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Friday, December 26, 2008

Is Your Colon Making You Sick ?

[Written by David Dressler and Barrie Carlsen]

The Function of the Colon
The colon, or large intestine, is the longest portion of the digestive tract (about five feet in length in the adult), arranged in loops inside the abdomen. The colon has two main functions :

* To absorb fluids and various unassimilated food substances,

* To move solid wastes onward to final elimination from the body.

Just as in household plumbing, the flow through the colon, our 'internal plumbing', should be unrestricted from one end to the other, or problems resulting in disease can occur.

When wastes build up in the colon, toxins are released into the body and absorbed, gradually making the person sick. These wastes must be eliminated. If one never flushed the toilet, you can imagine the results. In fact, it is exactly because of modern hygiene-regular washing, underground sewage systems, etc.-that there has been a mass reduction in certain diseases during the last hundred years. Why should it be any different with the sewage system closer to home-in our own bodies? Good colon hygiene means good health too.

How do we know if our colon is eliminating properly ? Many people believe that one bowel movement a day-or even one per week-is adequate. For many, constipation is an accepted way of life. But this is not a healthy condition. If your toilet were full, you would flush it right away, not once a day or once a week. Passing a firm, painless stool two to three times a day, is the natural and healthy way.

Even if one eliminates regularly two or three times a day, one can still have a toxic colon. Waste matter can accumulate in the angled or flexed regions of the colon, just as sludge accumulates in the J-shaped joint of the pipe below the sink drain. Accumulated waste matter in colon flexures continuously release poisons back into the body. Another way the colon becomes toxic is from poor choice of foods. Even though these foods may be moving smoothly through the colon and eliminated regularly and are not forming 'sludge' in colon flexures, certain foods or additives may be toxic to the body, releasing those toxins into the colon where they are absorbed instead of eliminated. Rather than nourishing the cells, muscles, nerves and glands in the body, they are slowly being poisoned. Disease is the inevitable outcome.

With our modern lifestyle, it is not uncommon for an adult to accumulate 10-20 pounds of old fecal matter and up to 65 pounds has been reported ! Compare the picture of a normal digestive system to one with several commonly known bowel and colon diseases.

The second task of the colon is the absorption of liquids and essential nutrients. Even if the colon is eliminating regularly and no "sludge" is building up in its coils, there can be poor absorption of nutrients. If we eat processed, fried, over-cooked or devitalized foods or excessive sugar and salt, the body will be deprived of essential nutrients. These toxic 'non-foods' starve the body instead of sustaining it. Again, the outcome of sustained nutritional deficiency is illness.

Good health begins in the colon
The statement, 'you are what you eat' is only partly true. You are what you assimilate. You can eat all the best food and finest vitamins and supplements, but if your colon is not assimilating them, you are literally flushing them-and your money-down the toilet! If what you eat is nutritious and assimilated, you will be healthy. If what you eat is nutritionally deficient and poorly assimilated, you will not be healthy.

Symptoms of a Toxic Colon
Do you presently have any of the following ?

- Bad breathe;
- Body odour;
- Brittle hair, ot nails;
- Circles under your eyes;
- Eczema;
- Cold hands, or feet;
- Thyroid problems;
- Gas;
- Digestive problems;
- Abdominal pain;
- Ulcers;
- Constipation, or diarrhea;
- Obesity;
- Pot-belly;
- Severe weight loss;
- Menstrual irregularities;
- Prostate problems;
- 'Brain fog';
- Poor memory;
- Depression;
- Low energy;
- Food cravings;
- Insomnia;
- Headaches;
- High, or low blood pressure;
- Neck-shoulder pain;
- Low back pain;
- Migrating aches and pains;
- Varicose veins;

If you have some of these symptoms, you may have a toxic colon and you should seek diagnosis by a health professional.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Basser states : "Every physician should realize that the intestinal toxemias (poisons) are the most important primary and contributing causes of many disorders and diseases of the human body."

In his book Colon Health, The Key to a Vibrant Life, Normal Walker, D.Sc., Ph.D. writes : "Few of us realize that failure to effectively eliminate waste products from the body causes so much fermentation and putrefaction (rotting of waste matter) in the colon that the neglected accumulation of waste can, and frequently does, result in a lingering demise! Infirmity and sickness are the result of allowing the intestines to remain loaded with waste matter."

