The Scoop on Poop
Written by Jane G. Goldberg, Ph.D.
I remember when I first went to Europe, in the mid 60s, I was appalled that there were countries that did not have toilets for travelers. Some places (I remember especially Greece) had small rooms that had drains in the floor. The only option was to squat. It seemed quite primitive to me at the time.
It turns out they knew a thing or two. In fact, until the mid-1850s, people everywhere squatted to eliminate.
We now know that sitting on a modern toilet places your health at risk. Non-Westernized societies, in which people squat rather than sit, do not have the high prevalence of bowel disease seen in developed nations; in some cultures with traditional lifestyles, these diseases are virtually unknown. There’s compelling evidence suggesting the Western toilet is, at least in part, responsible not only for constipation and hemorrhoids, but also more severe health problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), appendicitis, and even heart attacks—caused by the disruption of blood flow and straining.
It’s all a matter of physiology and gravity. When you sit on a toilet, your knees are at a 90-degree angle to your abdomen. This position hinders elimination by pinching off your anal canal. (And all the recent research coming out also tells us that sitting too much per se—even when not on the toilet—is dangerous.)
Squatting, on the other hand, places your knees closer to your torso, and this position changes the spatial relationships of your intestinal organs and musculature, relaxing and straightening your rectum. As a result, you maximize the efficiency of elimination. Importantly, this prevents fecal stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in your intestinal tract that can fester and contribute to bowel problems and a variety of discomforts.
Luckily, for we Westerners, someone smart figured out a way for us to be in the squat position and still use the toilet. It’s called the “Welles Step”, and was designed by Dr. William Welles, a chiropractor/nutritionist who studied with Dr. Bernard Jensen (author of “Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management”—my Bible on colon health for the last 45 years). Jensen was the man who advised my mother on how to successfully cure her terminal cancer. With Jensen’s encouragement, Welles created the Welles Step to assist people in achieving the proper posture for elimination. When not in use, it fits around the toilet base for out-of-the-way storage.
When you’re using either of the toilets at La Casa, you will see a Welles Step tucked away, ready to be easily pulled out for use. It is especially nice to use after a colonic.
Cleaning Up Your Act
Think about it this way: by the time you’ve reached middle-age, you’ve taken upwards of 15,000 showers and brushed your teeth about 30,000 times. Have you ever thought about the fact that we go to such great efforts, on a daily basis, to keep our skin and teeth clean, and yet we don’t routinely make the same effort to clean the inside of our bodies?
The inside of our body, especially the colon which functions as the “sewage system” of our body, requires regular cleaning as much as our skin and teeth. Over a period of time, if the colon is operating inefficiently, the walls of the colon can become encrusted with un-eliminated waste, thus making its function yet even more inefficient. Fecal matter, mucus, toxins, pathogens and parasites form a wall of impacted debris in the colon that can cause a build-up of toxicity. Prolonged accumulation of waste matter can cause lethargy in the muscles of the colon, causing a sluggish bowel that cannot make complete bowel movements. Ill health is inevitable when the colon is not kept clean. A malfunctioning colon will affect not only the digestive system, but, as well, every living cell and organ in the body.
Modern Levels of Toxicity
In the U.S., all newborns are born into a heavy burden of toxicity. In a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, over 200 chemicals were found in the cord blood of babies.
We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis, through the air we breathe, the water we drink (water bottled in plastic containers is one of the worse offenders, leaving us with dangerous phthalates), the food we eat, medications we take, and even our own genetics.
Yet, the wisdom of our body is that we are, on a continuous basis, an efficient detoxification machine, operating on various levels to rid ourselves of toxins through the efficient workings of our eliminative channels: we sweat through our skin; we pass urine through our kidneys and fecal matter through our intestinal tracts. Until recently, healthy individuals could usually keep up with their toxic load. But today, we are overwhelming our eliminative channels.
Cleansing the Colon
The colon is the most important organ for eliminating waste—both normal dietary waste as well as modern toxins. Friendly bacteria live naturally in the colon, and help to break down food into moveable waste. Un-eliminated waste, on the other hand, turns the colon into essentially an internal cesspool. Unhealthy bacteria and other pathogens thrive in this toxic environment.
Most of us raised on a modern diet have insufficient bowel functioning. Breast-fed babies, indigenous peoples, birds and animals—all evacuate their bowels shortly after each meal. Yet, this “normal” bowel functioning is no longer “normal” for most of us today.
