|Everyone Needs Healthy Bowels
by Andrea Maunders, MCIA, MBANT
|(Ed: this is a profound topic, not least because of the evidence that nearly every health problem involves malfunction in the lower digestion system, but also because the energy of our colon determines the power of all of our other eliminative functions too. Far too many people in their 40s, 50s and 60s are dealing with the consequences of choices that they made in their 20s and 30s regarding what they put through their digestive system)
Bowel Flora in relation to Colon Health
Every human being lives with millions of bacteria thriving in their digestive systems. This is an unavoidable circumstance as we are constantly exposed to the micro-biological environment, breathing it and taking in bacteria in our food. The fact is that most of this bacteria, however harmful, doesn't affect us due to the acidic state of the stomach which kills off most of what we ingest. The surviving bacteria is then able to multiply rapidly in the warm, moist, alkaline environment of the duodenum, full of partly digested particles for them to nourish themselves. And so they go on multiplying through the small intestines, where absorption of the basic fatty acids, amino acids and glucose takes place until they are flushed into the colon through the ileo-cecal valve. For the purpose of this essay it is in this area that we are interested.
The bacterial flora of the bowel is a very complex issue, consisting of as many as 500 different species. Most importantly though is the fact that they can be split into two groups; the pathogenic or disease-producing kind and the healthy, scavenging type. In a proper, clean, healthy colon, the healthy, scavenging bacteria will control the pathogenic kind. When the colon is neglected and is not kept as free from waste and faeces as possible, the pathogenic bacteria proliferate and ailments result. According to Dr.John Harvey Kellogg, this country's foremost pioneer of colon health, the bacteria in a healthy colon ideally should be 85% friendly bacteria, namely lactobacteria and no more than 15% of the putrefactive variety. Yet we find that the typical colon bacterial count in our society shows only 15% lactobacteria and a huge 85% unfriendly. Because the type of foods we eat depend on the kind of bacteria that thrives within our colon, it is vital we care for our diet in order to keep the correct flora balance.
The foods we eat are also directly related to the transit time through the alimentary canal. The shorter the transit time the less the food will putrefy and the less will be the resultant autointoxication. (Autointoxication is the process whereby the body literally poisons itself by maintaining a cesspool of decaying matter in the colon in which foul odours and toxic substances are generated.) The average transit time for people in our Western civilisation is 65-100 hours. This indicates a mucoid condition within the colon, where the transit time is considerably slow due to the toxic build-up of layer after layer of mucus, trapping and holding onto faeces that should be passing through a lot more quickly. Foods that putrefy quickly, such as meat, fish, eggs and pasteurised dairy products are also high in mucoid forming activity. Even though it is desirable for these foods to pass through the body quickly because of their high rate of putrefaction, they actually pass through relatively slowly due to their high mucoidforming activity, providing a delightful environment for the unhealthy bacteria to thrive upon.
The most common species of putrefactive bacteria is 'Escherichia coli'. In the words of Bernard Jensen, 'Escherichia coli likes protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner.' Considering the amount of protein in the average UK diet, it is easy to see why the bowel flora balance is so incorrect. All 'coliform' bacteria produce an alkaline environment in the gut by removing the nitrogen from the amino acids and creating 'amines'. These toxic substances, including indole, skatole and cadaverine (present in dead bodies), are foul smelling and give faeces their characteristic odour. Also, by process of decarboxylation, carbon dioxide gas is released creating intestinal gas which is neither comfortable nor a pleasant problem to be suffering with. In orthodox text books they will state that the coliform bacteria are the predominant strain and therefore the colon is naturally alkaline. This is not how it should be.
The bowels will normally be slow to move unless the contents of the colon have reached a certain acidity. When the colon contains large amounts of the good bacteria; lactobacteria acidophilus, together with relatively low levels of the putrefactive bacteria, the acidity will be such that the bowels move at least two or three times per day. When the acid producing bacteria are in abundance they actually prevent the putrefactive kind from thriving. An acid bowel environment is the best defence against unfriendly bacteria. When we provide a favourable environment for the acidophilus, we are at the same time wiping out the breeding ground for the bacillus coli.
The lactobacteria and putrefactive bacteria in the intestinal tract contrast with each other in various ways. Lactobacteria live on carbohydrates, whereas putrefactive bacteria live on protein. Putrefactive bacteria do not grow well in the acidic medium produced by the lactobacteria. However, even if we have a reasonable intake of carbohydrates we must still maintain a low protein diet as the ammonia produced by the metabolisation of protein, (deamination), neutralises the acidity produced by the lactobacteria. It therefore takes a vigorous growth of lactobacteria in the intestinal tract to finally predominate over the putrefactive bacteria.