Colon toxicity can lead to : adhesions, colitis and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, liver disease, pancreatic disorders, allergies and immune system dysfunctions. Without going into detail on each of these conditions, it is enough to say they are all painful, sometimes severely disabling, and at times actually life-threatening (as in diverticulitis, when a festering sac of feces in the colon balloons, ruptures and spills poisons into the abdominal cavity). When advanced, these conditions often require surgical intervention, which is not always successful. It is important to note that these unfortunate consequences can be prevented or minimized by maintaining a healthy colon.

Maintaining a Healthy Colon
Before knowing how to keep the colon healthy, it is necessary to understand what makes the colon toxic or unhealthy. Major causes of colon toxicity are :

* Lack of fibre in the diet
* Lack of lactic bateria
* Fried, processed, over-cooked, devitalized starches, refined sugar,
excessive salt and excess saturated fat in the diet
* Chronic anxiety (stress)

Dietary Fibre
The perspective on dietary fibre expressed in the following sections is that of the American Dietetic Association. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (1997, vol. 97, pp. 1157-1159), while not considered an essential nutrient, adequate daily consumption of dietary fibre is essential to long-term good health. Dietary fibre has demonstrated benefits for health maintenance, disease prevention and as a component of nutrition therapy.

What is Dietary Fibre ?
Dietary fibre is primarily storage cell and cell wall polysaccharides (complex sugars) of plants that cannot be digested by the non-microbial enzymes of the human digestive tract. Fibre consists of a variety of substances, most of which are complex carbohydrates. These substances can be divided into two general categories: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. This distinction is important because the two types of fibre have different effects on the human digestive system.

Soluble Fibre
Soluble fibre is that part of the total fibre that is suspended in water during laboratory analysis. Soluble fibre can represent 15%-50% of the total fibre, depending on the method of analysis being employed. About 25%-33% of the dietary fibre present in typical mixed-food diets is water-soluble. Soluble fibres form a gel-like consistency in water and include gums, mucilages, some pectins and some hemicelluloses. Foods that contain substantial portions of soluble fibre include beans, corn, oats, barley, peas, lentils, dates, blackberries, cranberries, seeds, apples, bananas, citrus fruits and certain vegetables such as white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Most other grains, fruits and vegetables contain smaller proportions of soluble fibre. The enzymes produced by bacteria in the large intestine can break down (ferment) most soluble fibres and do not promote elimination. Two noted exceptions are oats, which contain up to 50% soluble fibre, and psyllium seed husks, which are considered soluble fibres. Both of these fibre sources promote intestinal activity and defecation. Some soluble fibres slow the rise of glucose levels in the blood. For a soluble fibre to be effective, it must also be viscous. Viscosity slows transit time of the liquified food in the upper gastrointestinal tract, resulting in slower absorption rates, lower blood concentrations of nutrients and altered hormonal responses to these absorbed nutrients. Viscosity also appears to be a requirement for fibre if it is to lower blood cholesterol concentrations.

Insoluble Fibre
Insoluble fibres include lignin, cellulose and some hemicelluloses and pectins. Insoluble fibre makes up approximately 66%-75% of the dietary fibre in a mixed-food diet. Foods particularly rich in insoluble fibre include bran (the outer covering of corn, oat, rice, wheat), whole grains (corn, barley, rice, wheat, oat), cereals, edible skins of fruits and vegetables, and some whole vegetables. Insoluble fibres are resistant to enzymatic breakdown in the colon. They act to speed transit time, increase stool weight and promote laxation (defecation).

Recommended Daily Fibre Intake
Recommendation for adult dietary fibre intake is 25-30g/day or 12-50g/1,000 kcal. The average American diet provides barely half of this amount, or 10-15g/day. Increasing the consumption of complex carbohydrates is the best way to increase fibre intake. Following are some suggestions to increase fibre intake :

* Choose fresh fruit or vegetables rather than juice
* Eat the skin and membranes of cleaned fruits and vegetables
* Choose bran and whole grain breads and cereals daily
* An increase in fibre should be accompanied by and increase in water
* Eat fewer processed foods and more fresh ones
* Fibre from fresh foods is preferable to fibre supplements

Therapeutic Uses of Fibre
a) Adequate daily fibre intake may be protective against colon and rectal cancer. It is estimated that the risk of colorectal cancer in the US population could be reduced by about 31% if fibre intake from food sources were increased by an average of 13g/day.

b) High fibre intake has been associated with a reduction in breast cancer rates. International comparisons show an inverse correlation between breast cancer death rates and the consumption of fibre rich foods.

