Take care: Shit happens

Let me familiarize you with the intestines, get to know how it works, and ease yourself through what a great many consider as the daily bane of moving one’s bowels.

Our intestines are made up of segments which squeeze down its contents as new material enters it from the stomach. Nutrients from ‘smooth’ foods (meat, fish, eggs, etc.) are absorbed almost completely in the small intestines while the ‘roughage’ or waste materials from fruits, vegetables, cereals enter the colon as a loose moist mass where excess water is absorbed by the body. The residue, now a relatively solid mass of wastes then moves down to the rectum where pressure on the muscles prompts an urge to move one’s bowels. Do you know how long the entire process takes?

To pass through the stomach alone, an average meal requires 4-6 hours, and to pass through the whole 30 feet of tube takes at least 36-48 hours. Food eaten Monday (breakfast, lunch and dinner) becomes a liquid in the stomach and then passes thru the small intestines during Monday and Monday night. On Tuesday morning, the residue has only progressed to the colon, still in liquid state. During Tuesday and Tuesday night, this residue is propelled slowly through the colon, being dehydrated as it goes, to be expelled Wednesday morning. Meantime, the food eaten Tuesday has reached the upper colon as a residue, to be expelled Thursday. The normal colon is never empty.*

Improper toilet training, a lazy attitude, poor hydration, the habitual failure to respond to the urge to move one’s bowels, for one reason or another, often results in chronic constipation. It is unfortunate that the problem is usually blamed not on bad habits, but on non-existent organic causes. The ‘harmless” laxative, initially taken just to remedy a situation, usually ends up being taken habitually. What does the laxative do? It irritates the sensitive lining of the digestive tract. Hurt, the intestines tries to get rid of the offending cathartic by pushing its content forward at a faster pace than is normal so that in the small intestines, food nutrients are not fully absorbed, while in the large intestines, not only is normal absorption of water hampered but it also disturbs the normal exchange of gases between intestinal contents and the blood, bringing about distention (kabag), gurgling or rumbling (kumukulo), and even cramps.

Routines are alright: a cup of coffee or a meal first thing in the morning gets the digestive juices flowing and the stomach churning, while a cigarette and/or reading material relaxes. But THERE’S REALLY NO NEED TO STRAIN.  Straining not only may cause hemorrhoids, it also arrests the colon’s involuntary contractions and blocks the natural progress of evacuating its contents.

Now, fully aware of the hows and wherefores of our bowels, heed the signal of a full colon and try this:

1. Regally sit on your throne, not crunched with arms or elbows propped on one’s thighs as most are wont to do;

2. Relax by pushing in your belly button towards your spine, expelling all the air in your lungs in the process;

3. Concentrate on:

a. taking slow deep breaths through the nose;

b. then exhaling slowly thru the mouth;

c. remember: push your belly button towards your spine every time you exhale through your mouth.

Before you know it, success! Incidentally, a little pee after signals that you’re really done, this time around!

*From Dr. William Harley Glafke‘s ‘Your Long-Suffering Colon’, one of a collection of articles by famous medical authors and physicians in The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) Ltd. 1968 and Reader’s Digest Asia Ltd 1969, “Our Human Body’.


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