The importance of a healthy bowel.
To fix, we must first understand what makes it tick. How foods are useful for it, and which foods work against its functions and processes.
Here we have a run-through of what makes up the human (ape) bowel, and which parts are aimed at digesting which foods.
The Emotional Bowel
Because of the way human beings (and all mammals) grow in the womb, we have an innate structure behind our structure.
When an egg starts to differentiate into distinct cells, the first significant structure is called the ‘immature gut’. All our limbs, organs and tissues form from buds (stem cells) along this tube. Despite their growth, they retain their initial nerve connection to the part of the immature gut from whence they sprouted.
The immature gut goes on to become the colon itself, and therefore along the length of the colon are sweet spots alluding to the connection to the organ or tissue that came from it. This is, incidentally, why the colon is so central to Iridology – using the iris to disclose the condition of all the other cells and tissues of the body, as well as many other forms of mapping techniques like Reflexology, Chinese Acupressure points on the tongue, ear, and indeed the whole body.
Moreover, because the colon was actually the outer covering of the original animal (from which we have evolved), and therefore the first sources of interaction and information coming in from the world around us, it was also contains the most complex of material - neurons.
In other words, the entire bowel is lined with a layer of neural tissue - synapses, neurons, grey matter, etc., which secrete and use neurotransmitters, in the way the cranial brain does. The two are connected through the inexcusably large Vagus Nerve, and obvious the intestinal brain was in much greater use even a few thousand years ago, as it is mentioned in almost all ancient scripturesa that deal with such things (Hara / Dan Tien), and is still found in modern phrases such as "gut reaction", etc.
There are over 100 million brain cells in your gut, as many as there are in the head of a cat
In a Bowel Mood
We all know that when we have mental or emotional stress, it often settles in the muscle structure. If it is traumatic enough, repetitive enough, or formative enough, then it can settle into our body in a very powerful way, developing into a chronic condition, establishing undesirable physical or emotional patterns, and defining part of our very identity.
There is often an effect upon the peristaltic muscle structures too, which do not have bones to limit the tension they can hold, nor the conscious connection to tell us they need to relax now – thus they can hold greater and greater tension without realising.
So, while the muscular tension we are aware of can be dealt with through massage and deliberate, relaxed movement, the bowel is often omitted from such routines.
It can become so tense that entire sections go into spasm, and it can start to take on quite a different shape. Under these circumstances, the peristaltic muscles that make up the bowel are no longer neat, and evenly spaced like in the biology books we see, but more random and disfigured, often with areas of constriction.
Of course, because we are not aware of these stranglings, we continue to eat our feasts of heavy, fibreless meals, which only impact the problem further.
Giving the bowel something to chew on
Once a meal is cooked to the extent that is has gone soft (and that is the point of almost all cooking procedures), we have lost the component of food that keeps the bowel muscles healthy and strong.
Fibre provides the resistance needed to keep the peristaltic muscles toned. Like any muscle without exercise, they becomes thin, atrophied, and weak. Working against the fibre naturally present in food is the bowel’s exercise routine, and the atrophy that goes on without it lends itself to a number of issues, which start with the settling of tension.
A relaxed muscle has a good through flow of blood, which brings fresh oxygen and nutrients, as well as taking away toxic wastes. With each flex it pumps out the old, and invites in the new. But once tension has settled into an atrophying muscle, this dynamism is inhibited, and the accumulation of toxins follow. This further encourages tension, and a self-perpetuating, auto-intoxicating routine is established.
Also, because we tend to eat when the dinner bell rings, instead of when we are actually hungry, the pressure builds in areas just before where a tense muscle is constricting the flow. If the amount of fiberless food travelling through the bowel cannot pass quick enough through this bottle-neck, then the thin, atrophied walls begin to give way, and ballooning starts to occur.
Candida, Colitis, IBS and Crohn’s
Once we have this situation, where a ballooned area of the bowel is effectively partitioned off by constrictions either side, it becomes very difficult for the body to maintain a correct bacterial balance therein. Chunks of food (in various styles of decomposition) remain in these ballooned areas long after their sell-by-date, and the bacterial balance here can drift rapidly.
As detrimental bacteria proliferate, they give off a whole host of toxic materials; metabolic acids, foul gases, etc., all of which affect stress, and ultimately destroy the delicate bowel lining. As a defensive response, the bowel wall can throw up blisters which become ulcers over time, known as Ulcerative Colitis (inflammed colon wall).
If these blisters burst, due to the ongoing nature of the condition, you get blood in the bowel and faecal matter in the blood. Having lost its protective covering, the bowel wall is now left raw and exposed to the abrasive nature of food fibres which become an antagonistic factor - ironic, given that it was a lack of fibre which caused the condition in the first place
Thus, we can suddenly see that Candida (one of the bacteria allowed to overgrow by this pocketing effect), as well as Crohn’s disease and IBS (various forms of a weak, inflamed or ulcerated bowel wall), are all just different symptoms of the same physiological condition.
