A Natural Movement: You and Your Bowels
Spirit of Change 20th anniversary issue reprint from May/Jun 1998
It's both telling and sadly amusing that, after condoms, Preparation H is the second most frequently shoplifted pharmaceutical item in the country. Otherwise upright citizens are driven by shame to steal rather than confess to a stranger that they suffer from the curse of hemorrhoids. Over 80% of the United States population experiences bowel or rectal disorders, but many are too embarrassed to discuss it. It isn't uncommon for timid patients complaining of "stomach" problems to then point to somewhere far beneath their belly buttons, or to avoid the subject entirely.
"Bowels are a very uncomfortable subject for most people, perhaps due to negative associations that go back to potty training," suggests Boston colon hydrotherapist, Connie Jones. "More indigenous peoples don't have the same types of shame issues — or the illnesses — that we do."
When living in a New Age household in Santa Cruz, California, I soon got over any bowel squeamishness. Recognizing that what we eat and what our bodies excrete is the key to well being, we often experimented with herbal concoctions, using ourselves as guinea pigs. When wheatgrass became the rage we turned our lawn into a wheat grass patch, every morning juicing the clippings. I recall a near disaster with psyllium seeds: after downing several spoonfuls one morning, a couple hours later while doing errands downtown, suddenly whoosh! — I barely made it to a toilet in time.
And the ever-fascinating liver flush: for three days only apples and apple juice were consumed. At bedtime on the third night I drank one cup of cold pressed olive oil. The next morning my roommates peered into the toilet to “ooh” and “aah” over the bizarre looking, pea sized green balls of oil and bile flushed from my liver. So thrilling was it that several neighbors dropped in for a peek.
The Contemporary Curse: A Brief History of the Toilet
"In my opinion there is one real disease, and it is autointoxication, the body poisoning itself. It's the filth in our system that kills us. I'm convinced that unless you clean out your bowel, you will never reach vibrant health.” — Dr. V.E. Irons, noted bowel specialist
Even way back when, it seems I was interested in the secret life of the bowels. For my 8th grade English class oral report I chose the rather unconventional topic of the history of the toilet. Apparently my elderly, straight-laced teacher enjoyed my fact-filled, humorous treatise because I got an A+.
Around the time modern plumbing was popularized in England in the mid-1800s, Joseph Bramah designed the first toilet, with improvements added by Thomas Crapper (yes, that’s where we get the word crap). Neither man nor the general public understood the postural advantage of squatting, and so spread the popularity of the toilet as we know it.
Dr. Kenneth Yasny recounts in his simple, explicit, and humorous book Put Hemorrhoids & Constipation Behind You that in the early 1900s doctors began noticing the proliferation of various diseases, and suspected the toilet's faulty design. The majority of bowel problems occur in the lower right part of the bowel in the lower left section in the sigmoid, and in the cecum, where the small intestine empties into the large through the ileocecal valve, causing fecal bacteria to travel into the small intestine to be absorbed by the blood. When squatting, both these areas are contracted by the thighs. When sitting, an unnatural upward pressure is applied, which allows fecal matter to stagnate.
Several solutions exist for our ergonomically incorrect plumbing: 1) Raise the toilet seat, place your feet on the toilet rim and squat; 2) Those less agile and daring can place a stool in front of the toilet that will raise your feet 12 to 18 inches; 3) A third option is to lean forward, place your feet back towards the toilet’s mid-point, raise your heels and balance on the balls of your feet — Dr. Yasny dubs it the "Motorcycle Racer Position" — thus approximating a squat.
Cause of Bowel Problems: The Modern Diet
The earliest hunter/gatherer humanoids consumed raw foods, mostly vegetables with some meat, all full of enzymes. Enzymes, largely destroyed through cooking and processing, help us digest, absorb, and utilize the full range of nutrients. While our biochemistry has not radically altered since our cave-dwelling days, our diet certainly has. When one considers most of the "foods" sold in the average grocery store, it's little wonder our society is racked with diseases.
Essential to proper digestion is proper food combining. Each category of food — sugars, proteins, and carbohydrates — is broken down in the stomach by specific enzymes. Their simultaneous presence inhibit the digestion of each other causing possible minor adverse side affects — pain, gas, bloating — and if repeated over time, more serious consequences such as leaky gut syndrome, hemorrhoids, fissures, constipation.