We tend to think that we are not constipated if we are having one bowel movement a day. Yet, we eat three meals a day. Where are the other two meals going if they are not being eliminated through the digestive tract? Normal bowel functioning means there is waste for everything that goes in except distilled water. We need to find those other, “lost” meals.
The answer may be surprising if not frightening. The food that is not absorbed by the body as nutrients stays around the body in unlikely places—often against the colon walls, but also in tissues and organs; in arteries; any place at all in the body can serve as a receptacle for un-eliminated waste. A healthy bowel will reabsorb up to 94% of the toxins in it as the waste material sits in the bowel waiting to be removed.
How the Colon Works
The colon is essentially a tube that is the shape of an inverted U. It consists of the ascending colon, in which waste material must defy gravity and advance upward; then lies the transverse colon, which crosses laterally over our abdomen; and finally the descending colon, as the waste begins its travel downward and out of our bodies, through the rectum.
Both the diverticuli and the appendix in the colon are places for waste to collect. These are both pouches that jut out from the main part of the colon. When waste is stored in the diverticuli or appendix, bad bacteria proliferate, and infection is formed. A diagnosis of diverticulitis or appendicitis is given when the infection reaches a point where pain and inflammation occurs. Antibiotics or surgery are the medical remedies for these conditions.
What Happens When We Don’t Eliminate
When the transverse colon becomes saturated with waste from un-eliminated food, it begins to sag. The point at which the ascending colon meets the transverse colon requires the waste to make a difficult sharp right turn. As the names suggest, waste must first travel up—against the force of gravity—in the ascending colon.
But when the waste makes its successful right turn, reaching the transverse colon, the eliminative process that we call a bowel movement is almost home free in its journey to be expelled from the body.
In entering the transverse colon, the route of the waste is, in healthy conditions, lateral, and then, having completed that leg of its journey, it begins to move downward, as it finds its way to the descending colon. But if the transverse colon sags, the arduous up-hill battle is not over. The waste must attempt its second and unnecessary journey up-hill. It’s a losing battle for the over-worked colon.
When waste stays in the colon, it begins to coat the colon wall. Having a bowel movement is, in one way, not altogether different than having a baby. Labor begins when the walls of the uterus contract, and this movement pushes the baby through the birth canal. Similarly peristaltic movement is when the walls of the colon muscle contract, and this activity moves the waste through its path.
But when the colon wall becomes coated with waste, the opening of the tube-shaped colon becomes smaller and smaller, creating less room for the waste to travel through. And additionally, the peristaltic contraction doesn’t reach the actual waste material; the contracting activity of the colon that is necessary to transport the waste, then, fails to create the necessary movement.
The portal vein crosses from the colon to the liver. Every 4 minutes the blood cycles through the portal vein from the colon to the liver and back again. A toxic colon creates a toxic liver. If the colon has malignant bacteria or toxic residue sitting in it, the portal vein carries this material to the liver. Then the liver, the organ that has the very specific job of systemically detoxifying the body, cannot do its job. It has become too overloaded from junk that was the original purview of the colon. When you detox the colon, you detox the liver as well.
It is now thought (and documented in studies) that 80% of immune tissues reside in the intestines. Removing stagnant and toxic waste material has an over-all beneficial effect on the whole body, but is especially effective in rejuvenating the immune tissue in the intestines.
Maintaining a healthy colon also gives a clearer complexion. The skin is—like the colon, the liver, and the kidneys—an organ of elimination. Any eruptions on the skin are signs that better detoxification needs to occur. When the other means of elimination are not sufficient for carrying out of the body the amount of toxins that have been put into the body, the skin begins doing double duty. Cleansing the colon helps to clear up skin blemishes.
Additionally, the transverse colon passes through the solar plexus, which, in many ancient traditions, is thought to be the emotional center of the body. Emotional events that remain unprocessed can result in physical tension in the solar plexus, and this constriction can cause the colon to tighten. Diminished movement of fecal material through the colon results. Many people have reported that when they are able to release the stored material from the colon, they are enabled to experience a fuller, richer emotional life.
A healthy intestine requires emptying every six hours. Yet, with our modern diets, and the sluggish colons that many of us suffer from, the colon is more often emptied only every 24 hours. When the colon fails to do its proper job of cleansing the whole body through elimination of waste, we essentially poison ourselves. We become auto-intoxicated.
