A Healthy Colon Means a Healthier You…and Less Cancer Risk
Though not a comfortable topic for discussion, colon health is a very important matter.
Physician surveys estimate that 40% of the patients who visit internists do so because of gastrointestinal complaints. According to American Cancer Society statistics, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Antacids are the best selling over-the-counter medication in the United States and now the ulcer medication Zantac is one of the best-selling drugs ever.
Facts about Constipation
If the colon is not healthy, the body is not healthy. Your bowels are an important part of your body’s immune system.
A common complaint of men and women alike is constipation, which results in a build-up of toxic materials in the gut. The lining of the colon is the first line of defense, acting as a super-filter which traps and contains disease-causing organisms.
When you suffer from constipation, the immune system is easily compromised. The body becomes more susceptible to various infections and inflammations. If constipation is chronic, the entire immune system is in a state of high alert and auto-immune reactions might result. Chronic constipation leads to absorption problems and nutritional deficiencies.
As we are striving to improve the function of all bodily systems, we cannot neglect the health of the colon and digestive tract.
Menopause and Constipation -What does colon health have to do with menopause wellness?
Remarkably, colon health can have a direct impact on hormone balance and wellness during menopause. Fiber intake appears to play a role in breast cancer and breast cancer risk. The mechanism is not exactly known, but it appears that excess estrogen, along with other toxins, are carried out of the body more efficiently in the presence of good dietary fiber.
Unfortunately, most women consume less than half of the recommended fiber (25 grams) per day, as suggested by the National Cancer Institute. Paying attention to daily fiber intake will do much more than just prevent the discomfort of constipation. It will promote hormone balance and help to prevent cancer.
Perhaps the biggest enemy of colon health in the United States is diet. With so many delicious, convenient and fast-food choices, it is certainly easy to consume too much fat, too little fiber and way too much sugar. But even if we make good food choices, there are still many other potential enemies. Antibiotics have been commonplace for some half a century now.
During cold and flu season, doctors seem to dispense them readily. While these drugs are wonderful at killing harmful bacteria, they do nothing for viruses. And because they are so good at killing bacteria, they also successfully wipe out so-called ‘good bacteria’, normally present in the colon and digestive tract. When too many of the friendly bacteria are wiped out, other organisms are not kept in check. If you must take a course of antiobiotics, it is a good idea to use a quality probiotic supplement to re-populate the gut.
A common result of antibiotic use is an overgrowth of yeast, also referred to as candida. If it grows out of control, it can cause problems throughout other areas of the body, such as vaginal infections, thrush, constipation, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Prior to menopause, plentiful estrogen is thought to keep the yeast in check, due to its anti-inflammatory properties; however, this can change at menopause due to the usual hormone declines.
Women in menopause are more likely to experience cystitis, or urinary tract infections. This is partly attributed to the drop in estrogen, which prior to menopause prevented bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder.
It is important to note that stool build-up in the intestines (from constant, chronic constipation) can also contribute to cystitis. The enlarged intestines may physically press against the bladder, causing irritation and infection when the bladder cannot be properly emptied.
Thyroid function can become impaired at menopause, triggered by hormone fluctuations. Even mildly low thryroid conditions can affect colon health , making it more sluggish. Transit time of materials through the colon is slowed, allowing toxic materials to sit in the body. (constipation) If the colon is unhealthy in any way, these toxins can then pass through the colon, and into the body, with relative ease.
Menopause and Constipation – Things that you can Do to Improve your Colon Health
Here are a few basics to get you started…
1. Exercise. Yes, it’s not only good for your heart and your waistline, it’s good for your colon! It stimulates the intestinal walls to expand and contract (peristalsis). This lessens transit time and assists the body in evacuating waste matter. Improper diet, AND lack of exercise, can cause constipation and slowed transit time. Check with your doctor, however, before beginning any new exercise program.
2. De-stress. Did you know that the digestive system and colon are very sensitive to the effects of stress? Indigestion, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and heartburn can be linked to stress.
3.Get plenty of fiber. Did you know that high cholesterol can be lowered with high-fiber diets? A healthy colon keeps things moving along–including any extra cholesterol that may be hanging around. Fiber will increase the volume of stools, thereby increasing the frequency of evacuation. Make sure that you consume plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Most experts say that your target should be five servings per day. If you wish to add fiber supplements, there are many choices at your local health food store or supermarket. Tablets, capsules, powders and convenient wafers make meeting your fiber goals a lot easier.
4. Water. One of the simplest ways to avoid constipation is to drink plenty of water. Especially if you use fiber supplements, proper hydration is a must. Choose micro-filtered or reverse-osmosis varieties if at all possible. Most experts recommend that we drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. Are you doing this?
5. Probiotics. Walk the aisles of any health food store, and you will surely see several varieties of these ‘friendly’ bacteria in capsule, tablet and liquid form. There is much debate as to how much of the good organisms actually survive the digestive tract and end up in the intestines where they are needed. In my opinion, there is compelling evidence that probiotics are beneficial. Of course, the key is to select a quality brand AND remember to take them on a daily basis.
Another good source of friendly bacteria is a product similar to yogurt, called Kefir. It can be found in the dairy case of many supermarkets, as well as most health food stores. It contains strains of beneficial bacteria said to be superior to yogurt cultures. Should you find yourself unable to tolerate probiotic capsules, this may be a good alternative. Whatever remedy you take, menopause and constipation are manageable conditions and with the help of your doctor, you will be able to manage it effectively. Back on top about menopause and constipation.
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disease or other medical condition. This
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informational purposes only. Please consult
with your doctor should you have specific
health questions or concerns.