If you're experiencing bowel problems, begin the habit of peering into the toilet: the color, size, shape, and buoyancy of your turds serve as health indicators. Though the color may vary depending on what you've eaten, you should aim for milk chocolate brown. Stools that are yellow, green or too dark may indicate improper liver function. Too little bile gives a yellow color; too much will cause it to be dark green. Black stools should be reported to your doctor; it may be blood. Floating stools usually indicates you're eating plenty of vegetable fiber. If you haven't, and your stool still floats, then likely there’s undigested fat present. If they are not hefty logs, but rather scrawny, pinched, misshapen and hard, then likely you're suffering from constipation.
The White Man's Curse: Constipation
"Don't be ashamed of your hemorrhoids or constipation!"
I once worked with a woman suffering from constipation so severe that she was only able to undergo a bowel movement with the aid of her once-a-week herbal "program;" meanwhile her body was absorbing toxins from her stagnant intestines. High strung, nervous and easily irritated, her personality and body perfectly reflected someone who couldn't "let go of her shit."
Prolonged “straining at the stool" can lead to far more serious problems and should never be considered normal or just a part of aging. Constipation is not an illness or the root problem, but a symptom that your body is out of whack. Hard for many to believe, but a healthy person should defecate two or three times a day. If you're pooping less than that, then technically you're suffering from constipation and should speed up the flow. Connie Jones, who steers away from processed and fatty foods, eats mostly organic produce and some fish and meat, said, "From the time you chew to the food passing into the toilet, about 18 and 24 hours should transpire with no more than 3 or 4 meals backed up. But most Americans move their bowels only one time a day with food taking 48 to 72 hours to pass."
From the time that you feel that urge to evacuate to mission completed should not take more than five or six minutes. Once sitting on the can you should finish in about two minutes; any supplementary time reading the morning comics should just be R & R (but it’s not good for hemorrhoids). In actuality, someone with healthy bowels should never have to wipe. (After all, how long has toilet paper been around?)
Fortunately, constipation, like all other bowel problems, is easily remedied by eating foods with high fiber content that are able to retain moisture, eating smaller portions that are easier to digest, drinking plenty of fresh water and juices (sodas, coffee, and milk do not count) and proper amounts of unsaturated oils that help "grease" the pipes.
Those Little Devils: Hemorrhoids and Fissures
Until I first experienced my first hemorrhoid I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about. Now I’m sorry I was not more sympathetic. Borrowing again from Dr. Yasny's book, technically the word “hemorrhoids” refers to veins around the anal opening, with the large number of veins converging around the rectum and anus called the hemorrhoidal plexus. Veins inside or outside the rectum sometimes become enlarged like varicose veins in legs. Internal hemorrhoids are often painless, but may bleed, cause feelings of fullness, and cause discharge and itching. Internal hemorrhoids may become so large that they protrude out the opening — called prolapsed — often becoming irritated and bleeding. External hemorrhoids normally cause no problems other than swelling, but sometimes, due to straining or prolonged sitting, a blood clot develops — a thrombosed hemorrhoid — and can be very painful. Though there are many ways to treat hemorrhoids — suppositories, ointments, sitz baths, stool softeners, injection therapy, and surgical removal — the underlying cause of hemorrhoids is, again, an imbalanced diet.
Fissures are a bit more mysterious, though still common, bowel ailment. The main cause of fissures is hardened stool that scratches the surface of the intestine and draws blood. Another cause of fissures occurs when over or underactive digestion causes the food to become either too acidic or alkaline. When settling in your colon, it irritates and weakens it, and a simple scratch may then cause a fissure.
Sugar Junkies: Candida and Parasites
Normally the common yeast candida albicans lives in harmony with other beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. When overgrowth occurs, the yeast shifts into its fungus form and develops roots that implant themselves into the intestinal wall causing them to become irritated and more porous than normal. This allows absorption of toxins from undigested food, known as "leaky gut syndrome," which weakens the immune system and causes food allergies. Potential indicators of candida and/or parasites is persistent bloating and gas, diarrhea, constipation, joint and muscle pain, allergies, chronic fatigue, skin disorders, bad breath, insomnia, and sugar cravings.
Parasites, which enter via contaminated food, water, an infected sexual partner or pets are usually kept in check by digestive enzymes such as hydrochloric acid and pepsin, and a healthy and balanced intestinal flora. Repeated use of antibiotics, birth control pills, and the over consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates encourages the growth of yeast and parasites.
Virginia Trehern-Thomas, a microscopist in Rhode Island, analyzes live blood samples for immune system function, the condition of red blood cells, sugar imbalance, and the presence of parasites, fungus, and molds, and the blood ph level. "Fungus, molds and parasites that hang out on the colon wall and are the underlying cause of illness," says Trehern-Thomas, "cannot thrive in an optimally functioning human body that is slightly alkaline, around 7.5 ph. The average American diet is far too acidic."