Symptoms of auto-intoxification include:
· Allergies, especially to foods
· Skin problems, including acne
· Frequent congestion
· Low energy
· Excessive need for sleep
· Tendency to get low-grade infections
· Severe premenstrual syndrome
The Science of Colon Cleaning
Healthy stool is long, round, and smooth with the texture similar to creamy peanut butter and golden brown in color. It should be slightly acidic so it floats on the surface of water, breaking up soon afterwards. The colon pH itself should be slightly alkaline, thus promoting the growth of friendly bacteria.
The size and shape of the stool indicate the transit time through the digestive tract. The color indicates how well digestion is, and can be an alert alarm to other changes in the body.
• Stool that is lighter in color may indicate a blockage in the bile duct or a deficiency in producing bile (digestive aid).
• Because of high fat content, stool may be foul smelling and sticky like clay making it difficult to flush. This is usually the result of bad absorption.
• Blood in the stool (detected by a red color in the stool) is an indication of colon disease, internal hemorrhoids, or parasites. Eating beets will also add color to stools and urine and be used as an indication of transit time.
• Dark stools are usually from a diet of dark greens, iron supplements, or meat.
• Black stools may indicate bleeding in the stomach or smaller intestine caused from an injury, bleeding ulcer, tumor, or worms.
• Slimy stools contain excess mucus caused by bacteria, yeast infection, tumor, or other problems in the colon.
There is scientific research showing the relationship between bowel functioning and health. British and South African scientists have shown specific interest and have conducted elaborate experiments involving the clocking and weighing of feces of human volunteers. It has been confirmed that too few bowel movements and too little bulk in the stool is related to a variety of disorders, including heart and gallbladder diseases, diverticulitis, varicose veins, hiatal hernia, and cancer of the large intestine.
One study researched over 1000 women with histories of constipation. Fluid was extracted from the breasts of the women. This fluid showed abnormal cells that are the same abnormal cells found in women with breast cancer. These cellular abnormalities occurred five times more often in women who moved their bowels fewer than three times a week than in women who did so more than once a day.
“Top-down” methods of Colon Cleansing
The simplest way of beginning colon cleansing is from “top-down” by adding bulk to the diet. Fiber is present in all fresh, raw vegetables. Cooking softens the fiber and renders it ineffective.
Dietary fiber in food is indigestible. But when present in the intestinal tract, it supports a multiplying population of intestinal bacteria, and this can be an aid in both digestion and elimination.
The detoxifying powers of fiber were demonstrated in a study where rats were fed poison, and simultaneously put on a high fiber diet. These rats survived without harm, while other animals fed the same poison, but without the fiber, became ill and died.
A number of “top-down” safe and effective herbal supplements are available at most health food stores that will help the bowels to be better tonified. Casgara sagrada and senna are often used in herbal remedies. Aloe and flaxseed oil also are often effective. Fresh coconut water almost always resolves a temporary constipation problem.
Also, a colon cleansing diet is good to follow. This involves avoiding the following foods:
• unnatural high-fat foods (French Fires, potato chips, etc)
• processed foods
• sweets and candy
• limit dairy products
“Bottom-up” Methods of Colon Cleansing
“Bottom-up” remedies include colonics and enemas. Many holistic practitioners recommend these as an integral part of any detoxification program. Enemas can be performed on oneself (except when they are administered by parents to children). An enema involves putting a small amount of water into the rectum, and washes only the lower part of the colon. The water is then expelled directly into the toilet.
A colonic is essentially an uber-enema, and it is performed by a practitioner who specializes in the treatment. Colonics put a large amount of water into the colon—usually about 10-15 gallons, though not all at once—and the water reaches deep into the colon tract, all five feet of it. The water is expelled through a tube directly into the city’s waste line (just as toilets do). Colonics are sanitary and painless.
Although the convenience of enemas offer a distinct advantage, they are not as thorough as colonics. Norman Walker, a well-known centenarian who is considered one of the fathers of holistic health, said, “One colon hydrotherapy is equivalent to 30 enemas.”
Although colonics have become more popular in recent years, they are still not recommended by most traditional medical practitioners. The objections center primarily around the issues that the procedure is not sanitary, and further, that it is unnatural to fill the colon with water. Sanitation is not an issue when the procedure is performed by a trained colon therapist. Colonic systems are sterilized between usage and the speculums (the instrument inserted into the rectum) used today are disposable and come wrapped in sealed plastic bags. Most colonic systems filter the water through UV lights, eliminating the possibility of introducing water-borne pathogens into the intestinal tract.
