Elimination Issues – How to have a Happy Colon

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

As an acupuncturist, I spend my days talking to people about their poops. Colour, texture, consistency and smell are all discussed in detail in an attempt to ascertain what is happening inside the body, how food is being digested and the overall health of the individual. At first, this is sometimes difficult for people to talk about, and even though this might not be something to discuss at the dinner table or in polite company, it is certainly an important part of diagnosis which is why all aspects of your poop are important to me.

Problems with Constipation & Diarrhea

Problems with elimination are very common. There are many reasons for this, and in my experience, the two most common are diet and emotions. Even though the Chinese medical model teaches us to live in harmony with nature, our modern lives have become, well, unnatural. Most of us no longer eat the types of foods we have evolved to eat. We have more variety than we ever have, and we also consume more chemicals, additives and toxins in our food than we ever have before. All of these things impact our digestion, elimination and of course, the body as a whole. The emotions are also closely related to digestion and elimination. How many of us get stomach aches when we worry, or suffer from diarrhea or constipation when we are stressed?

Nutrition – You Are What You Eat

The most important factor to keeping our colon’s happy is what we eat. This has become more and more difficult with a huge variety of foods, many unnatural foods, additives, preservatives, and highly processed foods. It is also harder to know what to eat as there is so much information out there, with many opinions on what to eat for optimum health. My philosophy is simple. Eat real food. Eat local food. Eat seasonal food. Eat organic if you can. If possible, develop a relationship with a local farmer. Avoid processed foods and read labels. The best thing you can do is to keep it simple and eat fresh, local foods that are in season. Below are some foods that are excellent for lubricating the intestines and are beneficial for constipation, and some that simply promote bowel movements which are good to know about if and when you run into problems in the bathroom.

Foods that Treat Constipation

foods for constipation

Below are foods that lubricate the intestines:

  • banana
  • spinach
  • sesame seeds
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • pine nuts
  • seaweed
  • okra
  • soy products
  • prunes
  • peaches
  • pears
  • honey
  • apples
  • apricots
  • alfalfa sprouts
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • beets* (be careful as eating beets can make it look like there is blood in your stool!)

Foods that promote bowel movements

foods to promote bowel movements

  • castor oil
  • bran from oats, rice or wheat
  • cabbage
  • papaya
  • peas
  • black sesame seeds
  • coconut
  • sweet potato
  • asparagus
  • figs

The Emotions
Why Letting Go will Help Your Bowels

The Bowels and the Emotions

One of the major reasons for problems with elimination is the emotions. This, as well as our diets, are a huge factor in how food moves through the digestive system. The large intestine is the yang partner to the lungs which are yin. Their emotion is grief and the energy is “letting go”. The lungs take in new, oxygen rich air, and breathe out harmful carbon dioxide. The large intestine receives the waste after the foods we eat have been digested and all nutrients have been absorbed in the small intestine. It is the last stage in the digestive tract and its job is literally to let go of what our bodies cannot use and do not need. I have found in practice that often people who are chronically constipated have problems letting go of things in their lives. It can be past hurts, a relationship that ended without the closure we needed, a sudden death, or the dissolution of a friendship. There are a million reasons why, and many of us bring these past experiences with us into the present where we allow them to continually hurt us. Therefore, our abilities to accept and be open to new experiences, and to let go of things that are painful or harmful is important to both our emotional and physical well being. The lungs and large intestine are also associated with attachment, so if you have a hard time letting go of people, objects, experiences or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this can point to a deficiency of the large intestine which can lead to bowel problems. However, if the large intestine is healthy and its energy strong, the bowels will move freely and regularly, which is what we all want!

We Were Designed to Squat

Years ago when I was working in China, one of the most fascinating (and strange) things there were the toilets. Or the lack of toilets. In most places where I was in Southern China, there were no toilets, but simply a hole or more commonly, a trough in the floor in which to do your business. When you first encounter this, it is a bit perplexing. I remember thinking to myself, how I am I going to DO this? The other thing was that, at least in many of the places where I was, there was no privacy in the loo. For example, in a large university the washroom was a large room with a few sinks on one wall, and a long trough in the floor with a constant stream of water going through it, sort of like a river. There were a few low dividers about 3 feet tall making a sort of stall, but with no doors. This was a very different experience for me, but people came in and did their thing like it was completely natural. And this is because for them, it was. So, in China, even though I learned many, MANY things (I could write a series of books on the subject) two of the most important were how to squat while going to the bathroom and the other was to do it out in the open, often in front of many onlookers. At first it was a bit strange, but after a little while, the experience became quite liberating, and I noticed that especially, for pooping, squatting was a much easier way to do it in comfort and without strain.

What I found out after some investigation is that our bodies are designed to squat to eliminate. The modern invention of the toilet (bless it) has unfortunately compromised the optimum way in which we were designed to poop. But, a sassy little company has taken it upon themselves to elegantly solve the problem. They are called – Squatty Potty. I love this name, it is marvellous, and in their business, it is important to have a sense of humour. What they have done is designed a little stool that you use with your toilet to raise your feet and create a squatting position to allow your colon to align in the proper position for the most comfortable and easy elimination. They have a little video on their website that you can watch below that explains it very nicely.

The Squatty Potty Video

I have a squatty potty and I love it. It is a simple and elegant way to be kind to your bowels and help things move more easily. It stores easily under the sink, and, if you forget to put it away, it is quite the conversation starter! It is amazing how much of a difference it makes and how, for someone who has had elimination issues for a long time, a little stool could have such a big impact. :)

Anyone who has ever experienced problems with elimination – be it constipation, diarrhea or a combination of the two, will tell you that having healthy bowels is something we should never take for granted. Everyone should aspire to keep their poops healthy and flowing freely, and the key is eating well, staying emotionally balanced and working on your ability to “let go”. Your bowels will love you for it. :)

How to have happy poop in Chinese medicine

 a happy poop!

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