Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and co-travellers

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Bowel problems which may end up in cancer anywhere in the digestive tract appear to be in vogue. Many people, like a joke or child’s play, do not give them deserved attention until the doctor pronounces a frightening diagnosis. One of my high school classmates who was diagnosed with stomach ulcer turned out to have been suffering from cancer of the pancreas. He died. Lately, some people who complained of constipation actually had been experiencing intestinal blockages caused by inflammation or growths. Someone shared his good news with me this Monday (May13,2019). He had just gone through colonoscopy, an intestinal probe with a camera, which reported no ulcer, inflammation or  growth or hemorrhoids. But he still worried about on and off constipation and diarrhoea and pellet stool. My heart goes to a woman in Nasarawa State. For about two or three years now, her bowels have been problematic. They bloat with gas, give pain, do not agree to normally digest food unless they are forced with laxatives and, when they are, disabling diarrhoea may be the outcome for days. Another reader of this column has just been told by his doctor to prepare himself for a battle with colorectal cancer in the making which was originally thought to be internal hemorrhoids. The good news was reported of a bleeding colorectal which has only stopped bleeding but is giving way as well to a free flow of feaces. It is not possible here to mention all problems which the intestine may present. So, mention will be made of only a few ones which are common occurrences in this country, especially now, and how, through natural means, they may be offset or helped to heal better if the doctor has intervened.

Some of these problems include irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), celiac disease, crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, candidiasis, parasitic and viral infections, constipation and diarrhoea, dysentery, stenosis, diverticulitis, polyps, colitis, hemorrhoids, ulcers, anal fissures and fistulas.

The bowels

To have a lay man’s understanding of some, if not all of these conditions, as many of us do not bother about challenges we do not encounter, it is necessary to have an idea of what the bowels look like and how they function.

Many Nigerians who find themselves right in a doctor’s consulting room realise how ignorant or illiterate they are in these matters, despite their presumed education. They always allude all their problems to the “stomach”, even when these are in the liver, spleen or colon. The bowels go by different names in medicine. These include… Gastro-Intestinal (G.I) tract, GIT, alimentary canal or gut. It is the machinery into which the stomach empties the food we put into it through the mouth and throat. The GIT digests food, extracts and passes the nutrients into the bloodstream and eliminates the wastes and poisons out of the body through the  anus.

But in reality, the GIT includes the mouth, oesophagus and stomach. Some authorities in this field like to include ancillary organs such as the salivary glands in the mouth, the tongue, the liver, and gall bladder.

In autopsies, this tract has been found to sometimes be as long as nine metres or 30 ft long. But it is shorter when we are alive because of the contraction of its nerves and muscles which make for food passage downstream.

In this tract, there may be as many as 4,000 strains of bacteria and trillions of microbes. Some of the bacteria are called ” friendly bacteria” because they help out in the digestive process or because they make life unbearable for unfriendly or enemy bacteria and help us to check their population from growing to such proportions as may make them become harmful to our health. In fact, many researchers inform us that as much as about 75 percent of our forces of immunity and their energy to fight germs and other dangerous elements is stationed or concentrated in the gastro-intestinal tract. Some of  the cells of the tract secrete hormones. Some others make digestive enzymes. On all sides of the tune are to be found hair like projections which help to drive food along uni-directionally towards the anus, even when we stand on our heads. Simultaneously nerves and smooth muscles contract and relax to aid this peristaltic or snake like movement. This automatic work, that is a function over which we have no conscious control, is powered by the AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM. Functions of the body over which we have conscious control, such as blinking or getting up from a chair, laughing, jumping or running are powered by the CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. This distinction is already showing us the directions to look if we have problems with  this system.

Just one more point and we should be done with these jargons… The Autonomic Nervous system(ANS), which works automatically, ensuring, for example, that digestion of food goes on while we are asleep, is divided into two parts. It is like the human body which is provided with two arms. The first arm is the sympathetic Nervous system. The other is the para sympathetic Nervous system. Both are to be synchronised in the way they work. That is, one arm is not supposed to be lifting a luggage from the ground and attempting to place it on the head while the other is struggling to disturb or disrupt the process. But, in some people, this actually happens. When we are frightened the sympathetic nervous system may reduce blood circulation to the intestine and improve blood supply to the eyes, brain and muscles, to enable us fight the danger or flee from it. If this temporary emergency action drags on for too long or become near permanent, the intestine may not function optimally. This is what we experience not only when we are frightened but also when we are angry and nerves and muscles contract. How Often do we not lose appetite or suffer from constipation from constant fear (of robbers, the land lord, the boss, school fees, relationship going sour etc) or from anger, sadness or depression.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The first case I witnessed about 20 years ago was that of a man who alternated between constipation and diarrhoea. He was in the diarrhoea phase when we met. In about two hours, he excused himself for the restroom no fewer than 10 expel foamy substance substance the contents of which may not fill a tablespoon.

