How many times have you moved your bowels?
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This is a common dialogue between me and my husband:
“Wow, I’ve moved my bowels 5 times today!”
“Oh really? Me only twice…”
Perhaps you’re thinking, what disgusting conversations we have. Or you might think that there’s something wrong with us moving our bowels so many times?
So how many times do you move your bowels each day? Or perhaps, how many times do you move your bowels a week?
If it’s once a day, I’m sorry, you’re constipated. If you do it once in every 2 or 3 days, then you are pretty much severely constipated. I’m not lying, I don’t enjoy frightening people.
It was about maybe 3 years ago when I first noticed I had bowel movements at least twice a day (sometimes 3 or 4 times; my highest record was 7 times). I didn’t know that once a day was constipation then, but I thought this phenomenon was something very interesting, so I shared this new experience with a friend who was learning traditional Chinese medicine. She told me that twice a day was acceptable, but 3 or 4 times wasn’t quite right. Whenever I mention my highest record of 7 times, people tend to think I’m absurd, and say, that’s diarrhea! Oh, but it’s not diarrhea… (Actually, I was having a juice fast on this day of my highest record, interesting huh?)
How do I manage to clear my bowels so many times? Usually within half an hour after getting up, I’ll go once. Then after breakfast, I’ll go a second time, and then another once or twice in the afternoon or at night. Ocassionally it doesn’t go so smoothly though, typically when there’s some activity that’s out of my routine, or when I’m outside for a long time, then I would almost definitely end up constipated. I’m psychologically not right somewhere, if I’m somewhere I’m not familiar, or somewhere I can’t totally relax, I just can’t get my bowels going, or sometimes, I refuse to. That’s I guess one of the reasons why I don’t like to be outside the whole day, it’s a torture feeling the need to clear your bowels yet not able to do so.
Although I generally move my bowels 3 times a day, I don’t think that qualifies me to say that my digestive system is very healthy. However, compared to how I was like, I’ve improved lots. In the past, I either was constipated or had loose bowels, my digestive system had never been well. My mum told me something interesting about my baby days recently. She said I was quite different from my siblings, when I was a baby, I never gave much of a din, I would sleep day and night, even when it came to moving my bowels, I would do it only once in 2 or 3 days. My grandmother commented, what a clean baby! I was an easy baby to take care of wasn’t I? I must have saved my parents quite a lot on diapers. But now, we know that I was clean outside, but horribly filthy inside, my digestive system wasn’t working well right from the beginning. (Even though babies only drink milk, still their bowels should be cleared a few times a day.) I also remember that when I was young, I didn’t like to go to Cold Storage with my mum for shopping. It might be because of the cold – my stomach would almost always give me problems whenever I was there.
Then how come now I can do it at least 2 times, on average 3 times a day, or even 4 or 5 times on certain days? When I first found out that once a day was too little, I was quite pleasantly surprised, like I had discovered some really wonderful news. I looked back and realized that the time when I started having frequent bowel movements was the time when I started having regular meals of brown rice and salads.
We eat to receive nutrients. Of course, most people today don’t, we eat to enjoy ourselves, that’s me too! But we’re lucky that our body is smarter and wiser than us, it’s so much more remarkable than us. Our body is an enourmous and complex factory. Despite how we, the owners, being so ignorant of how it works, bombard it with all kinds of pressure, dumping into it all kinds of waste that it can’t take, our body toils for us day and night with no complaint. Nevertheless, however well made a factory is, it’s just a matter of time that it succumbs to torture.
I often think in regret, why do I know so little about our body? Or rather, I should say, I know nothing about it. Where is our liver? And the lungs? And what’s the colon? What are small intestines? It’s a great shame, but I knew nothing of these. Perhpas I did too badly in school, that’s why. Or perhaps, our system doesn’t put much importance on this? Just like what Norman Walker said, everybody should learn about the anatomy of the human body. When I was moving on to Secondary 3, I thought maybe I should take up biology. Actually, if possible I’d want to avoid any science subjects, but since I had to learn them anyway, biology seemed a good choice. It seemed much more interesting than physics or chemistry. When I reported to my elder sister of my decision, she dampened my enthusiasm by telling me that biology was for those who did well on physics and chemistry. Ah, I see… I couldn’t even handle those two, much less biology. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for what the system wanted me to study as basics, in fact, I hated physics and chemistry, I was scared of these subjects, especially chemistry. But how the body works, what our body is like, what nature is like, what life is all about, I found these questions quite worthy of pursuing. But on hind sight, I think it was a blessing in disguise. How would I have been able to cut up animals? And I think I was lucky that I didn’t have to do so, this is something I won’t want to do in all my future lives.
I won’t try to pose as an expert here, but I’ll just share a bit of what I’ve learnt.
