THE OVERLOOKED ARENA FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Heather Russell
When the body is under attack, many think toward adding to their systems anything that can help boost natural immunity. There are countless effective strategies to this end from mainstream modern methods to tried and true ancient preventatives and remedies. Nutrition and hydration, as many of us know, play a huge role in attaining optimal health, and we will speak on that a bit more in a moment. Exercise, sleep, sunshine, fresh air, and faith and prayer are also key players. What happens though, when all of the good inflow is negated by simultaneous and pervasive insults to the body? What happens when there is a lack of attention to the necessary outflow of toxins and metabolic wastes that are produced, not just on a daily basis, but even more so when the body is under crisis? How can the body readily defend itself when the onslaught of microbial enemies, along with their biochemical wastes, has no way of being eliminated in a quick and orderly fashion? Most of us don’t realize the fact that the internal battle we face during illness needs more than just heavy artillery to use, it also needs effective ways to isolate and eradicate the foreign invaders and send them packing, hopefully as quickly out as they originally came in. What am I saying exactly? I’m saying this, when one wants to be healthy, happy and whole, we must pay as much attention to adding the good things into our life as we do to eliminating the bad from it. And one of the best places to start is in the colon.
The colon, more commonly referred to as the large intestine, is the last major section of the roughly 25 feet that makes up the adult human gastrointestinal tract (G.I. tract). At around 5 feet long, and having a relatively simple series of functions (at least in comparison to the other organs of digestion, such as the stomach), one would think that the complications that might occur here would be relatively minuscule, but they’re not. In fact, in his book, Healing Colon Disease Naturally, world-renown naturopathic healer, Dr. Richard Schulze states, “millions of Americans are literally rotting from the inside out.” A bold statement, and yet, from colitis and Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis and leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, cancer and dysentery, there are more intestinal disorders involving the colon than I even remotely want to, or have time to list here. “Why is this so?” Once again, the colon is the last section of the GI tract, and as such, it is the place where chemical and biological waste products are designed to be gathered and packed for transport out of the human body. While these are natural features of digestion, the problem lies in the speed and accuracy of elimination of these toxic byproducts out of the human system. Most Americans (along with a great number of other developed or developing countries), quite radically, only experience one bowel movement every 3 to 5 days, and it is scarcely a healthy one at that. Instead of having bowel movements every few days (or longer, for some), they should come nearly 20 to 30 minutes after every meal! No this isn’t a joke. And no, it is not an impossibility, either. Yes, this is absolutely and most certainly the regular, ideal, Creator-designed, healthy intestinal function that we were all meant to have, and that which is honestly experienced by hundreds of thousands of people all around the globe.
Truth be told, as a child I used to blush and lower my head when my great grandmother would ask me, “have you had a good bowel movement today?” I used to think to myself, “how embarrassing of you to ask, Grandma,” and, “what business of yours is that anyway?” Even then, I remember aligning with the good old American status quo. So, though flabbergasted at her caring audacity, I would sheepishly, and repeatedly have to answer her, “no.” “I feel your pain,” you say, “but why?” Well, if you are like most Americans, you can thank our post-modern diet and lifestyle, though having come with many wonderful advances for the human good, it also came with many unnatural innovations and drawbacks – one of which has been shown to be the disruption of our natural bowel function and flow. “So how do I make my colon healthy?” I’m so glad you asked! To cut right to the chase, the simplest, and most awesome answer is this – FIBER. Yes, good old-fashioned fiber, or “roughage” as I fondly remember my great grandpa calling it, is the simplest way to reestablish colon health. But not just any fiber, no, we are talking about nutrient-dense fiber. Why?
First off, fiber is part of what helps “keep things moving” through the intestines and out the back door. Without adequate fiber (and water to help flush it out), the things we take in to our systems have a greater tendency to just sit there, rotting and putrefying all the while.
