Normal body elimination
Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3:15 p.m.
I'm going to warn you that this topic may not be the one you want to read about at the breakfast table.
What you eat at the breakfast table has a major impact on the function of this week's topic so I hope you do read the column at some point during the day.
Personally it would not be a problem for me to read it at breakfast or any other meal during the day. I could not discuss it at the table because early on in my nursing career my family very adamantly restricted my choice of the topics. This week though I think the time is right to finally write about normal bowel elimination. That after all is a topic which affects all of us.
First of all we are talking about what is known as the gastrointestinal tract or as it is labeled in the medical world, the GI tract. The GI system is made up of all of the body parts from the mouth to the large intestines which are involved in preparing food for use by the body.
During the phase of digestion the material that is left from the digestive process is prepared to be eliminated. If you are a person whose body functions properly you may have no concerns at all. This assurance allows you to take granted that your system functions well and is not in need of any special attention.
Usually this kind of assurance is the results of a healthy life style. But you are not free from the other irritants to this very important system. One assurance that you can claim is that when this system is disturbed it demands your full attention. Irritants are usually the cause of such disturbances, some of the offenders are allergies, food poisoning, intestinal infections, disease conditions, medications, alcohol, injuries and the type, amount and frequency of your food and liquid intake.
A frequently asked question in the doctor's office is, how often should I have a bowel movement? The answer most often given is that normal bowel habits vary. The range of normal is from several movements a day to several movements a week. The best definition of constipation is not usually the number of times that you defecate (have a bowel movement) but whether or not the feces is soft and easy to pass. The best determinate of constipation is the character of fecal material itself, if it is hard and dry, hard to pass and require a lot of pushing or straining. Other common symptoms are a feeling of bloating, wind and abdominal pain.
You have probably been embarrassed a few tunes by the rumbling sounds your stomach makes at just the wrong time, when it seems that everyone in the room heard the sound. What you are hearing is the results of food going through the digestive process as it is moved through the bowels.
When the doctor places a stethoscope over you abdomen and listens. the sounds that are heard are very important in making a determination about the health of your digestive tract. The absence of sounds or those which are very loud or very slow are great indicators on whether or not this system is functioning properly.
The main function of the large intestines is to remove most of the liquid from the material which has reached the end of the digestive process. The remaining material that is left is then stored in the large intestines until they are eliminated. Passing this material in a timely manner results in the soft easily passed feces that is a clear indication of normal elimination.
On the occasion that the fecal material passes through the system to fast it leaves the body in a more liquid form indicating that it was not in the large intestines long enough for the liquid to be extracted and returned to normal circulation. If this has happened to you, you know that this uncomfortable process can range from the passing of very loose fecal material to that which is liquid diarrhea without any consistency at all.
Please take this explanation as a very simplified explanation of bowel function. I have used the following web site for some supportive information and invite you to visit it at www.thewomens.org.au/NormalBowelFunction, If you would like more information.
More important than what might happen to our GI tract is how we might take care of ourselves in such a way that constipation is not an issue. To do this is within our grasp. Preventive measures given on the website listed above include the fact that we need to eat plenty of high fiber foods, get plenty of rest, drink an adequate amount of liquids and practice good toileting habits.
At the top of the list of things to do are the same interventions that I write about all the time. You know them, plenty of exercise, a good diet with roughage in it and an adequate amount of liquids.
Some of the high fiber foods suggested are:
All fruits and vegetables (leave skin on if at all possible).
Wholemeal and wholegrain bread.
High fiber breakfast cereals such as Muesli, Alberian, Helathwise for Bowel and Bran Plus, etc.
Dried beans such as baked beans, kidney beans, brown rice and wholemealflour.
Prunes work well for some people as they contain a substance that stimulates the bowel. Start with about six prunes or 1/2 cup of prune juice.
Natural fiber supplements such a psyllium.
Obviously, any drastic change that you make should be cleared by your doctor. Not only will your doctor be able to approve your decisions but other suggestions and or solutions may be best for you. At any rate if you see blood you should always contact your doctor.
It is very important to listen to your body when the urge to empty your bowels occur. For some people this is usually 15 to 20 minutes after eating breakfast. Having a hot drink at breakfast may help to stimulate the bowels to move as well. No matter what your schedule is be sure that you allow yourself adequate time to sit and relax. Sometime taking your mind off of the reason you are there by reading or practicing some other kind of relaxation methods is helpful.
I was very impressed with the suggestion from this source that we practice good toilet protocol in an effort to maintain normal bowel elimination. This includes treating the process as one that is very important. Relaxation, good positioning and an adequate amount of time for the process to occur are extremely important. Sitting comfortably allows the muscles which assist with this process to be relaxed and able to do their job. Positioning yourself on the toilet is a topic that does not usually come up for discussion. Most of us assume the position naturally.
That position as it is explained on this web site indicates that you should use a foot stool to rest the feet on while sitting in a squatting position with the back straight and the body leaning forward a little. If you are a person who has problems with elimination, I suggest you try the footstool to elevate your feet. If your pattern of elimination is normal and you do not have a problem you may not need the stool.
Finally, be very careful with the use of laxatives on a regular basis. Your doctor's advice is the best way to make a decision on laxatives. You want to know from your doctor, what to use, when to use it and under what circumstances the use of a laxative is a bad idea. Your health care provider might decide to prescribe other dietary supplements which are helpful in restoring this normal bowel function.
My last suggestion for your personal preventive health plan is for you to treat this normal process as one that is a pleasant experience and try to answer the call when it comes.
Vivian Filer is a retired professor of nursing at Santa Fe College. E-mail your questions, with "Health Files" in the subject line, to email@example.com.
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