Did you know colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women combined in the United States? It’s a scary statistic considering DIET and LIFESTYLE are two of the primary reasons why this cancer is so prevalent. But even more common than colon cancer (that I’m sure everyone has had trouble with) is constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but intestinal health is no joking matter! Most all diseases and ailments stem from an unhealthy digestive system, including depression, anxiety, headaches, inflammation and allergies. If you aren’t having regular bowel movements (that means at LEAST once a day) the waste matter is just sitting in your gut creating toxins that can’t wait to seep back into your body. On the flip side, you might be having several movements a day, but still experiencing the symptoms listed above because of improper digestion. So let’s discuss what could be happening in your gut!
WHAT IF I’M NOT HAVING A DAILY MOVEMENT?
There are several factors that could be contributing to constipation including medications, traveling, and stress. But usually the root of the problem starts with your diet, water intake and sedentary lifestyle. An average American diet consists of meat, white bread, chips, dairy products, fried foods, sweets, soda, coffee….you get my drift! All of these foods have little to no vitamins, minerals, water or fiber. In addition to a poor diet, a majority of Americans are not getting enough exercise on a daily basis.
WHAT IF I HAVE SYMPTOMS OF IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) leading to gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and/or constipation. There is no clear cause of IBS, but it usually stems from an allergy (unable to digest a certain food like gluten or dairy), or a faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract.
If you believe you might have a food allergy, I suggest you try a food diary for a few days. When you feel IBS symptoms occur, you will know what foods could be triggering your outbreak. You can then eliminate those trigger foods from your diet and see if that helps resolve your issues. I’ve also listed some additional steps to take below.
If there’s a faulty communication between your brain and gut, you might also experience depression, mood swings, affected appetite, as well as sleep and memory issues. Why do these symptoms occur? One reason is that over 80% of the chemical serotonin is produced in your gut. This chemical not only makes us “HAPPY,” but also relays signals from one part of the brain to another, influencing a variety of psychological and bodily functions. When the digestive tract is out of whack from eating a poor diet or taking too many antibiotics or medications, your serotonin production is affected. Therefore, your bowels are not the only part of your body suffering!
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
I’ve included some steps below for you to try in order to restore a normal, healthy digestive system. We should not accept that constipation, gas, bloating or diarrhea is just “part of life.” But it’s up to you to make the change!
1. DIET: First and foremost, you need to examine your diet. Fruits, vegetables, lentils, legumes, nuts, beans and grains (quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet and buckwheat are your best options) need to be making up the MAJORITY of your diet. Make sure NONE of the above are canned, especially if you have children, are pregnant or considering pregnancy. (There is cancer-causing BPA* in canned foods as well as added sugar and salt.) You can instead get fresh or frozen fruits and veggies and soak dried beans and lentils overnight. There is plenty of protein and calcium in the above foods, but if you do eat animal products, stick with lean proteins including fish, skinless chicken or turkey, pork, and eggs. (Dairy products can contribute to constipation and bloating, so I suggest you avoid them at all costs!) I encourage you to look at your animal protein as a side dish, not the main course* because it can be contributing to sluggish bowels. Unlike plant-based foods, meat has no fiber which is an integral part in the prevention of constipation. (More about FIBER shortly!) Also, strive to buy hormone-free, free range whenever possible. Lastly, make sure you are drinking A LOT of water all day long and skip the soda, fruit juices (unless they are fresh) and caffeinated beverages. (They just dehydrate you further, among other bad things!) I guarantee when you start to eat more nutritious foods, you will have more energy throughout the day, have more regular bowel movements, and not need to rely on the caffeine to get you through.
*Here is an article further explaining BPA: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221205.php
*Read my post on Protein if you are questioning my suggestion! http://kaleighwalker.com/nutrition/hello-world/
2. EXERCISE: Another daily habit that will help give you more energy and healthier bowel movements is EXERCISE! When you get your heart pumping, you stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles, helping to move stools out quicker. Exercise also decreases the amount of time it takes for food to move through the large intestine, thus limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool into the body, preventing constipation. The best forms of exercise for your bowels include walking, running, biking, cardio classes, boxing and yoga, to name a few.