As soon as food enters our mouth, our body starts working. If you’re someone who gobbles up your food, then please take note. Chewing well makes for good digestion. As we chew, saliva and enzymes are secreted, which helps lessen the work load of our stomach. How many times should we chew? There are different theories, some say 30 to 40 times, some 50 to 60 times, some even a hundred! (If you’ve watched Jewel In The Palace, it’s mentioned that we should chew 10 times, that’s way too few!) Once, when lunching with some friends, we did a little experiment. My friend chewed 20 times and swallowed her food, while I chewed 60 times. I wouldn’t have been able to swallow down what was in my mouth with just 20 chews. Of course, how long to chew would also depend on the type of food consumed. I think I’m lucky to have been born a slow eater. Had I been fast, how much more burden would my already weak digestive system have to bear?
As the food enters our body, our stomach and intestines start working. It’s not just them who slave away, our other organs don’t laze around either. For example, our liver has lots of tasks to manage, one of its functions is to help us remove poisons. If you’re like how I was, thinking that poisons are stuff like insecticides or things that make you cough out white foam and drop dead immediately upon ingestion, then you’re wrong. Poison is nicely wrapped up in the seemingly delicious “food” that we buy from outside. Anything that the body can’t properly digest or make use of, is poison. The alcohol that we drink, the medicines that we take, these are all toxins. The different forms of meat that we find everywhere, these are all poisons.
Since I’m not an expert, let me skip the workings of our wonderful factory. I’ll be introducing some more books, so those interested can learn directly from the real experts.
Back to the matter of bowel movement. It is generally thought that once a day is ideal. We also hear that once in every 2 or 3 days is acceptable too. But is this true?
What is fecal matter? Why does it smell so terrible? Because it is what our body doesn’t need, is a burden to our system, something that our body wants badly to remove as soon as possible. It is what our body, after doing all the breaking down, classifies as unwanted, as waste matter to be discarded.
Then why do we need to move our bowels a few times a day? It’s not that what we eat comes out immediately after every meal. What comes out in the morning is what we ate yesterday, similarly what comes out in the afternoon or at night is what we had in the morning. Just like how Ray Kent puts it, it’s like our train system. If a train departs, of course it has to reach somewhere. If it doesn’t, wouldn’t it be extremely bizarre? Unless of course, you eat only one meal a day. That would make one bowel movement a day perfectly ok.
As food leaves our stomach, it enters the small intestines and colon. Our stomach, being empty now, calls us to feed it with the next batch of food. And so we succumb to the call and start eating the next meal. By this time, what has happened to the food that we had previously? It’s already in the instestines, pretty much having become fecal matter and getting ready to leave our body. However, if our fibre intake is insufficient, it’s akin to having an important post vacant inside, that is, the post of the sweeper in our body. Without him, waste accumulates inside, which is really gross. The longer waste matter stays inside, the more moisture it loses, and so the harder it becomes, and the more difficult it is to pass out. It then sticks on the walls of our colon, and when it accumulates, that becomes what we call old fecal matter. Some people might say, what’s the big deal about old fecal matter？Well, since it’s unwanted toxins, why leave it inside? Our body is a living organism, and the different organs all affect one another in an intricate way. If the intestines are clogged up and unwell, of course it will affect the workings of our other organs. As toxins accumulate, we’ll find that we’re plagued with all kinds of chronic illnesses. In fact, the vast majority of people today have accumulated quite a whole lot of old waste inside them. Even people like me who move their vowels 3 times a day!
We often hear people say that they have digestive problems, or something near that. It seems to be a pretty common problem, so common that I wonder if people consider it trivial. But in fact if we think deeper, we’ll realize that a weak digestive system can’t possibly result in good health. Some people might seem ok in other aspects, but seriously, couldn’t it be just that other problems just haven’t risen to the surface? To take care of our health, first we have to take care of our digestive system. Many factors have to be taken into consideration, but first and foremost, our eating habits are crucial.
You are what you eat. This is a very common saying, but how many people truly understand this and keep it in mind?
Many ‘foods’ are in fact not stuff that our body can take in, and are harmful to our health. What are the things that we shouldn’t eat? This would produce another lengthy post, so I shan’t drive in on that. But to summarize using Dr Jiang Shuhui’s words, the 3 leading poisons of today’s society are meat, egg and milk. If you can’t discontinue consumption of these, maybe you can try cutting down on them.
As for what we should consume, I guess this is simpler. Apart from juice, which I recommended in a previous blog, get a high intake of fibre from fresh vegetables and fruits. As far as possible, try to take them raw. Raw vege and fruits contain such an abundance of nutrients that our body needs, it’s such a waste to cook them and hence destroy the nutrients! Another point, no fibre is available in meat. Meat only gives your system unnecessary burden with its loads of toxins.
So, have you moved your bowels today? How many times?