poor diet or an overgrowth of pathogenic ‘bad’ bacteria.
The pièce de résistance (or perfect poo) is a ‘log’ with a smiley end! It will have the shape of a banana, it will be light to medium-brown in colour with a small diameter, and it will be formed and together with minimal smell. And this is what you should deliver to your toilet bowl approximately 1–3 times per day!
And how good does that feel … to fully eliminate and pass two good ‘logs’ every day? I bet you will never go to the loo again without first checking out the toilet bowl!
But how do we get to have two good ‘logs’ (at least) a day? Apart from having a healthy diet, which is free of gluten, dairy, casein, and sugar wherever possible - another essential ingredient to having healthy digestion, is to balance the ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive tract.
One powerful way of achieving digestive balance is to use fermented probiotic foods. The purpose of fermenting foods is that it allows food to be predigested (broken down) by naturally occurring good bacteria.
So when we eat these powder or liquid-fermented probiotic-rich foods, our body doesn’t have to work too hard to break them down. They are just readily available to be absorbed and converted into amino acids.
These probiotic rich foods also work to build up our good bacteria balance that may have been killed off by antibiotics, disease or poor diet. Further, they allow us to absorb powerful cell and tissue-repairing amino acids, which help carry oxygen throughout the body.
Fermented foods have the potential to increase the absorption of our foods by up to 80%, helping to break down the foods, extract the vitamins and minerals, kill off any bad bacteria, re-colonising the gut and bowel with good bacteria. Fermented foods are like the ‘scrubber and cleaner’ of the digestive tract.
The fact is, we all need good bacteria in our diet consistently to achieve proper digestive balance. And now more than ever, we need to work at maintaining our health every day to avoid illness.
Ultimately, when you have a healthy digestive tract, you really feel good, you look great, and you have more motivation and energy to live life!