High fibre foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains may also protect against prostate cancer
a) High fibre diets may reduce the risk of diabetes. Fibre has a role in the treatment of diabetes because it regulates blood sugar by slowing the absorption of glucose from the small intestine. Fibre does this by coating the gut's lining and delaying stomach emptying; thus, sugar absorption after a meal is slowed, reducing the amount of insulin needed.

b) Dietary fibre has a role in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease due to its cholesterol lowering ability. Viscous, soluble fibre can lower blood cholesterol levels by 5% or more due to its interference in the absorption of bile acids. By causing more cholesterol to be used for bile acid production, soluble fibre helps take cholesterol out of circulation in the intestines and the bloodstream. Fatal and non-fatal myocardial infarctions have been inversely associated with total fibre intake in some studies.

c) Adequate daily fibre intake promotes laxation (defecation) and helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. The gastrointestinal tract is remarkably sensitive to dietary fibre. A high fibre diet may prevent irritation of diverticulitis, thus reducing the long-term risk of developing bowel disease.

d) Soluble fibre known as cellulose and hemicellulose expand in the stomach, causing a sensation of fullness, thus discouraging excessive food intake and thereby helping weight control.

Normal Bowel Habits
It is normal for a healthy person to have two or three soft yet firm, well formed, easily passed bowel movements a day. It is not normal to miss even one bowel movement per day. If your bowels move daily, but with difficulty or straining, or if your stool is dry or hard, or if you do not move your bowels at least 1-2 times per day, you need to adjust your diet for the right amount of fibre and water intake.

Normal Physiology
When there is adequate fibre and water in the diet, fibre particles attract water, forming tiny beads that mix with the stool. These fibre-water beads give the stool size, shape and moisture, allowing the colon to move the stool easily. To facilitate this process, the colon manufactures mucous to lubricate the passage. If the colon is dry because of too little mucous or too little water, the stool becomes dry and will stick to the colon, requiring one to strain in order to eliminate. This condition is known as constipation. As stated, chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids and actual bowel disease.

Lactic Bateria
Lactic bacteria include Acidophilus, which exists from the upper part of the small intestine to the lower part of the small intestine, and Bifidobacterium, which exists from the lower part of the small intestine to the large intestine. These microorganisms have the specific property of transforming sugars almost exclusively into lactic acid and acetic acid, which decrease the pH (increasing the acidity) of the intestines and to produce substances that suppress harmful bacteria. They are abundant in nature and are essential for human and animal survival. They are normally present in the skin, the digestive system and in the vaginal mucosa where they fulfill numerous functions and assure the protection of the tissues against the action of harmful microbes. These functions are so important that we designate lactic bacteria as 'Probiotic', or agents that protect life.

Many factors can modify the desirable harmony of the intestinal flora. Disease, stress, an excess of food proteins, a lack of sufficient dietary fibre, the consumption of contaminated food, and the taking of antibiotics can favour the implantation and development of putrefactive and infectious microorganisms to the detriment of 'friendly' bacteria.

A proper diet favours the presence of lactic bacteria in normal quantities in the digestive tract. In the case of gastro-intestinal problems, vaginal infection and the use of antibiotics, it is necessary to have recourse to a reliable supply of lactic bacteria. Human strains of lactic bacteria are preferred over dairy sources. Daily consumption of Greens Rx. will provide an optimum supply of these 'friendly bacteria'.

Natural Foods
If you are what you eat and assimilate, then it is obvious that if you want to be healthy you have to eat healthy food. Fast food, while convenient, was never intended for our million-year old intestinal tract. Processed, devitalized foods hardly qualify to be called 'food', and indeed, they are often aptly called "junk food". A recent study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture revealed that, over the past several decades, 'fresh' fruits and vegetables have lost more than 50% of their nutrient value, except for vitamin A which, for unknown reasons, is off the chart in abundance in carrots. It is thought that this generalized nutrient depletion is due to the ruined condition of the soil. So-called fresh produce is also waxed, sprayed, artificially colored, and in some cases genetically altered. Meat is even more heavily processed: caged beasts raised in misery, solely to be slaughtered for human consumption, are shot full of growth hormone, antibiotics, fed genetically altered grain, made to eat cement and newspaper to add to their weight and therefore profitability. The cut meat may be injected with food coloring, preservatives, taste enhancers, tenderizers and other toxic substances. If you eat this tortured meat fried in any fast-food restaurant, you are consuming an additional load of dangerous fatty breakdown products known to be carcinogenic and contributors to heart disease. If we are what we eat and what we assimilate, is it any wonder that millions of Canadians and Americans are chronically sick and obese? And immigrants who come to 'the land of plenty' often become ill with our North American diseases as they adopt the North American 'junk-food' diet ?