3. SUPPLEMENTS: Once you’ve accomplished #1 and #2, I promise you will notice a tremendous difference in your daily bowel movements. However, there are some additional supplements you can incorporate into your daily routine to continue the cleansing process. I suggest trying one of the below based on your needs, see how it works, and then possibly incorporate another supplement. I’ve tried all of the below, but currently use Digestive Enzymes and Magnesium Oxygen because they work well with my body’s needs.
- FIBER: There are two kinds of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble. Both are beneficial and help keep hunger and blood sugar in check, but insoluble fiber is what helps promote regularity and prevent constipation. The best food sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat products, brown rice, legumes, beans, and veggies. If you feel like you need a little extra fiber, I suggest trying a supplemental powder that includes psyllium husk such as: https://www.herbdoc.com/index.php/Store/HerbalMucil-Plus-Powder.
- PROBIOTICS: To have a balanced intestinal flora, we must have a healthy amount of both good bacteria and bad bacteria. When we consume antibiotics, prescription medications, are exposed to heavy metals or just don’t eat foods that aid in building our immune system, our intestinal flora is compromised. In order to restore the 400+ strains of healthy bacteria that are killed off by the above, I suggest consuming PROBIOTICS! Probiotics can help alleviate constipation, diarrhea, gas, cramping, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections. They can also help with eczema as well as Autism or ADHD. I suggest trying a supplement* that contains many different strains of bacteria including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacteria bifidum, Bifidobacteria longum. I have used UDO’s Choice Advanced Adult’s Probiotic and it works well with my system. Please know that I have had to try several brands to find one that works for me, so if that’s the case for you, don’t give up! Just try a different brand with different strains.
*You have probably heard yogurt is a good source of probiotics. That’s not the case. The amount of “healthy” bacteria is not strong enough to withstand the acidic digestive juices in our stomach to make it to the intestinal tract. Plus, as I mentioned before, dairy is acid-forming, mucus-forming and can clog up digestion! If you do love yogurt, opt for an equally delicious soy or coconut milk-based product and stick with the supplements for your dose of probiotics.
- DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: Each time we eat carbs, protein, sugar, dairy, and fat we need ENZYMES to help with the digestion process. Enzymes are catalysts to every chemical reaction in your body and are found in abundance in nutritious foods (raw organic fruits, vegetables, seeds/nuts) and are non-existent in foods that are processed or cooked (white bread, table sugar, pasteurized dairy, animal meats). When the body has to digest enzyme depleted foods, it has to pull from your body’s own lifetime supply of enzymes. The poorer your diet and the older you get, the less enzymes your body has to not only digest foods, but to carry out everyday processes. You are especially at risk for enzyme depletion if you have an Autoimmune Disease*. Therefore, whenever you eat animal protein, dairy, cooked or processed foods I suggest supplementing with a plant-based product that includes the following enzymes: Protease (Protein), Amylase (Carbs), Lipase (Fats), Lactase (Milk), and Cellulase (Fiber). I use Source Naturals Daily Essential Enzymes.
*Read more about how Digestive Enzymes help with Autoimmune Diseases here: http://glutenfreehelp.info/autoimmune-disorders/autoimmune-difficulties-may-be-helped-with-enzymes/
- MAGNESIUM OXYGEN: This powerful cleanser combines magnesium oxide compounds that have been ozonated and stabilized to release oxygen over twelves+ hours throughout the entire digestive system. The magnesium acts as a vehicle to transport the oxygen throughout the body and has the gentle effect of loosening impacted toxins and acidic waste and then transports them out of the body. Oxygen also supports the growth of “good” bacteria in the intestinal tract, which helps with the digestion process. Unlike harsh laxatives, magnesium-oxygen supplements are non-habit-forming. I take 2 capsules of Aerobic Life MagO7 at night, but I suggest starting with just one and see how your body responds.
If you have questions regarding any of the above, feel free to respond to me! I know it’s a lot of information, but I guarantee your body will thank you for making these important changes.