Most foods we consider "bad" foods — sugar, alcohol, coffee, meats, dairy, and even fruits high in fructose — make the body acidic, and should be avoided. Trehern-Thomas, who puts alkaline drops in her water and lives on a diet of vegetables, greens, soups, tofu, wheat and barley grass, also warns against eating peanuts, corn and mushrooms because they "contain tremendous micro-toxins."
Ridding the body of parasites can be facilitated by drinking alkalinized water, reestablishing intestinal flora with acidophilus and bifidus, and by cleansing supplements that contain combinations of herbs such as black walnut, garlic, wormwood, Pau D'Arco, pumpkin seeds, grapefruit seed extract, cloves and others, but are effective only with a commitment to switching to a healthier diet consisting mainly of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts (other than peanuts), lean protein, and soups. As a non-caloric, healthy alternative to sugar (aspartame is arguably a toxic chemical unfit for human consumption) sweeten food with stevia (made from the leaves of a tropical plant) that can be found in some health food stores.
Enemas and Colonics
"Any health condition can be improved by having a clean colon and restoring beneficial bacteria," contends Billy Romp, a hydrotherapist in Vermont. "Your body and blood stream absorbs water from the colon, and if the water contains toxins then your blood will contain them and adversely affect your cells and tissues."
Though both help flush fecal matter out of the colon, a mistaken notion is that a colonic is simply a high-powered enema. An enema, which only reaches the first 8 inches or so of the colon, is a quart of two of warm water infused through a tube and retained by contraction of the sphincter. Some readers may have scarred memories from childhood of Mom inflicting a torturous enema on them. A colonic, administered only by a licensed professional, is about 25 gallons of water infused by a special machine into the full 4 to 6 feet of your colon. While the water pressure of an enema is about 8 psi (pounds per square inch), the less than 1 psi of a colonic, other than an “odd” feeling, does not cause discomfort.
Though otherwise young and healthy, while working as a flight attendant in 1972, Nancy Huberth heard that colonics might counteract the desiccating skin effects of years of dry cabin air on older attendants. "After about 35 minutes into my first session nothing spectacular had come out and I said maybe I don't need this. The doctor said to wait a few more minutes. Then suddenly my transverse colon cramped so strongly that I sat up with a yelp, and for five minutes we watched this black hard gravel stuff pass through the viewing tube. I didn't know what good health was like until after that day. I had a sense of well being that I'd never experienced before."
In the ensuing quarter century she has received colonics on a regular basis, and after having dreams of working in hydrotherapy, several years ago Hubert, who is certified with the International Association of Colon Hydrotherapists, established her own private practice. She explained that after being chewed, broken down in the stomach, passing into the small intestines where nutrients are absorbed, food then passes into the large intestine — the colon — where fluid is absorbed. For people with a poor diet and/or with low peristaltic function, fecal matter more easily gets stuck in the 6-foot long colon's numerous kinks and crannies, adhering to the intestinal walls. Impacted fecal matter and mucus first turns rubbery, then leathery, eventually hardening, with toxic shards breaking away and absorbed into the blood stream. Colonics, combined with massaging the abdomen, help dislodge this toxic crud.
“Perhaps the teeth and plaque analogy gives a helpful image,” says Huberth. “After years of neglecting your teeth, you can brush and rinse your teeth ten times a day, but there will be little effect on the plaque that has already built up without annual cleaning.” In the early days of anesthesia, colonics were the only way to restore bowel function after surgery, and every nurse learned colon hydrotherapy along with enemas. Now colonics, usually costing between $50 and $75 a session, are most commonly used in conjunction with cleansing herbs and fasting to remove toxins and to strengthen the bowels. Connie Jones, who has a colonic once a month, said, "I don't think colonics are enough in themselves, but along with diet and exercise they accelerate the healing process."
The notion persists in some circles that repeated colonics can deplete minerals and flush out beneficial intestinal flora. In addition, some people question the wisdom of forcing fluids to enter the body at a location designed to flush out. Lisa Maroni, RI a colon hydrotherapist, said, “the large intestine is constantly producing bacteria on a daily basis, and with proper nutrition, the flora and electrolyte content of the colon are easily replenished by our own body. Most clients also choose to follow through with a good lacto acidophilus/bacillus culture or a low fat dairy product like yogurt. The cleaner the colon, the better the environment is for natural flora to multiply.”