Because the cause was many fold, the resolution must be also.
- Simply continuing to remove the fibre from food, because it irritates the bowel wall, will only give rise to further atrophy of the muscles.
- Only addressing the emotional component by attempting surface stress relief may stall the increase of tension in the peristaltic muscles, but will not change the underlying emotional trigger, or the new damage to the previous bowel wall.
- Approaching the problem as a bacterial imbalance, and avoiding foods that encourage this, is also symptomatic relief, as the bacterial component was not the cause of the ballooning.
- Through understanding the condition from all these perspectives, and creating a strategy from there, we can move beyond damage management and into actual resolution.
Being willing to look at, engage with, express, and ultimately integrate the emotional stimulus is a good start. There are many therapies and theories on this subject, and finding the ones that work for you is the important thing. And your choice of therapist - rather than the therapy - may be paramount: Self-empathy requires acceptance, which requires vulnerability, which in turn necessitates trust, regardless of the framework.
Actively and gently increasing the degree of fibrous (live) foods in one’s diet can slowly increase the health and integrity of the muscles, without aggravating the damaged lining.This is mostly dependant upon the degree of damage to bowel wall beforehand.
Inflamed or ulcerated tissue may start out quite sensitive to the fibrousness of raw foods, but armed with the following tools all used to sooth a portion of the bowel that it has lost its own mucus-producing lining:
- Linseed tea: Making use of the mucilaginous nature of the seeds coating, once soaked in water.
- Aloe Vera: A particularly jelly-like consistency than not only smooths its path, but also provides much needed Silica, etc. for healing the wall.
- Slippery Elm: The inner bark of a tree known for its healing and soothing qualities. Used in Europe since history began.
- Psyllium husks: The top pick for all bowel healing herbs, as they are not only slippery, but remain fibrous, giving the bowel muscles a good work out also.
These can be relied upon heavily in the interim, until the capacity for more live foods increases. But ultimately, a persona combination of these components will work best.
Starting to use a good, broad-spectrum probiotics to populate the bowel with ‘friendlies’ is a great step in the right direction. But many times faster than establishing a colony of ‘outsiders’ is to encourage the current residents. Prebiotics – specifically F.O.S – are a major resource not to be overlooked. These simple sugars are regularly issued by the body to feed the ‘good guys’, because of their natural affinity for them, so adding them in yourself specifically targets what bacteria you want to promote. But of course, there is no getting around the choice of foods.
Who do you want to feed ? The good guys that defend, nourish and heal you, or the ‘others’ who produced toxins that burnt the bowel wall in the first place. There is no getting away from our biological affinity for raw, live foods, with its fibre, ambient bacteria content, nutrients, moisture, delicate oils, fragile vitamins and minerals, and a hundred other subtle mysteries yet to be revealed by science.
A Colonic Detox Retreat
The founder of this way of working - Dr. Bernard Jensen - was fond of recounting his research that showed that on average it takes between 3 and 4 years before a significant change in bowel bacteria is seen when attending it with food alone. Major changes are seen during a single colonic retreat because the colonics eliminate much of the bacteria present in the bowelh, giving them a clean slate upon which to write their new bacterial balance – a quantum leap, rather than the slow drift through eating the correct foods.
It is inevitable that as the live content in one’s diet increases, many of the congesting effects of cooked foods often diminish – chronic conditions, niggling ailments, or repeating symptoms. The blood will start to thin, allowing it access to the tiny capillaries within the muscles, allowing further cleaning and nourishing to go on. The muscles will slowly regain their inherent strength and flexibility, and the trickle of good bacteria will be fed by the ambient sugars therein.
These are some of the most obvious conditions that people come to us for on the retreats, aside from just weight gain and energy loss. The major factor on a retreat is the profound rest brought about, through both the juice fast and atmosphere. This gives us a psychological window through which to work with people at a whole new level, in which they are much less defensive.
Also, having gained new insight into their relationship with food, when they start to eat again, a week later, they have lost most of their physical food addictions, making it much easier to make clearer choices.
After the Retreat
Bowel movements will increase, with ease.
A new lightness and ease dawns upon the whole subject.
The addiction to sleep decreases, and getting up becomes easier.
The escape routes from heaviness (coffee, alcohol, comfort foods, etc.) lessen and fall away, as the entire being moves towards a lighter existence.
Not to say that there won’t be trials, and the difficulties of overcoming our strong addiction to certain foods that mean a lot to us, the die-off effects of the bacteria rebalancing itself, the imaginary deprivation, the many ‘I should’ moments that our mind has… All of that will come and go. But compared to a life spent chasing cravings and suffering the consequences, troubling toilet habits, and endless lotions potions, pills and chills, it is a no-brainer.
There is infinitely more fun in the world if you have the energy to partake of it, and what is the point of working so hard if you cannot rely upon your health through which to enjoy the spoils?