It seems a dark and dirty place to start a conversation but if anyone’s gonna do it - let it be a no holds-barred witch doctor (who knows a bit about such things)….
Let’s start by saying that although Poop is considered a useless waste product, the Colon itself is a profoundly intelligent machine. Just try to drive your car without its engine - you can’t. Impossiblè. Comprenez vous?
I’ve been working on peoples bowels and intestinal tracts for a long time. In fact it’s commonly the first port-of-call in the detoxification process. Why? Because if you’re going to stimulate, cleanse, release or purge toxins, microbes, parasites, compounds or hormones from the body you’ll need to ride the grand-channel outta there (that is the colon). Any blockages, constipation, inflammation or disfunction of the bowel can result in all of the above taking up residency and re-cycling into the body, and greatly impacting the delicate balance of healthy bacteria in your GUT (Gastro-Intestinal-Tract).
And that is where the beginning of many chronic conditions start - ironically in your rear end….
In fact many inflammatory diseases have their humble beginnings in the bowel. It's known that more than 70% of our immune system is located in and around the gastrointestinal tract, and possibly why food sensitivities, auto-immune diseases and increased intestinal permeability are common-place now. Could *Hippocrates have been right when he said:
“All disease begins in the Gut” (*he’s kind of a big deal in the field of Medicine)
We absolutely, positively should be thinking about our poop. We should be holding mental and visual (yes I said it) conversations with ourselves about the uniqueness of our bowel habits. Because our primary waste system is a red flag of danger; a canary in the mine; an expression of what is happening in our gizzards. And it’s not just about the colour, texture and odour but the subtle or obvious changes that occur in your toileting habits and what they say about your digestion - or lack thereof.
Let’s plunge into the bowl of reasons why your Bowel health is crucial. What actually goes on in there? What does it really do? What if things go wrong? What does that mean to your body? Your immunity and brain?
Your (large) Colon is a whopping 1.5 metres of dense muscular ingenuity; the primary site of hormone excretion, Vitamin K production, crucial to immune activation and development, and contains small brain proteins called neuropeptides necessary for the regulation of emotions and mood. It’s no surprise the the GUT is called the 2nd brain - it contains approx 100 million neurons. That’s more than the spinal cord!
Which is fascinating right? This is not exclusive to the Colon either, the entire intestinal tract is innervated by this intricate and intelligent neuronal system. Ever heard of the phrase Food = Mood?
Now might be the time to drop into the bowl we speak of…
The bowel is muscular and moves debris (poop) by a motion called peristalsis, an action triggered by a highly tuned signalling system from the brain to colon receptors. And guess what hinders this action the most? Sedentary, couch surfing, chair sitting, office working lifestyles which is a large portion of the work-force. And think of all the couch-ridden hours spent by children on play-stations, Xbox and technology. In obvious contrast to this sedentary lifestyle we've resorted to via a mind-stonkering ridiculous fatigue from the stress and pressure of modern-day living…….. (wait! where was i?)
…regular movement and exercise can be a powerful and inexpensive way to improve the tone and function of your bowel by supporting peristalsis. Blocked up? Bloated? Move your body! But some people don’t have the time to exercise, nor money, nor inclination. This poses a problem and soon enough if trouble is stirring symptoms will arise.
Dysbiosis is a fancy-schmancy word for the imbalance of healthy bacteria Vs microbial growth in your colon. It might sound pretentious but left untreated it can lead into some seriously chronic health conditions. And what’s the greatest contributor to this silent monstrosity? Oh just LIFE.
The way we live, eat, feel, medicate, drink, stress and biologically replicate (that is to say our genetics) affects the delicate balance of bacteria in our bowel. There’s no escaping it. Life is hectic and mass consumerism, convenience and a privileged existence where we stress about things like mortgages and over-due library books is like an atomic bomb to our GUT.
It’s not a one-off event, it’s a slow corrosive silent gradient. It’s all the years and drinks in between. You’ll know it. “Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection” — Anthony L. Komaroff; Editor in Chief, Harvard Health.
That came from Harvard University. BOOM. #legitAF
We know that neuropeptide production in the GUT directly influences neurotransmitters in the brain. Have you ever been constipated? Holy get-out-of-my-face-stipation. And what about hormone health? In females? Teenagers? Skin afflictions?
Follow me here:
Liver = Oestrogen Metabolism
Bowel = Oestrogen Elimination
The Liver and Bowel are like BFF’s. The Liver sorts the rubbish and the Bowel removes the waste. If it can, but if it cannot? Mr Venous Bloodstream sends it straight back to Liver-land for recycling till the Bowel gets it’s sh#t together. If it can, but if it cannot? Symptoms of PMS, Menopause, Hormonal dis-regulation, Bloating and Weight-gain MAY result.
Recently, I missed the Yellow-Bin Collection in my neighbourhood.
For 2 weeks I gathered a proud display of recyclables around my home, kitchen floor and front door till the next bin collection. No word of a lie I wore it like a badge till someone mentioned Zero Waste to me. I went home that day and self-loathing kicked in…
But think about it for a sec. Imagine no regular Waste Collection? Imagine the bacteria, maggots, pollution? Ewwwww. Your home would become a cesspit of debris, mess and vile. Everyone would be in a funk. And that is a perfect analogy for your rear-end.
To improve the health and function of the bowel first act upon:
Heard this a million times? Do all of the above and still struggling? I understand. I see some very healthy humans in clinic who are up “sh#t -creek with out a stool to sit on” paddling their oars in the waters of tremendous effort for small pebbles of rabbit-poo. It’s dis-heartening for them.
Sometimes you need an extra push, sometimes you need to turn on the signalling centres, sometimes you need to simply sit longer on the toilet and not try to smash one out in record time with kids bashing on the door. Muuuuuuuuuuum!?
The fact is that your entire GUT is vastly important. The human species has evolved to THRIVE from optimal gut function - society, anti-biotic overuse, junk food and genetics just got in the way. The biological inconvenience has resulted in some major health epidemics. Bowel Cancer is “estimated to become Australia’s second most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2017 with 16,682 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2017, breaking down statistically to 9,127 males and 7,555 females”.
That’s more than a small town in rural NSW.
That’s far too many.
I urge you to think about the big push. The big picture. Your rear-end. Before you reach for the Multivitamins and Coffee think broader. How accountable are you to your bowel function? How is your energy, your gut feeling, your anxiety? Can you feel better? Can you do better? If yes, then start at the end of your intestinal tract to seek your vitality.
Therapeutic note: Don’t fall into the trap of dumping a capsule of *Good Bacteria into the boggy war zone thinking it’s a guaranteed solution. Those little bacterial-soldiers are like the Anzacs on the beach at Gallipoli - they have little hope of surviving the warfare.
*probiotics so named to appeal to your burning desire for ‘Inner Health’….
Melanie Lock ND BHSc Naturopath, Nutrition, Nutritional & Emotional Counselling, Herbal Tea Creator, Product Developer, Business Owner, Writer, Speaker, Mother.
References and Further Reading:
The Gut-Brain Connection
Neuropeptides and inflammatory bowel disease.
Neuropeptides and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis
Bowel Cancer Statistics
Kings Psychology Work
All Disease Begins in the GUT