Because our intestines are the only avenue through which our body gets the nutrients it needs, keeping them healthy is of utmost importance.
It’s such a simple thing to keep your intestines functioning at peak capacity. Eating the right foods, limiting the wrong foods (everything in moderation), drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of exercise will help your intestines do their job. If we ignore our intestinal health, conditions such as malabsorption and Diverticulosis can occur.
Foods such as fibre are your intestine’s best friend, next to the beneficial bacteria that comes from fermented foods such as Kefir and extra old cheese. We’ll also touch on the effects of antibiotics on intestinal health, the beneficial effects of water and raw foods, the not-so-beneficial effects of sugar and refined carbs, along with an explanation of how therapies such as colon hydrotherapy can help keep your bowel clean as a whistle.
AN EXPLANATION OF YOUR INTESTINES
In human anatomy, the intestine (or bowel) is the segment of tubular passage of mucous membrane and muscle extending from the stomach to the anus and consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine.
The small intestine is further subdivided in the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.
The large intestine is subdivided into the cecum (pronounced see-kum) and colon. 1
For a full explanation of the digestive process, CLICK HERE.
CONDITIONS THAT AFFECT OUR INTESTINES
From Celiac disease, to Crohn’s, to diverticulitis to leaky gut syndrome, there are a myriad of things that can upset the working balance of our intestines. However, one of the most common conditions which keeps us on the move is diarrhea.
Diarrhea is the resulting symptom of a host of causes, including medications, stress, bacteria, viruses, parasites, sensitivities to food, and diseases of the colon. Sometimes, annoyingly enough, no cause is found. If you suffer from diarrhea and the usual over-the-counter solutions are having no affect after two days, you should consult with your primary health care provider.
One of the best things you can do to combat a bout of diarrhea is to drink lots of sterilized water. This prevents the risk of dehydration associated with diarrhea.
Other liquids, such as broths, light soups (no cream soups), apple juice, herbal teas (blackberry, raspberry or green), and watery foods (watermelon, celery, lettuce), can help you replenish the vital nutrients, liquid, and salt drained from your body by the diarrhea.
Remember to keep your fibre intake low and limit your intake of solid foods for the time being as your body recovers. Have you heard of the B.R.A.T. diet for diarrhea? It consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and tea/toast. Each of these elements helps your intestine “firm up” its contents and replenish lost nutrients like potassium.
If you’re suffering from cramping, apply heat to reduce the discomfort.
On the proactive side of the house, consuming freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3 to 5 times per day, can eliminate diarrhea-causing pathogens from your intestines.
If you’re prone to bouts of diarrhea, taking 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water) before meals is an excellent preventative measure that protects the stomach against viruses that could cause diarrhea.
Alternatively, you can mix ½ teaspoon of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of ginger juice and ¼ teaspoon of powdered pepper and take this 2x per day to make stools less watery and relieve diarrhea. The added bonus?…the vitamin C in the lemons!
It’s even been shown that puréed cooked carrots can help eliminate any E. coli bacteria in your intestine that could cause diarrhea.
For a full explanation of other conditions affecting the intestines such as Celiac Disease, and Crohn’s and Colitis, CLICK HERE, or see our Suggested Further Reading section at the end of this article for links to more specific conditions.
Do Antibiotics Affect Your Intestinal Flora?
Bacteria make up most of the microorganisms in the intestines and, as you know, we all have two types of bacteria in our intestines; beneficial and non-beneficial. Beneficial bacteria perform a host of useful functions, including preventing the overgrowth and establishment of harmful, pathogenic (non-beneficial) bacteria.
When we take broad-spectrum antibiotics, we alter the number of beneficial bacteria in our intestine, which allows the pathogenic bacteria to get a foothold in our intestines causing all sorts of problems, affecting our health, and disrupting our ability to properly digest our food. After longer courses of antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have been found in the intestines which then cause illnesses that are difficult to treat with antibiotics.
One of the ways to avoid a buildup of pathogenic bacteria in your intestines while on a course of antibiotics is to take a probiotic supplement at the same time. Most of the time, this is not a problem, but always remember to check with your primary health care provider before taking any other product while taking a prescribed medication.
Natural Substances Which Exhibit Antibiotic Properties
There are a few natural substances which have antibiotic properties, and best of all, don’t have any negative effects on your intestines. Some of these items include vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, honey and aloe vera. It’s handy to have these in the house so that you can use them at the first sign of infection.