In this condition, there is no doubt that the system is irritated. What to look for and eliminate, therefore are the irritants. I will address the diarrhea aspect here, and comment on the constipation aspect separately.

In IBS, the nerves and muscles are spasmodic. That is, they are contracting at a higher frequency than normal. Bloating and fas are present, suggesting activities of an overgrown candida population and insufficient population of friendly  bacteria. There is pain. Sometimes, there is mucus in the stool!

Rumblings in the abdomen are noticeable. Nausea and headache may accompany them. Certain foods may worsen the situation. Burping may become a cause of concern and may be present with heartburn. The mouth may present unpleasant taste and vomiting may be experienced.

Many doctors invite attention to fast foods, low fiber diet, food allergens and spinal subluxation. This refers to a situation in which the bowels are not receiving enough power them appropriately because of one blockage or the other.

In the case I referred to herbal antibiotics worked wonders. These included bee propolis, grape seed extract, aloe vera and bena biotic and liquid chlorophyll.

Today, I would add activated charcoal, colloidal silver, golden seal root, mango seed extract, pawpaw leaf and its juice and, maybe, calamus root. I would be undecided about magnesium, which would definitely be alright in outright constipation but may, like vegetables, stoke the fire of diarrhea. To this arsenal should be added probiotic or friendly bacteria. It is a pity that diatom is not readily available these days. It would kill bacteria, viruses, candida and parasites which may lie behind the trouble.

Medics describe this condition as one in which bowel voiding is fewer than three times in one week. This conflicts with the idea in alternative medicine that food should not stay longer than 18 hours in the body after its ingestion. This is partly based on the hypothesis of an homeostasis balance everywhere in the body. A certain amount of pressure is believed to be designed to reside in the intestine. Too much food or a heavy meal increases this pressure. To rebalance the system, an equal amount of value of pressure has to be expelled. In this context, babies are always cited as  good examples of compliance with this natural prescription. Before they complete a feed, they void. For adults, three square meals are, therefore, said to warrant or call for three expulsions everyday. That would amount to 21 in one week. Three movements in one week is, therefore, considered gross aberration of naturalness.

In constipation, the stool is hard and the difficult to expel. Some people  lose the urge to pass stool. This shows clearly that the large intestine, also called the colon, may be  losing or may have lost its ability to contract and then to relax, which is the method it adopts to move food or stool along its entire length. Calcium causes contraction, which magnesium relaxes. A magnesium deficiency or a calcium overload, especially if it is cheap calcium which is not easily absorbed and infiltrates soft muscles of the colon, may be the cause of this scenario. Similarly, an iron overload may cause this havoc. We cannot rule out a deficiency of B-complex family. They help to take off stress from organs. The nerves and muscles of the intestine are working hard every day and require this impute to overcome stress. Dietary fiber acts like a stimulant to those hair-like structures which line the intestine from beginning to the end. When fiber touches one of them, it flagellates and knocks at its neighbour which behaves likewise, making the entire system to respond. Calcium and magnesium are needed for this, and the B complex vitamins help to cushion the stress effects. The stimulation benefits benefits as well from the presence of fluid.

Most of these inputs for healthy peristaltic motion are not present in the regular Western diet which many Nigerians have adopted bread from white flour has no fiber. It clogs the system and is mucous forming. Even wheat is now damaging to the intestine of many people. Many Nigerians go for wheat and wheat food products ignorant that it has been genetically modified in the united states for bumper farm yields. Now, GMO wheat is grown the world over for profitability. But the GMO wheat, being not natural wheat, contains proteins which the protein of the intestine disagree wheat and are damaging to natural proteins, instead of sustaining them.

I shook my head this morning (May 13, 2019) when I heard a Radio Nigeria news analysis on the support President Muhammadu Buhari has given the farmer groups which want other Nigerian staple foods such as rice and beans to become GMO based. Radio Nigeria saluted the move and asked us all to accept what may hasten our paths to our graves. How “my people perish in ignorance”, indeed, I said to myself.

Anyone who is fighting constipation should knock out of the diet such items as cow’s milk, all diary, sugars and sugared drinks, fried foods, including biscuits. They are hard to digest and form a lot of mucus. The use of bitters is helpful. They help to stimulate bile flow from the liver. So, liver herbs are suggested. We have heard of carqueja , which clears up the liver, of bitter kola, of milk thistle. In addition to well known liver tonics, I often suggest the king of bitters, a proprietary product.

To solubulise the contents of the intestine and the colon, time tested recipes may be used. This include flax seed and flax seed oil, psyllium, slippery elm, orange peel powder, senna, cascara sagrada and probiotic, among others.

While laxatives may be helpful in emergencies, they should be discouraged. For they ultimately weaken the muscles of the colon and intestine and help to forment more trouble.

