Improving Bowel Action
Many people have problems with irregular or incomplete bowel motions. When attempting to keep the bowel moving regularly and freely there are three mechanisms that need to be understood and put into practise.
Firstly, there has to be adequate ‘bulk’ in the intestine. This can come from the diet in the way of fruit and vegetables or it can come by the way of supplementation with such things as psyllium, slippery elm powder, oat bran or Flaxseed fibre. This type of fibre will swell up on contact with water and form a slippery mucilage which helps the bowel move more easily.
Secondly in order for the ‘bulk’ to work properly there needs to be adequate water in the bowel. If this isn’t the case the bowel motions will be hard, dry and lumpy or ‘pebbly’. Oils, included in, or added to the diet will reduce the absorption of water from the bowel and allow the bulking action of fibre to work more effectively. Therefore it is important to use cold-pressed oils daily in the diet or lots of foods containing oils such as avocados, olives or oily fish. Alternatively you could supplement with flaxseed oil, about a tablespoon daily is good
Magnesium also reduces the absorption of water from the bowel and often it is a deficiency of this element that causes many people to be constipated, as many areas of NZ are deficient in Magnesium. Colloidal minerals usually contain good amounts of Magnesium but this can vary with the brand and some people may need to consider using extra Magnesium a as tablet, capsule or powder.
Thirdly the bowel is a muscle that works by peristalsis or ‘pushing’ the faecal matter along. In some cases the muscle can become weakened, either by an accident (possibly to spinal nerves), by lack of exercise or by years of ineffective ‘pushing’! In this case it is necessary to stimulate the bowel muscle into ‘pushing’ more effectively.
Some foods will help do this. For example; kiwi-fruit, prunes, aloe vera juice or raw beetroot juice. Lactalose is a synthetic disaccharide that also has this effect. Some herbs that have this effect are Senna and Cascara which will often be found in herbal bowel remedies for this reason.
All these mechanisms need to be kept in mind when treating the bowel, because the secret to being successful is to use all three and keep them in balance. For example if you happen to take too much oil and have a real ‘clean-out’, then the next day, rather than not taking any oil at all, continue taking oil but simply lower the dose. This enables the bowel to keep moving with out causing it to ‘back-log’ and again become sluggish.
Also, if you happen to have a stressful episode in your life then remember to put a little more effort into keeping the bowel ‘ticking over’ as it is usually at these times that the bowel will not work as effectively.
it is also important to make sure that bowel flora is kept up to scratch. This can be difficult when you consider that any time we eat a food item that contains a preservative (not that we should!), we are upsetting that precious balance in the gut. Eating more yoghurt can help but it can be very useful to supplement with a probiotic capsule. These are now available in very specific strains that can be used for quite specific conditions.
See page on Probiotics
Finally, it is important to try and get a little more exercise as soon as you are able and it is also important to take time to go to the loo!!