The Origin and History of Enemas and Colonics
The Egyptians appear to the first to have recorded colon cleansing as a method of achieving better health. The Ebers Papyrus, dating back to the 14th century BC, and now housed in the Royal Museum of Berlin, has suggestions for enema-based remedies. Tablets from 600 BC tell us that both the Greeks and Romans, similarly, recommended enemas as a viable remedy for fevers as well as a cure for worms.
Farther east, from India, there is an ancient yogic tradition that involves water cleansing of the colon. Yogis have been known to master a technique called Basti in order to give a natural cleansing of the lower intestines. Basti involves the controlled use of muscles to pull water up into the colon, and then, after churning the water around to dislodge old waste products, the water, and whatever bowel waste it carries off with it, is expelled.
A more recent approach to colon cleansing was developed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, around the turn of the century, at the famed Battle Creek Sanitarium that he headed. Kellogg maintained that 90 percent of diseases are the result of improper functioning of the colon.
His favorite device for health was a forerunner of the modern colonic machine. He developed an enema machine that enabled the practitioner to give the patient a series of rapid enemas, instilling several gallons of water into the colon.
He ended each uber-enema with a pint of yogurt, one half eaten, and the other half implanted into the colon. The yogurt replaced the intestinal flora of the bowel that the enema may have washed out, and gave to the patient what Kellogg referred to as a “squeaky-clean intestine.” Kellogg lived happily to 91 (after, parenthetically, formulating the first-ever version of granola–which he named Granola).
Kellogg was prescient in his belief that most disease is both caused by and alleviated by a change in intestinal flora. In this, he foreshadowed the current research on intestinal microbes. He understood (as microbe researchers today similarly understand) that a poor diet favors harmful bacteria that can then infect other tissues in the body, and conversely, that the intestinal flora is changed for the better by a healthy diet.
Kellogg was not the only turn of the century physician who practiced colon hydrotherapy. Well into the 1920’s, physicians had colonic equipment in their offices, and it was not uncommon for hospitals to have them, as well. Medicine then took colonics as a serious and effective treatment for many ailments, and medical and scientific journals of the day often published articles on colon health.
Do Enemas and Colonics Provide a Long-term Solution for Weight Control, a Flatter Belly and Better Digestion?
The average person may have up to 10 pounds or more of old un-eliminated waste sitting dormant in the large intestine. Many of us carry this as unnecessary weight. This weight can be eliminated by doing a series of high colonic irrigations.
If there is bloating in the belly from undigested food, enemas and colonics can eliminate gas from the digestive tract, and the belly will flatten. But frequent gas is a sign that the body has a chronic problem of not digesting food well enough, and colon cleansing alone won’t fix that problem. Only changing how one eats will correct a condition of chronic indigestion. Probiotics and digestive enzymes will help, but the best remedy is to learn how one’s own body functions, and to honor this information. One client who came into La Casa complained that every time she ate fried chicken, her colon went crazy on her, and she got severe diarrhea. Her first solution, which she followed for many decades, was to only eat fried chicken when she was near a bathroom. The better solution, which she finally adapted, was to accept that her body didn’t do well with fried foods, and to eliminate them from her diet.
Do colonics upset the electrolyte balance?
Electrolytes are the minerals in the body, and consist mainly of sodium and potassium salts. These are important for maintaining the proper pH (acid vs. alkaline) balance in the organs and tissues. The colon’s main function is to re-absorb the liquid from unformed stool. Once the fluid is reabsorbed, and stool is formed, the stool then moves through its journey ending in the rectum, and, finally, out of the body. A successful colonic releases mostly formed stool. The amount of electrolytes lost from a colonic is quite small, and easily replaced by the body from eating and drinking after the colonic. Many colon therapists recommend eating a small amount of yogurt after a colonic (as Kellogg recommended), as the fermented dairy has a plethora of digestively “friendly” bacteria.
Benefits of a Healthy Colon Achieved through a Cleansing Program:
• The prevention of illness
• An improvement in physical appearance
• A boost in emotional well-being
• A sharpening of mental capabilities
• An enhancement in digestion; better absorption of nutrients
• The elimination of unhealthy food addictions & allergies
• The attainment of ideal weight, and better body shaping
• A minimizing of the effects of aging
• Alkalization of the body, leading to many benefits including relief from arthritis
• Boosting of immune system