Secondly, deep within its walls, the colon possesses a whole world that is known by gastrointestinal experts as the “intestinal microbiome.” It is a world ripe with bacterial, fungal, protozoic, archaeal, and sometimes viral activity. Some of these “germs” are good or “beneficial”, some bad, and some are basically inert (don’t really affect us one way or another). The beneficial bacteria in the human colon LOVE to feed on fiber. Additionally, they help the body synthesize and utilize the nutrients provided by the foods we eat. Without the presence of many of these strains of friendly bacteria common to the human intestine, our body would cease to function correctly at all. This is why taking “probiotics” after intensive antibiotic dosages or other treatments such as chemotherapy, is so critical. We must maintain a balanced beneficial bacteria level in our colon in order to obtain/maintain optimal health. Delving a little further into the matter, research groups like the Human Microbiome Project along with many others, are endeavoring to study and document all that encompasses this delicate, yet complex system. They are finding that bacteria in the human intestine, and especially the colon, play an even greater role in overall human health than ever previously understood. While some experts estimate that nearly 60% of the entire human microbiome exists in the colon alone, it’s not hard to understand how this host of microorganisms could easily affect human health, and not just in the gut itself, but throughout the whole of the human system, including, and perhaps most amazingly, the brain!
Let us take a trip back in time and revisit the place it all started. Reading in Genesis 1:29, “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.’” (NASB) Our bodies were designed specifically for a nutrient-dense, whole-food, fiber-rich diet, which includes fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes (see also Genesis 3:18 and Daniel 1:12-21). God originally designed our system to function entirely off of these fiber-rich foods, but what does the average American diet typically contain? Overly processed, nutrient-poor or deficient, fiber-poor or deficient, difficult or impossible to digest, chemically saturated, “food-like things” (term from Jay Gordon, Processed People,2009). And what does that mean? It means we are most often not getting enough fiber or vital nutrients, and we are consuming things that, if not outright harmful to our system, our body may not be able to recognize, much less be able to utilize, to replenish and repair itself. All these things can back up our system and create toxic overload, further compromising our immunity in our greatest time of need.
“Ok. Get more nutrients, and more fiber, and more water, and go ‘number two’ more often. Eat my Wheaties, and my veggies… I get it.” Yes, that’s good (well, not the Wheaties part, just read the ingredients – sugar and corn syrup – not good for your immunity). Still, that’s not quite it. In addition to focusing on providing the body with the necessary influx of all that is good for it (nutrients, fiber, water, and when necessary probiotics), as well as fostering regular, healthful elimination of all that is bad, one must also let the colon rest.
Another major factor involved in poor colon health, and poor health in general is the fact that the colon (along with all the other organs of digestion) rarely has ample time to rest. Contrary to modern belief systems, we were not designed to be eating machines, even if all you eat happens to be healthy and fiber rich. When we choose to drink liquids with meals, snack between meals, or have heavy meals during the later hours of the day, our digestive organs find themselves constantly at work. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs, significantly increasing the digestion time of each meal. Whether drinking liquids, snacking or eating too late in the night hours, when the body should be focusing entirely on restoration and rest, it is all too often forced to concentrate on finishing digestion that was unable to finish from the foods you consumed throughout the day. Thereafter, breakfast, or more appropriately “break-fast,” the meal designed to break the evening/night fast as well as fuel our bodies for a busy day, is most commonly skipped, or skimped on, and in turn, a groggy, ill-restored body from a busy night’s work of digestion, determines (erroneously) that a donut and coffee pick-me-up are best. Had we provided the body with proper hydration (H20) 30-60 minutes before meals, a healthful breakfast in the morning, with a quality break between breakfast and a moderate lunch (4-6 hours and no less), and then a small, light, supper (if any), the body would have had plenty of time to rest and replenish itself in the night, and it would wake more refreshed, and colon diseases, all too often caused by nocturnal fermentation, rotting food (especially all things flesh), and utter physiological exhaustion, would be much less prevalent.
So let’s quickly recap. When we are sick, the internal battle we are fighting needs more than just an onslaught of over-the-counter vitamins and other supplements. It needs nutrient-dense whole foods, with FIBER, water, the occasional probiotics (including and especially those which come from homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, or sugar-free coconut yogurt), and it needs rest. All of these things, when used in combination with each other, as well as in combination with other beneficial lifestyle activities such as exercise, sleep, sunshine, fresh air, and faith and prayer, will help boost our immune system and keep it functioning at its peak level – and when our immune system is healthy, happy and whole, the rest of our body will follow!
OPTIMAL COLON HEALTH REQUIRES
FIBER, from nutrient-dense, whole foods (and as far as possible, chemical free)
WATER, helps the fiber, and everything else the fiber collects, move out of the body
PROBIOTICS, especially after illness, antibiotics, or chemotherapy
REST, a genuine, night-long rest from food processing
When we are willing to follow God’s original plan for our biological design, we can’t help but gain the most benefit from it. Wishing you wellness, and happy chewing!