What should we eat to be healthy ? Without endorsing any particular diet, it is fair to say that most authorities writing about nutrition over the past two or three decades would agree that we need to eat predominately natural foods, that is, foods as close as possible to what nature intended.

i) Eat vegetables and fruits as fresh as possible, which means in season and grown close to home if not in the family garden. Produce should be 'organic', that is, certified unsprayed and grown on composted soil not subjected to chemical fertilizers.

ii) All white bread and processed grains should be eliminated completely from the diet. Processed grains have had the vitamins and minerals milled out of them and a few artificial vitamins injected back into them so that they can be called 'vitamin enriched'. So-called 'enriched' grains are actually 'depleted' in nutrient value. Whole, unprocessed, often organic grains are available in bulk at many health food stores and some supermarkets.

iii) Processed (white) sugar should be eliminated. Even honey or maple syrup should be eaten in moderation, especially if you have blood sugar problems. Salt in the supermarket is no longer 'salt' (pure sodium chloride). Read the label: it contains sugar, potassium chloride, possibly even sand or silicon dioxide, along with other chemicals. Don't eat it. Buy sea salt, but again read the label because some sea salt has been laced with sugar also. Sea salt naturally contains associated minerals, including iodine. If you have thyroid problems (high or low), check with your doctor before consuming salt containing iodine. Salt from any source should not be eaten in large quantities, especially if you have high blood pressure or water retention.

iv) Avoid saturated fats because they contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and premature aging. Use only unsaturated oils such as olive oil, perilla oil, fish liver oils, mixed or 'balanced' oils. Do not cook with oil or burn oil because it forms carcinogens. The best way to cook is to steam.

v) Eggs should be 'free range', which means the chickens are allowed to scratch for their own food instead of being fed artificial food on a schedule. Chickens fed unsprayed, naturally nutritious food produce 'Organic' eggs.

vi) Many nutrition authorities warn people away from milk, meat and even fish. The reasons are many, depending upon the orientation of the author, but most would agree that these foods are now no longer safe to eat due to poisonous food additives, preservatives, drugs, heavy metals, radioactivity, etc. Some would allow that the benefits of eating deep-sea fish still outweigh the threat of contamination caused by mercury and pesticides. Others suggest that animals fed organic, unsprayed grains, and not subjected to a pharmacy full of drugs, are safe enough to consume; however, such meat is difficult to find. Vegetarian authors, of course, warn that meat and even fish are unsuitable for human consumption even when not contaminated.

vii) We should drink only filtered water. Some commercial mineral water has been tested and found to contain nothing more than city tap water. The best water filtering process is reverse osmosis, but it is expensive. Less costly filters using advanced charcoal filters are available. Usually one gets what one pays for. Drinking mineral, distilled or deionized water from plastic bottles can be toxic because the plastic gradually dissolves into the water, adding chemicals that resemble the female hormone, estrogen. Some authorities believe the amount of estrogen-like substances entering our bodies is causing hormone imbalances including breast development in very young female children and possible sterility in men.

viii) In this era of food, water and air pollution, of devitalized, contaminated, over-processed and genetically altered food, we need to supplement our diet with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients if we are to protect ourselves and be healthy. The amount of vitamins and minerals we take has to exceed the RDA (minimum daily allowances) once thought to be adequate before the food supply was proven to be up to 50% deficient in essential nutrients, and before the world became such a polluted, stressful place. Besides, most health-conscious individuals want more than 'minimum' health, they want optimum health and well-being. This requires giving oneself the 'optimum' supply of essential nutrients every day, along with the healthiest food and water possible. One way to insure an optimum supply of all of the essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes is to regularly take a supplement such as the SONA from Enerex

We live in what is called 'the age of anxiety', which might be termed chronic stress. Outwardly and inwardly, most of us are in turmoil-over economic concerns, overcrowding, crime, pollution of our food, water, air and the earth itself, disasters both natural and man-made, as well as illness and emotional challenges. These stressors affect our health physically, emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually. In ages past, our world was a much simpler place and our organism was amply equipped by nature to survive the stress of the time. Our innate 'fight or flight' response was usually adequate to the challenges we faced. If it was not, we died on the spot or limped away to die of our wounds a short time later, or we succumbed to the viruses of the day. It is unlikely we huddled in the dark and fretted about the sabre-tooth tiger we anticipated confronting the next day, or worried about having enough rabbits to feed our offspring nine months from now. Doubtless, we did not visit the Paleolithic equivalent of the psychiatrist. We certainly did not 'eat ourselves up' with worry the way we do today.

