To have optimal digestion with no bowel problems, you need to be eating the right fiber for your gut. Fiber stimulates peristalsis, the wavelike movement that causes food to pass through your esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, where wastes are eliminated. Unfortunately, stress and aging can affect the condition of your intestines preventing a healthy transit time due to impaired peristalsis movement. Inflammation can “reduce the barrier function of the bowel, letting larger amounts of bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream, interfering with energy metabolism, and creating inflammatory vicious cycles of increasing leakiness and inflammation.”*
To heal and/or strengthen your digestion, here are some good fiber foods (with recipes included below) that you can include in your diet:
1. Raw and cooked carrots and well cooked mushrooms. These foods contain natural antibiotics that can keep down excessive bacterial growth in your gut and promote a healthy transit time.
You can make a carrot salad by shredding raw carrots finely and lengthwise. For salad dressing mix together coconut oil, white vinegar, and salt. (carrot salad recipe) Coconut oil and white vinegar can also help cleanse the gut because they are mild germicides.
To add cooked mushrooms to your diet, you can boil white mushrooms (and you can experiment with other kinds of mushrooms like oyster or shitake) for two to three hours creating a delicious mushroom soup to which you can add other ingredients like pieces of meat, fish or cheese. (basic mushroom preparation) Another idea would be to sauté cooked mushrooms in a little butter or coconut oil. You could also sprinkle cooked mushrooms on a nixtamalized corn tortilla with melted cheese like a wrap.
2. Root vegetables. Good choices are carrots, white potatoes and white turnip. These starches grow in a warm, moist, dark environment and therefore have many protective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to support a healthy gut.
3. Canned bamboo shoots (without added citric acid)
4. Cooked oat bran cereal.
In addition the herb, cascara, from the bark of the tree can be taken in powdered form. It is important to check that it has a dark brown color indicating it has been aged for at least a year. Cascara can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the intestines that can slow down the digestive tract. It has a laxative effect that can help with constipation. “An effective laxative (besides preventing inflammation) causes not only coordinated contraction of the smooth muscles of the intestine (peristalsis) but also adjusts secretions and absorption, so that an appropriate amount of fluid stays in the intestine and the cells of the intestine don’t become waterlogged.” *
In addition, eliminate foods that are hard to digest like raw vegetables (except for carrots), seeds (especially pumpkin, sunflower and sesame), grains (gluten found in wheat contains a protein which can be irritating), and legumes and nuts (with the exception of macadamia nuts).
Bowel habits are very important. Stools should be soft and easy to pass. They should be shaped like bananas, not little round balls that indicate constipation. There should be minimal burping, bloating and gas and no gas pains. Gas and stools should be relatively odorless. Transit time is key and you should have two good bowel movements a day with smaller ones in between to empty the large intestine daily. Ideally, you should go when you get up in the morning and after meals. These are general guidelines from our research. Remember them in order to be able to identify signs of improvement in your elimination. When your elimination improves, you will know your digestion is improving as well.
If food stays in the small intestine too long, it can begin to ferment and create a yeastlike, brewery condition that is ideal for germs and bacteria to grow in. Bacteria are meant to reside in the large intestine, not the small intestine or stomach. When digestion slows there can be an overgrowth of bacterial microorganisms between the stomach and colon. This can lead to inflammation and the creation of toxins (specifically endotoxins) in your digestive tract with symptoms like gas, gas pains and bloating. Inflammation can cause thinning of the small intestinal lining that can lead to a leaky gut where endotoxins can spill out and destroy tissues. Once these endotoxins get out of the digestive system and into the bloodstream, you can experience a myriad of symptoms like headaches, sleep disturbance, reduced heart function, low energy and nausea, to name a few.
Most laxatives work on the large intestine. You are stimulating the bottom of the digestive tract. If peristalsis gets weaker and weaker, you can get reverse peristalsis and that allows bacteria to get into the small intestine causing irritation. One of the causes of bad breath in the morning is the system backing up. And you can get bloating, heartburn, ulcers and reflux. When peristalsis is strong it keeps food moving forward and stimulates the release of hydrochloric acid, bile and enzymes, eliminating the need for taking these supplements.
“In the presence of bacterial endotoxin, respiratory energy production fails in the cells lining the intestine. Nitric oxide is probably the main mediator of this effect.” The shift from respiration to glycolysis, from producing carbon dioxide to producing lactic acid, involves a global change in cell functions, away from specialized differentiated functioning, toward defensive and inflammatory processes.”*
The right fiber also helps move hormones like estrogen. Estrogen is a stress hormone similar to adrenaline and cortisol. Too much estrogen can cause inflammation and destroy bone marrow where white and red blood cells are made.
Walking is another way to improve transit time. Take pleasurable walks outside every day where you can connect with nature, reducing stress.
Also other foods in your diet, particularly milk, are important. Drinking enough milk
is very healing to the digestive tract because it contains a good balance of carbs, protein and fat. It is detoxified and predigested by the cow’s digestive tract.
When the cells lining the intestine swell, cell barriers can no longer serve as barriers and toxins can enter which is dangerous. “When a cell is inflamed or overstimulated or fatigued, its cytoplasmic contents leak out. In that state, its barrier function is weakened and external material can leak in.” The primary active ingredient in the herb cascara is emodin which can be antiinflammatory, antifibrotic, antiviral, antidepressant, heart protective and anticancer.
“The failure of the intestinal barrier is especially dangerous, because of the generalized toxic consequences, but the principles of maintaining and restoring it are general, and they have to do with the nature of life.”*
You can add the right fiber to your diet, supplement with cascara, and walk daily, preferably in nature.