Lisa also explained that a colon hydrotherapy treatment is not a process of forcing, but a gentle infusion of warm filtered water to help flush out stagnant fecal matter. “If the bowels are designed for eliminating,” says Lisa, “my clients come to me because they are not eliminating frequently enough. The build-up of mucus, toxins and fecal matter weakens the muscle tone of the colon wall and should be removed to restore normal bowel functioning. Rather than feeling depleted, most clients experience a feeling of being alert and energized after a treatment. You can actually feel the toxins leaving your body.”
The Cleansing Fast
"Fungus, molds and parasites that hang out on the colon wall and are the underlying cause of illness cannot thrive in an optimally functioning human body that is slightly alkaline, around 7.5 ph.” — Virginia Trehern-Thomas, RI microscopist
Most animals and early man were forced to undergo an annual semi-fast when food reserves dwindled in late winter and early spring. This forced rest allowed the body to cleanse and purify itself. Modern western man, with an endless supply of foods in the supermarket, can gorge year round.
For a period while I lived in Santa Cruz, every Monday I drank only juice and water. Contrary to what one might imagine, on that day I was full of energy and vigor. Billy Romp agreed saying, "It's beneficial to periodically give your body a break and a chance to restore the enzymes, which our cooked diet is largely devoid of. What's in raw foods is also produced by the body, but there's a high metabolic cost as it takes a lot of nutrients, calories, and energy to digest food."
Romp advises against to simply stop eating for a couple days: "Fecal matter stops moving and your colon becomes stagnant, with bad breath and headaches signs that toxins are re-circulating through your body. Instead, I recommend a one to three day mono fast eating only fruit or just brown rice, which keeps your bowels moving but gives the body a chance to detoxify."
A fast lasting more than a couple days should not be taken lightly and should be supervised. In addition to hydrotherapy, Romp recommends herbs, psyllium, super foods, anti-oxidants, and a precise schedule to follow: a week of eating specific "clean" foods in preparation, a week of total fasting with certain herbs, and a week of reintroducing foods that benefit and strengthen the colon.
As I learned the hard way, how you break a fast is as important, if not more so, than the fast itself. I once did a 10-day fast on juice and water, and I broke the fast (I worked at a restaurant at the time) by drinking juice, then an orange. An hour later I nibbled on raisins and almonds. Soon I gobbled down a piece of toast, quickly graduating to a buttered croissant. Before my binge was over I was ravenously chowing down chocolate cheesecake. I threw it all up and was not well for days afterwards. Strict supervision is required when breaking a fast.
"Yours is a typical experience," Romp explained. "When someone is breaking the fast we call them in the morning to remind them to make sure they don't succumb to the temptation of eating this or that and keep them to the schedule. You've denied yourself a lot of pleasure and when its time to eat again its hard to control."
If one truly wants to live a more vital and vibrant life, then an essential first step is to make the correlation between the health of your colon and what you put in your mouth. It's been said a million times: you are what you eat. Changing eating habits is far easier said then done. Food isn't simply nourishment but inextricably bound up with pleasure, memories, habit, family, culture, and history. To alter eating habits of decades, indeed of centuries, can be a monumental personal challenge, but the payoff is often so immediate and gratifying that what you gain in terms of energy and a sense of well being will far outweigh those bad goodies that you think you are missing.
Eating for Health
• Eat high fiber, natural foods (organic when possible), and avoid processed, canned, and frozen foods.
• Reduce consumption of sugar, fat, wheat, and dairy products.
• Eat food high in enzymes such as living fresh, living seed sprouts.
• As much as possible eat proper food combinations.
• Eat more frequent, smaller meals of one type of food only.
• Eat in a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere, and chew slowly.
• Drink plenty of pure water, at least 8 glasses a day.
• Drink liquids 30 minutes before or an hour after eating.
• Supplement your meals with fresh juice or dried powder made from wheat grass or barley grass, as well as acidophilus tablets.
• Fast one day a week on water and juice.
• Regular exercise is good for the bowels.
Freelance writer Bill Strubbe is a world traveler and dreamer of peace.
• Put Hemorrhoids & Constipation Behind You by Kenneth Yasny, Ph.D. Safe Goods Publishing, 1997.
• Edgar Casey's Guide to Colon Care by Sandra Duggan. A.R.E Press, 1995.
• Diet for a New America by John Robbins. Stillpoint Publishing, 1987.
Contact: The Colon Health Society, 269 S. Beverly Dr. #321, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. 310-572-9094.
2007 Postscript: Visit http://www.colonhealth.com for more information.