Strategies to Keep Your Colon Healthy
by Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.
The colon is the least appreciated organ of the body – until it doesn’t work! People with colon problems can be miserable. The symptoms of colon trouble can include a wide variety of issues:
- And even cancer
The colon is the large intestine. It is the waste dump for everything we eat. The small bowel absorbs all the nutrients from our food. Whatever is left over goes to the colon where the waste ferments through multiple types of bacteria.
In the colon we have our main store of bacteria – trillions of them!
The types and amounts of bacteria we possess in our colon are essential to life. Even though they are residents of the colon, bacteria are very much a part of us, and in some ways make us what we are. They may determine our:
When we were babies in the womb we were sterile. Our first exposure to bacteria came from the birth canal, which supplied our intestines with bacteria needed to digest milk. People who are born by caesarian section don’t pick up the bacteria from their mother’s colon. Instead, their intestines start growing bacteria obtained from the skin. These bacteria don’t help digest food and can even cause inflammation over one’s entire lifetime!
One researcher concluded:
“Concurrent with the trend of increasing [Caesarean Delivery], there has been an epidemic of both autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis and allergic diseases, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis.”
The Wrong Bacteria in Your Colon Can Make You Fat!
Additionally, those who are born by C-section are more susceptible to metabolic diseases and obesity. Multiple studies in rats and humans have shown that bacteria in the colon have a large effect on obesity. One study used mice that had intestinal bypass surgery. Those mice that had the surgery now developed different bacteria. When that bacteria was given to obese mice, they lost weight without the bypass surgery. Essentially, bacteria from a thin mouse caused an obese mouse to lose weight.
Humans also experience weight gain or loss associated with their gut flora. In one study, humans with higher levels of a certain bacteria, M. smithii, were much more likely to be overweight than those with low levels.
Wrong Colon Bacteria Can Cause Arthritis
Studies on the types of bacteria in the colon suggest that arthritis can be caused or worsened by our bacteria. One study suggested that a single organism can make the difference between having arthritis – or not. The organisms that cause inflammation grow on simple sugars and starches. On the other hand, those bacteria that grow on prebiotics create butyrate. Butyrate acts as an energy source for cells lining the colon and reduce an inflammatory response.
Prebiotics are the fiber found in fruit and vegetables. They have certain fibrous carbohydrates that nourish the good bacteria to help them to grow.
God gave us quite the gift when it comes to prebiotic foods because there are many that have just the right “ingredients” to improve gut function without us having to do anything else but eat them! The top most nutrient-dense prebiotic foods are:
- Root vegetables
Prebiotic foods are like fuel for good bacteria. They escape digestion in our small intestine but continue to the colon where the “good” bacteria digest them. These bacteria make butyrate, which prevents inflammation, such as arthritis.
Because of these bacterial studies, many have proposed fecal transplants to treat arthritis and obesity, instead of surgery and drugs.
What is a Fecal Transplant?
It is just as it sounds. Stool from one person is given to another person to change the bacteria in their colon. When this procedure first started, the diluted donor stool was put through a tube that went from the nose into the small intestine. However, standard procedure today is done by way of an enema. Doctors who do this procedure will use a colonoscope to get the bacteria all the way through the colon.
The purpose of a fecal transplant is to populate the colon with good bacteria and give it more biodiversity.
We not only need lots of bacteria, but a diverse population of bacteria growing together in harmony. Research shows that this procedure can remedy many different problems such as drug resistance, chronic diarrhea, arthritis, obesity, and diabetes.
Because of this research, many advocate that we take probiotic pills that contain certain amounts of good bacteria.
Until the modern era, humans (and all animals for that matter) ate food laced with bacteria. Dung fertilized the soil, allowing colon bacteria on the growing food. People ate food that easily fermented and contained live bacteria. These are foods such as sauerkraut, natto (fermented soybeans), miso (another type of fermented soybeans), yogurt, kefir, and cheeses of all kinds. Also, without refrigeration, food grew bacteria quickly.
Traditional cultures did not know all these important reasons to eat cultured foods. However, they definitely knew that fermented food lasted longer, tasted better and made them feel better. We would be wise to remember techniques our ancestors have left us about probiotics to help the colon!
By contrast, today, we take great measures to prevent bacteria from getting into our food. For a longer shelf-life, food is:
- Sprayed with chemicals
Milk that has not been pasteurized lasts only a few days, even refrigerated. Whereas, pasteurized milk lasts for weeks. And ultra-pasteurized milk lasts for months without even being refrigerated! Many think they may be getting some bacteria in yogurt or cheese. But most dairy products are also heated to prolong their shelf-life. Canned kimchi and sauerkraut are heated so they contain little or no bacteria. While there are benefits to decreasing bacteria in food, such as less food poisoning, there is a downside, as well. We don’t get many probiotics anymore.
The bacteria in your colon are like a fingerprint. Your native gut flora have been present since birth. They are uniquely you. They don’t like other bacteria coming in and growing so they usually kick them out. If you thought you could take a probiotic for a short time to get it to grow inside the colon, guess again! Probiotics do not become established members of your gut ecosystem. When you stop taking them, their numbers dwindle quickly. That specific probiotic strain level declines and eventually disappears. Within a couple of days to weeks, you’re back to your old self again.
This is why we need a constant supply of good bacteria, or probiotics, from our food. However, since we don’t get much from food, we often supplement with probiotic pills. For some people, taking probiotics can make a huge difference in:
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