Updated: Jul 2, 2019
All disease begins in the gut - Hippocrates
Without much surprise, 8.2 million emergency room visits can be accounted to digestive system diseases , such as GERD, gallstones, celiac disease, crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and anal fissures.
The Digestive System
Your digestive system comprises of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. These organs all work together to ensure that absorption, digestion, and elimination are appropriately functioning. The GI tract is usually the focus because it is believed that the majority of disease originate within it. This tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine—which is broken down further into the rectum and anus. Food enter through the mouth and goes down the esophagus into the stomach. After the food is broken down, nutrients are extracted as the food particles pass through the small and large intestines, then it travels to the rectum and anus for evacuation .
The GI tract has "healthy" bacteria, or normal flora, that is needed to maintain the integrity of the gut and help with digestion. The nervous and circulatory system also play a major role in the digestion. "Together, a combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of the digestive system completes the complex task of digesting the foods and liquids a person consumes each day" .
The colon, or large intestines, is one of the most important parts of the GI system. It is nearly 5 feet long and functions like a powerful storage and waste disposal site in your body . A healthy colon is able to store and excrete waste and absorb any remaining nutrients back into the body. However, an unhealthy colon, may lead to a buildup of waste material on your intestinal walls, which creates an environment where toxic bacteria can thrive, leading to illness and disease  .
Signs of a Malfunctioning GI Tract
Constipation, halitosis, poor skin health, and mucus in your stools are just a few signs that your colon might not be as healthy as it should and a healthy colon is absolutely necessary for a healthy body. If you are constantly experiencing symptoms as such, this is a red flag for what could be several different types of GI disorders.
The Elimination/Transit Test
One of the easiest way to tell if you have a healthy colon is by how fast you are clearing food through your GI system, or in other words --pooping. This elimination test, also known as the transit test, gives you an idea of how long it takes for food to be properly digested and evacuated out of your body.
Think of your digestive system as a bus transit system. The intestines are the route that the bus (poop) takes. This test will help you determine how long it takes for that bus (poop) to get to its final location--the toilet.
Beet root has been traditionally used to test your elimination speed. The red pigmentation from the beet is so strong that is leaves a red tinge to the outer aspect of the poop.
To test your elimination speed, follow the steps below.
Prepare 1/2 a cup of a fresh raw beet (this could be prepared by lightly roasting, juicing or it could be eaten raw)
Consume all the beet root within 30 minutes
Allow beets to digest
Record the accurate time of consumption of the beet
Inspect the stool (look for that red tinge)
An ideal transit time is between 12 and 24 hours. If it is less than 12 hours, that means that you may not be adequately absorbing enough nutrients. However, if it is greater than 24 hours, that means that you have a slower transit time and are at risk for toxic buildup.
Not only will the color of poop tell you of your transit time, but also the shape and size of it. Below is the Bristol stool form scale that shows you which type of poop equates to the appropriate transit time. Type 3 to type 5 are ideal in a healthy colon.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) for a Healthy Colon
Once you calculate your transit time, it is time to determine the necessary therapeutic lifestyle changes.
Transit Time < 12 Hours
Cut back on stimulants such as laxatives and coffee. These things are not allowing your body to adequately absorb the nutrients from the feces. You may be eliminating just as many essential nutrients than actual waste.
Slow down and fully chew your food! You may be eating food way to quickly and this may be causing food particles to be left in the stool, which makes it bulky and quicker to pass.
Transit Time > 24 Hours
Eat more fibrous foods! The food is sitting in your guy for too long and you are at risk for toxic buildup, constipation, and inflammatory responses. Add food such as chia and flax seeds to your diet. It is best to slowly increase fiber in the diet because too much fiber too fast will worsen constipation.
Drink more water! Your intestines may be very dehydrated, which may lead to decreased motility and digestion. Drinking water will increase motility and help soften the hard stool, making it easier to pass.
Following these tips and incorporating more exercise into your daily regimen will allow you to be well on your way to a healthier digestive experience and lessen your chances of being one of the 8.2 million people spending their time in the emergency room with abdominal conditions! Ensuring gut health, can dramatically reduce your risk of other disease that may be in a result to a gut that doesn't work. Remember to protect the gut with lifestyle changes, such as reducing alcohol consumption, staying hydrated, maintaining appropriate nutrient intake and increasing exercise !