Intestines and Colon --How to Keep Them
Healthy
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February 9, 2008, last updated January 19, 2012

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist


Your intestines and colon are perhaps the most important and
least understood of all our body parts. Though this column has
highlighted the
importance of bowels movements to our overall
health, most of us do not have the foggiest idea of how the
intestines work.

Food travels from our mouths, through our throats and
pre-stomachs (pharynx and esophogus), worked on in the
stomach, then enters the long journey through the intestines.

This is where it gets interesting.  All of the food we eat --all the
great vitamins, veggies, that delicious steak-- do not add a
drop of nutritional value to our bodies until they enter the
intestines.  You might as well try to live on air than to do
without your intestines.  Literally, without your intestines you
would starve of malnutrition.

The intestines are where nutrients are absorbed from food.

What's left over gets mixed with water, fiber and well, dumped
out the other end as bowel movements.























You actually have 2 intestines.

The "small" intestine is actually the longer of the 2. It's
between 20 and 23 feet ( 6 to 7 meters) in an adult but it is a
narrow tube, hence the name "small".   The "large" intestine
actually is shorter --only about 5 feet (1.5 meters)--but wider
in circumference.  


Food is broken down into nutrients --small enough to travel in
blood to your other organs --in the small intestines.  It all
happens there.  The small intestines use lots of water and
secretions from the liver, pancreas, and intestinal glands to
complete the decomposition of food.

That's "decomposition", folks, which is the same process that
happens when you leave food out on a kitchen table. An apple
"decomposes' turns brown, then, if left there long enough
would become mush.  

Meat "decomposes" in your intestines.  In essence, it rots.  

Why do your bowels smell?  It's because the intestines contain
bacteria ---germs--and the germs which makes food rot inside
your intestines, well, stink.  Both intestines contain germs but
the large intestines --which is a storage house for the leftovers
after the small intestines decompose our food--can contain up
to 50% bacteria, undigested fiber and water. These are your
feces which you eliminate through your anus.

The journey through your intestines can be quick or long,
depending upon what you ate.  It takes meat between 48-72
hours to make its way from your mouth, through your
stomach, intestines and out.  It takes most vegetables about 2
hours.

Unlike we humans, most animals who eat meat have short
intestines, it turns out.  Tigers, for example, have short guts,
about 4 times their length.  We humans have intestines about 6
times our height.

By the way, even though animals such as tigers are
meat-eaters, they also know how to take care of their digestive
tracts.  Many animals self-medicate. Scientists have observed
that tigers and other wild animals eat grass when they are ill, to
help with digestion.


So how do we keep our intestines healthy? Here are the Rules
for Healthy Guts:

1.
Avoid Constipation.  Constipation --indicated by straining to
void without successful or minimally successful voiding--- often
increases as we age for a number of reasons. The muscles in
our rectum don't relax when they should to allow voiding.
Many medications contribute to constipation also.  Chronic
constipation contributes to impacted fecal matter. When fecal
matter becomes impacted and stuck to the walls of your
intestines, it can introduce unhealthy bacteria because it mixes
with your food as it is processed from your intestines into your
blood stream.  One of the habits of very healthy people is that
they monitor their bowel movements for
changes in bowel
color, consistency and unusually pungent stool odors.  

2.
Exercise.  Your bowels do not work properly without daily
body movement.  We are a sedentary nation. Exercise helps
you to void by helping the intestines to move the contributions
along. Remember, the tiger is a meat-eater but tigers are also
supreme athletes. They move constantly. Some human beings
eat about as much meat as tigers but they don't move their
bodies. That's a prescription for constipation. If you find you
are constipated, do
specific exercises that help bowel
movements.


3. Watch Your Medications.  Sometimes, our medications are at
fault.  Many drugs or minerals slow down the passage of our
stool through the large intestine.  Watch out for foods or drugs
high in iron, calcium blockers, antihistamines, opioids, high
blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, and antacids.


4.
Drink Water.  Your intestines can't work without it. Food
can't be broken down without it.  Drink up.

5.
Eat Fiber.  Bulk helps. That old adage about an apple a day
became an old adage because a lot of people survived to a ripe
old age by following it.  Eat your apples, pears, celery,
greens.
You know the drill.

6. Use
Healthy Oils. Your bowels need oil to form a proper
bowel movement. Use olive oil, eat oily fish, use canola oil, eat
walnuts and other nuts. All these will give your intestines the
oil it needs to make a smooth bowel movement.

7.
Massage Your Abdomen. Abdominal massage has been
found effective in relieving constipation and in promoting
intestinal health.  Try gently massaging your stomach and
intestines while lying down once a day for 2 minutes.

You're just getting started. Learn the essentials for improving
your overall health.  
Bowel Color -What It Means/ Are Pungent
Bowel Smells a Sign of Disease? / Ideal Breakfast to Control
Your Blood Pressure / Exercises To Increase Bowel Movements

The Only Type of Exercise That Reduces Your Waist
Ideal Breakfast to Improve Arthritis / Foods That Shrink Your
Waist  / Healing Foods Index
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