An acid environment in the colon is normally established at birth. Mother's milk provides the infant with the essential 'bifido bacterium', (another strain of acid-forming bacteria), which is normally found around her nipple and hopefully in her milk. I say hopefully because modern living has seriously depleted the good bacteria found in mothers milk and for this reason a supplement during pregnancy is a good idea. Babies that are breast-fed are certainly given a greater chance of good health, as a well established acid bowel is the best foundation they could have. Between the ages of 5-7 years the bifido bacteria is to a fair degree replaced by the lactobacillus normally found in a healthy adult gut. If a baby is bottle-fed, then the dominant bacteria in the gut will be lactobacillus acidophilus and the baby is forced into an adult state of gut. The problems with this are not specific, but eczema, colic and babies that won't feed are recognised in holistic nutrition as being problems associated with bottle fed babies. Many people who develop problems later in life are found to be in this category.
The bifido bacterium is most important to the first five years of life. Sick babies respond very well when supplemented with 'Bifidobacterium infantis' produced by Natren called Lifestart.
Now we have established how to maintain a good bowel flora, it is interesting to look at why we have it in the first place. Not only does it ensure a faster transit time and therefore less chance of autointoxication, but our bacterial flora is also of nutritional advantage to us. Due to its activity it plays a positive role in the synthesis of B vitamins, especially thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and nicotinic acid (B3), lessening our nutritional intake. There is some evidence pointing towards the synthesis of biotin and folic acid and quite possible vitamin B6, though these have yet to be confirmed. Vitamin K, responsible for the clotting of the blood is also synthesised, so the importance of having a well established healthy bowel flora is important in this respect.
As recently as the 1930's the colon was considered a toxic organ that was basically futile and was therefore of no significance if removed. Of course, we now know that our body relies on all our organs for proper functioning and the colon is of no exception. Not only does it rely on the synthesis of these vitamins but also on the recovery of water, which includes the vital salts dispensed in the digestive juices. In the process of digestion the body can produce up to 8,200ml of internal secretions in any 24hr period. Therefore the recovery role is of vital importance.
The sheer quantity of bacterial organisms in our intestines far outnumber the number of cells in our whole body. It is estimated that these bacteria, mostly found in our colon, make up about 3lbs in weight. These bacteria are very active, transforming large amounts of material and using a lot of energy in the process, determining a whole set of physic-chemical conditions in the bowel. They have influence over our absorption, breaking down food residues and controlling the nature of faeces that are passed. If we have good bowel bacteria then we absorb well the recovered minerals and synthesised vitamins. If, however, the putrefactive bacteria is on control then we will absorb the toxic substances they produce, affecting us not only physically but also on a much more subtle level. Bad bowel flora has an etheric energy all of its own which will affect our own life force significantly. We interact with our bowel flora; not only does it affect us but we can affect it in exactly the same ways; through diet and attitude. I have seen it work time and time again with patients. They become more and more positive as their life force is no longer being suppressed and the removal of this putrefactive bacteria that may have been resident for years is removed, lessening emotional and mental stresses. Those who have a strong awareness of themselves spiritually always recover on the physical level more quickly.
All patients undergoing nutritional advice and therapeutic diets should be supplemented with a good acidophilus culture, even if their problem doesn't specifically relate to their colon. Without it, it doesn't ensure the best circumstance for mineral absorption. Heavy antibiotic use, steroids including the contraceptive pill and any immuno-suppressive drugs are factors which will increase the need for acidophilus on a day-to-day basis generally. If the bowel is healthy it will be slightly acidic, the tissues of the body will be slightly alkaline and the skin slightly acidic. With an unhealthy alkaline colon, it creates acidity in the body tissues, which impedes correct cell function as required in the healing process.
One most common example of acidic bodily tissues is the presence of Candida Albicans, (a mould that attaches itself to the intestinal wall and can penetrate other body tissues). For immediate relief of the symptom of thrush then a flush with natural yoghurt (slightly acidic) will combat the bacteria living on the alkaline surface of the vagina. Long term relief will be to correct the bowel flora to an acidic state that the body tissues can return to alkalinity and the surfaces to acidity. The Candida cannot thrive in an acidic medium. If a patient is 100% confirmed as having a candida diet, then a diet free from yeast, fungi and sugar must follow.
Problems with skin conditions particularly indicate a bowel flora imbalance and this is one area that requires strong supplementation of acidophilus. If the patient also displays liver problems, then a bifido bacteria is a better choice to start with.
As far as diet is concerned the normal therapeutic guidelines apply : no yeast, sugar, dairy, white flour, fried food or red meat etc. Tea, coffee and chocolate should be avoided as they have a de-mineralisation effect. The diet should consist of mostly carbohydrates, low in fat and protein, especially the latter as this is food for the putrefactive bacteria, affecting the acidity level in the colon as well as being highly mucoid forming in the gut, slowing down the transit time. Vegetables and fruit are virtually free from any mucoid forming activity. They are nature's purest foods and lactobacteria thrive upon them once broken down into glucose in the gut. Lactobacteria is essential for producing bulky, well-lubricated stools with greater frequency and for counteracting the harmful bacteria. Due to our diet being rich in protein and fat maybe we should consider supplementing with gut flora on a daily basis regardless.
© Copyright Wholistic Research Company 2001