Stress is medically acknowledged to be one of the major causes of illness and chronic pain. Stress is a loss of balance physiologically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually, and most of us would have to admit to being stressed to one degree or another. Stress affects our entire system-musculoskeletal, nervous, hormonal, circulatory, cardiorespiratory, genitourinary and gastrointestinal. Basically, modern stressors stimulate our million-year-old 'fight or flight' responses, but as we do not have an immediate and satisfying fulfillment for our primitive urges: we usually cannot beat the boss over the head or run screaming out of our living room when our partner pushes our buttons! Instead, all of those raging stress hormones pumping through our systems, all of those contracting muscles ready to strike or run, the accelerated heartbeat and respiration and those contractions in the gut, and all of those primal emotions-have no satisfying outlet. Instead, these impulses are largely repressed from our conscious awareness and are held in check within our bodies, and we act civilly.

Bottled up energy and emotion affect our gut in what doctors call a 'psychosomatic' way. For example, chronic anxiety may cause diarrhea and play a part in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 'Uptight' or emotionally repressed people may literally be uptight, that is, suffer from constipation. We have discussed how proper elimination and absorption is essential for health. It is clear that unrelieved stress can lead to illness affecting the function of the colon.

What can we do to relieve stress in our modern world ? The medical and pharmaceutical answers involve drugs such as tranquilizers, anti-depressants and hormones, all of which have side effects, and in some cases worsen the condition for which they were prescribed. Natural methods of coping with stress include sound nutrition, cleansing, vitamins and minerals including anti-oxidants, natural anti-inflammatories, nutritional supplements, herbs, homeopathy, purified water, clean air and natural light. Food and herbal substances have fewer side effects than most pharmaceuticals and usually cost less. Medical research has recently shown that certain supplements and herbs actually work as well as, or better than, drugs used for the same purposes, and with few if any side effects.

If we are serious about being well and having a healthy colon, we must reduce stress. Eating properly (including taking vitamins and nutritional supplements), exercising, meditating, getting enough rest and recreation, are all methods of reducing stress. Millions of people also relieve stress with massage therapy, craniosacral, reflexology, shiatsu, acupuncture, aromatherapy, infrared sauna and herbal wraps. When we reduce emotional stress from the colon, we are making a major step toward improving its function and thereby our health.

Ways to Restore Colon Health
There are two main methods of restoring colon health :

a) Colonics

b) Herbal-dietary cleanse

Colonics involves inserting a tube into the rectum, irrigating the colon with water or herbs, and draining the water containing waste matter through the tube. Trained colon therapists or naturopaths perform this process under hygienic conditions. A person may have to take a colonic on several occasions in order to adequately cleanse the colon. As we know, cleansing alone is not enough. The right kind of diet, rich in fibre, is also necessary in order to maintain colon health, even after colonics.

Colonics must be used with caution and there are contraindications (conditions of the recipient in which colonics should not be used). For such reasons of safety, only trained personnel should administer colon therapy. Because colon therapy requires a visit to someone with specialized training, the cost of colon therapy is likely to be higher than for most self-administered herbal-dietary cleanses.

Herbal Dietary Cleanse
Extreme cases may require colonic therapy, but or most individuals, a herbal-dietary cleanse is sufficient to restore colon health. Most herbal dietary cleansing programms involve fasting from solid food for a period of time while consuming large quantities of fruit or vegetable juices and possibly various herbs. In recent years, certain 'superfoods' have been developed which contain a mixture of powdered, concentrated greens, grains, roots, blue-green algae and potent herbs. The best programs also contain the important soluble and insoluble fibre discussed earlier. And, of course, good cleansing programs recommend returning to and maintaining a healthy diet of organic foods.

Your Commitment to Health
Good health is a lifelong commitment-one that is rewarded on a daily basis with radiant vitality and well-being. In the final analysis, health is our most valuable asset and is the foundation of our very existence. As we have learned, good health begins with a healthy colon.

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