Keeping your gut healthy is a fantastic idea. Intuitively it makes sense to “cleanse it” from time to time. In the younger population this can be done with certain laxatives (like the ones prescribed before colonoscopy). I would recommend to discuss this with your doctor as certain medical problems may require specific precautions.
Doing a colon cleanse after age 65 can be risky. There are a lot of factors that need consideration: risk of dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, comorbidities such as liver disease, heart failure, kidney disease. I would only recommend a colon cleanse with the supervision of a physician who should decide whether it is safe and which preparation to choose.
A safer way to detox the bowels and the body is to do a “HIGH FIBER and WATER” week (or days).
Eat lots of raw vegetables (bell peppers, kale, cauliflower, broccoli etc), flax seeds and drink plenty of water. I do not recommend juicing but maybe make green smoothies (with kale, spinach, vegetables, fruit, flax seeds, chia seeds, dried plums) and drink those. Dried plums helps as well.
Constipation is a very common problem in the USA and it is caused by our low fiber diet which is often high in dairy and other animal products.
Top Tips to Get Going again
(I would recommend this for every day but if someone wants to do this periodically then that is better than nothing. I would say at least 3 weeks):
Cut out all dairy (animal milk, cheese, yoghurt)
Cut out all meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish)
Eat dried plums: 2 plums three times a day with meals
Eat 1 tablespoon of flax seed three times a day (add to sauces, oatmeal, hummus etc)
Drink only plenty of water, 1-2 cups of coffee (no mil / cream), no soda or other beverages
Eat high fiber foods: beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, kale, spinach
If you find it difficult to eat the veggies whole, make vegan green smoothies (mix spinach, kale, water or almond milk, fresh or frozen fruit: orange, mango, strawberries, bell pepper, green apple, flax seed, chia seed, dried plum and other things you may enjoy) and drink for breakfast and lunch
What we eat makes or breaks our gut flora. The gut flora is amazing and we are only now beginning to uncover the amazing importance and implications to our health. It has so much more impact than we ever thought. Did you know there are more nerve fibers going from the GI tract to the brain than the other way around??? Isn’t that astonishing??
Our gut flora is the happiest with a high fiber diet, and regular pre- and probiotics.
Prebiotics are basically undigestible fiber which are food for your gut bacteria - the good ones.
Fiber rich foods contain prebiotics:
Raw Chicory Root
Probiotics are in fermented foods and contain beneficial lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (don’t heat these as heat may inactivate them).
Foods that contain probiotics:
Coconut kefir (I don’t recommend dairy kefir)
Pickled foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled veggies (asparagus and others)
There are also pre and probiotic nutritional supplements. I would always choose the vegan version as it is best not to be contaminated with animal products.
Then there is a nice bowel cleanse that I found effective and mild at the same time
Please, ask your doctor if it is ok for you to use this):
Dr. Christopher’s supplements:
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Lower Bowel Formula Dr. Christopher (Amazon Link)
Dr. Christopher's - Quick Colon Part 1 (Amazon Link)
Overall, I would say - try to have regular bowel movements with dietary changes alone as described above. Maybe even do 1-3 days of water fast (if you are below 65 years of age and your physician approves).
A common problem that occurs with chronic constipation is the development of hemorrhoids due to chronic straining and increased pressure. This can lead to blood streaks in your stool. If there is blood on the tissue or overlying the stool and it is still bright red chances are higher that it is from hemorrhoidal bleeding - which is often benign and self limiting. Talk to your doctor about it to be sure. Tarry black stool is very concerning for bleeding in the upper GI tract and is of great concern.
Excess mucus on the stool could be a sign of inflammation, colitis or even more severe conditions such as cancer. Diverticulosis / diverticultis could also manifest itself with mucus and blood in stool in addition to abdominal pain. Diverticulosis is associated with low fiber diet and when it gets infected and becomes diverticulitis it can get very, very serious to the point of life and death even.
The bottom line is:
Keep your gut healthy with a plant based diet rich in vegetables, high fiber foods, water. Minimize processed foods, dairy, meat. Exercise regular (keeps the bowels moving as well) and talk to your doctor about any concerns.
What I love so much about the above recommendations is that this applies to almost all chronic problems people are facing. Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple - indeed (paraphrasing Dr. Seuss).
CHECK OUT these related videos from Dr. Greger:
Prunes versus Metamucil versus Vegan Diet
Diverticulosis and Nuts
Bowels of the Earth