The Unsightly is Often the Most Important

Dr. John Briggs

The Unsightly is Often the Most Important

3 mins
March 22, 2021

Many times, the most important body parts become the most ignored or uncared for. We’re quick to focus on the heart, but what about the colon? You know, that smelly nasty place full of fecal matter. After all, if we ignore it, won’t it just go away? One of the top questions I have for my patients involves “how does this organ work for you? Do your bowels move every day, and what’s the consistency and color?” These questions can help identify a lot of potential problems and suggest probable solutions. The health of our mouth, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and nervous system all contribute to the functional wellness of the colon. A common condition I deal with is that of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. Many consider this to be initiated by different foods, but the foundation of it involves over stimulation of the nervous system. In this condition it’s not uncommon to be having very frequent and lose bowel movements daily. The initiation of this is from nerve impulses which control the forward movement of stool in the colon. There are three muscles called the tinea coli muscles which run the length of the colon. These contract in a rhythmic motion and are under the control of the autonomic nervous system.

When stress influences the autonomic nervous system, we will see either over stimulation or under stimulation of these muscles resulting in frequent lose stools or constipation. As much as diet is a huge influence on the bowel, stress is one of the greatest challenges to digestive health. 

When there’s sluggishness of the bowel, the pH of this area becomes far too alkaline, predisposing to perversion of normal bacterial flora. Where this occurs, overgrowth of yeast and pathogenic bacteria, results in gas, bloating, and irritation of these tissues. 

Undigested matter in the bowel is acted on by the bacteria present and increases the growth of unfriendly bacteria. When this happens there’s production of toxic byproducts which are taken up into circulation to the liver where there should be extraction of nutrition. With putrefaction of this nature, the chemicals produced tend to paralyze the muscles of the colon, establishing chronic constipation. 

Often times the use of colon irrigation is an excellent first step to restoring these tissues. When the bowel has been poisoned this way, it can be difficult to reestablish normal function. With colon irrigation, there needs to be a replanting of good bacteria. Just as planting a garden requires healthy soil, the bowel requires what we refer to as prebiotics before we use the probiotics to plant the seeds. 

Something we’ve relied on is a special strain of yeast which creates lactic acid in the bowel, creating the right pH for the good bacteria to thrive in. This is very different from candida which often shows up after use of antibiotics or in conditions of stubborn constipation. 

Restoring the health of the colon isn’t all that hard as long as diet, digestion, hydration, and answering the call to evacuate the bowel is adhered to. One of the worst things in bowel management is putting off the urge to go. When the bowel is stretched from movement of stool, it stimulates the need to go. If ignored, the bowel resets the stretch receptors and needs to be stretched further to initiate this urge. Eventually the tone of the bowel is lost, greater amounts of stool is held in the bowel, and the effective forward motion of peristalsis is no longer effective in initiating normal bowel function. 

Fiber is critical in initiating this urge as it’s mostly unaffected by digestion and provides the bulk required to get things moving. Lack of this fiber can create more sluggish bowel function, enlargement of the bowel, and weakening of the walls of the colon, potentially setting up diverticula. These pockets along the walls of the bowel can accumulate stool and become infected leading to the very painful condition of diverticulitis. 

This often-ignored organ is truly critical for good health. We often don’t think about it unless we are dealing with the aftermath of poor management of bowel health. One area to be greatly conscious of is that of hydration (One major job of the bowel is to reabsorb the fluids of digestion to maintain hydration) When we fail to consume adequate water, the bowel slows down transit to reabsorb more water, resulting in hard, dry stools. To maintain optimal health, care for your bowel and live strong.

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Dr Briggs is a 1980 graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and has been practicing naturopathic medicine in the northwest corner of Oregon since his graduation. His practice involves diagnostic and therapeutic modalities which have stood the test of time and the challenges of diverse disease. We believe that each person exists dynamically as a spirit being, possessing a soul made up of their mind, will, and emotions, living in a body which requires specific care and nutrition. To address only the physical needs is to ignore the real person, and frequently, the real issues. We strive to address all your issues (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical) with compassion and wisdom.

This article was orginally reported by
Dr. John Briggs

Dr. John Briggs is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.