In their places, I would rather suggest digestive enzymes, fenugreek (it improves contractions), tumeric, aloe vera and gentian root, among others.

As a head start, the idea of organic coffee enema periodically should be a welcome idea. It frees the tract of toxins, moves stubborn fecal matter out, detoxifies the liver, and frees the gut of micro organisms and parasites. Constipation is dangerous. It may promote proliferation of germs in the intestine. These germs may overwhelm the immune system, damage intestinal lining, cause leaky gut syndrome, enter the blood stream, migrate to the organs, cause immune insufficiency. There as well, promote growths and cancers, aches and pains and immune deficiency problems.

Here’s one more recipe for constipation… Pick a handful of healthy dates. Wash them well in saline water or apple cider vinegar solution. Soak them overnight. Remove the seeds. Drink the water and eat the fiber-rich flesh . You may add them to corn pap or any other meal.

Celiac disease

This disease is said to affect one in hundred people worldwide,and may cause small intestine cancer, diabetes, itchy skin, other auto immune diseases and blood circulatory problems. The trigger is GLUTEN, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The gluten attacks the villi of the small intestine. These are structures which absorb digested food into the bloodstream. Beer drinkers and bread eaters are more than any other group in a population. So pervasive is the small intestine malaise that natural food supplements carry label assures of gluten-free product. Celiac disease sufferers always look malnourished, however well nourished they may be because they cannot absorb, let alone use, the nourishments.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose is the sugar in cow’s milk. Many adults cannot digest it. So, it leads to mucus forming material in their intestine on which bacteria and viruses and parasites feed to robustly grow their populations. This may give rise to gas, bloating, cramping and pain.

Diarrhoea may also follow. Some sufferers even vomit. These symptoms occur in people whose small intestines do not produce enough of an enzyme called lactose to properly digest lactose lactase converts lactose into two simpler sugars, glucose and galactose. Undigested lactose is feasted upon by unfriendly organisms in the large intestine, the colon, where big time trouble may brew in one of three forms. These may include crohn’s disease, celiac disease and bacterial overgrowth.

Adults get hooked on cow’s milk in the search for column to maximise bone density, prevent or fight osteoporosis during menopause or advanced years. Yet, cow’s milk calcium has been reported too dense for human babies and not much helpful for adults. Many studies have shown that we may not need as much calcium as we are said to need today, if our bodies are not as acidic as they are today, if we do not load up on antibiotics as we do today, if we are grossly deficient in magnesium as we are today and if we exercise regularly. Cow’s milk is acidic on the PH scale and contributes to the body’s acidosis. Calcium needs one part of magnesium for two parts of it to be absorbed. Magnesium deficiency implies that, no matter how much calcium we consume, we may still be calcium deficient and the unpaired or unbounded calcium is deposited in tissues to form frozen shoulders in muscles, arthritis in joints, gall bladder stones etc. Plants offer us calcium and magnesium in good mixes and bioavailable form. Nettles are good. Diatom supports calcium absorption because of a high silica content. Coral calcium which more than 50 minerals complexed to calcium as found in the human body is a terrific food supplements.

Cheap calcium, which is not easily digested or absorbed, may coat the lining of digestive tract, cause constipation and malabsorbtion problems.


Diverticula, as the name suggests, are diversions in the intestine, especially in the lower end of the descended colon. They are pouches which may become inflamed and infected, causing pain, nausea and other problems. These pouches form in weak areas when they come under too much pressure. Diverticula(singular, diverticulum) become diverticulitis, that is inflamed diverticula, when the rip open and become infected.

Intake of high animal fat and fiber deficient diets are implicated in this condition as are obesity, sedentary lifestyle and drugs such as ibruprofen, advil, motrin IB, Alene etc.

Many untoward events may develop from diverticulitis. Pus may collect in the pouches, forming abscesses. The small intestine or colon may become blocked. Fistulas may form. Ruptured pouches may lead these vents to more degenerate levels. One of such is peritonitis. Intestinal content may be spilled into cavity. Anyone who has witnessed the quick way a ruptured allendix causes death would realise this is a serious condition.


Anal fissure, abscess and fistula

Many people have heard of or may have experienced either an internal or external haemorrhoid or pile. But not many may have heard of fissures or fistulas. Fissures are tears in the tissue of the alimentary canal which may occur under the pressure of hard stool or during straining. If they are infected, abscesses and pain may signal their presence. Fistulas are openings from the digestive canal to some other organ such as the urinary bladder or vagina into which they may discharge fecal material, causing all sorts of infections. Sometimes, fistulas open into the buttocks. I have seen adult men who noticed discharges into their boxers, not from their anuses but from their buttocks. What else can be the cause outside toxins, bacteria, candida and viruses or parasites nibbling through.

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