KEEPING YOUR INTESTINES HEALTHY
Diet is the key to intestinal health. Let’s look at some of the key foods you should have on your kitchen shelf.
Oatmeal is a rich source of water-soluble beta-glucans, which have been associated with the ability to enhance the function of your immune system. Beneficial bacteria in your intestines have to be able to take hold, literally, if they’re going to flourish and colonize. The gum in the oats promotes the production of a protective intestinal lubricant, and now appears to improve the adhesive capabilities and the growth rates of beneficial bacteria strains. Plain old-fashioned slow-cooking oats, or quick-cooking oats, are far superior to the instant types.
Use fermented milk products, including yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk. These products help to provide the “seed” bacteria needed to establish a proper bacteria flora in the lower bowel. Yogurt is now more popular, and that’s a good thing. It’s best to make your own yogurt at home, but if you do buy it at the market, make sure the yogurt container has the words “live” or “active” culture on the label. Drinking the fermented drink called kefir will populate your digestive tract with much stronger strains of beneficial bacteria. You can buy kits or grains online to make this drink yourself. The bacteria in Kefir attach themselves to your intestinal walls which helps keep them a lot cleaner.
As we have become more technologically advanced in food preparation, we have greatly reduced our intake of fermented foods. As a result, we have lost one of the most potent tools ever in our fight against pathogenic bacteria and other microbes – sauerkraut! It’s recommended that you consume sauerkraut at least twice a week to be effective.
Consider adding a probiotic to your daily supplement program. Between 400 and 500 different species of bacteria reside in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Estimates are that these bacterial flora account for as much as three pounds of your body weight. We now know that problems arise when the bad bacteria are present without the good bacteria to control them. In other words, it’s an imbalance of bacteria in the GI tract that causes problems. Look for a probiotic that delivers at least 1 billion mixed, beneficial bacteria. 2
Adding more fibre to your diet keeps everything moving through your digestive tract at a faster rate. This helps your body eliminate toxins and unwanted bacteria a lot more regular so they don’t start causing problems. Bacteria such as the Candida yeast loves hanging around in your intestines feeding on the toxins and undigested food. More fibre also keeps your colon clean so that mucoid plaque doesn’t start building up on your intestinal walls. Mucoid plaque stops your body absorbing nutrients from your food, and is home for bacteria and parasites.
Eating probiotics every day will fight off any Candida yeast that lives dormant in your intestines. Probiotics are your first defense against these and other micro organisms, and will keep your intestinal bacterial balance in check. Probiotics also help your intestines digest food, and will keep your intestines clean so you can absorb the nutrients from your food. The easiest way to add probiotics to your diet is eat a natural live sugar free yogurt every day. If you don’t want to eat a yogurt every day you can buy tablets or capsules from your local Nutter’s store.
Eating more raw foods strengthens your digestive system. Raw foods still contain natural enzymes that helps to digest them so your body has less work to do. Sprouting kits are becoming more popular now because raw live sprouts are filled with enzymes, vitamins, minerals and macronutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Raw foods such as fruit and live sprouts contain lots of fibre as well to keep your colon clean.
Try and eat less sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sugar has no nutritional benefits at all. It is just a product that is added for flavor, and in reality is just bad for you. Not only does it feed bad bacteria, it will also make you put on weight. Bacteria such as the Candida yeast love to feed on our modern diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. When the Candida yeast starts feeding and mutating, other health problems can start to arise such as a yeast infection. Foods such as bread and rice are a lot healthier when they’re wholegrain because they are easier to digest and contain more fibre. 3
COLON HYDROTHERAPY or COLON CLEANSING
Colon cleansing (also referred to as colon therapy) encompasses a number of alternative medical therapies intended to remove feces and nonspecific toxins that have become stuck in the colon and intestinal tract. Colon cleansing may take the form of colon hydrotherapy (also called a colonic or colonic irrigation) or oral cleansing regimens such as dietary supplements. Some forms of colon hydrotherapy use enemas to inject water, sometimes mixed with herbs or with other liquids, into the colon via the rectum using special equipment. Oral cleaning regimes use dietary fibre, herbs, dietary supplements, or laxatives. 4When considering this form of therapy, consult a trained and licensed practitioner and your primary health care provider to see if this type of treatment is right for you.
Suggested Further Reading
Leaky Gut Syndrome – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaky_gut_syndrome
Ulcerative Colitis – http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/ulcerativecolitis/UC_causes.html
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs/
Diverticulitis – http://digestive-disorders.health-cares.net/diverticulitis-causes.php
2. Dr. David Williams
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.