The Large Intestine (aka the Colon)

The large intestine is the last organ through which food passes, and its job is to absorb water and nutrients that were not absorbed in the small intestine and to form feces from the waste.

The large intestine is about five feet long, including its final segments, the colon and the rectum. Food at this point is primarily insoluble fiber, and generally will spend more time in your large intestine than anywhere else during digestion. One reason for this may be that bacteria in the colon are capable of generating nutrients from waste. These “good bacteria” (known as probiotics or flora) not only help with the absorption of food and the synthesis of short-chain fatty acids, they also promote the production of certain classes of antibodies that aid in the destruction of competing, or potentially disease-causing, bacteria. As adults, our digestive systems contain more than 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, and other microbes; more numerous than all the cells in your body.

In a healthy digestive system, there is a ratio of 80–85 percent ‘good’ bacteria and 15–20 percent ‘bad’ or diseasecausing bacteria. This ratio is reversed in many people today. Things that can contribute to this imbalance are:

• Drugs (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, laxatives, antacids, birth control pills)
• Refined carbohydrates
• Processed food
• Lack of eating fermented foods
• Lack of fiber
• Alcohol
• Caffeine
• Overeating
• Inadequate chewing
• Environmental toxins
• Stress

Signs of good digestion and elimination include good bowel movements daily (preferably two or three), forming stool that is free from odor, walnut brown in color with a consistency similar to toothpaste, and about the length of a banana. The stool should leave the body easily, settle into the toilet and gently submerge. The time it takes for a meal to enter the mouth and then exit the rectum, known as “transit time,” should ideally be between 12 to 18 hours. Transit time is related to exercise, water consumption, and especially the fiber content of your diet. Poor transit time can lead to the re-absorption of
toxins, including bacteria, nitrates, and other cancer-causing toxins, which can then enter the bloodstream.

It is of key medical importance for health practitioners to ask many questions about your stool. This is how we know what is going on in your body, as this system must be functioning well for you to be healthy. It is very common to be talking “poop” at USANA Sanoviv, not only with your doctors, but also with other guests! It’s a fascinating health subject.

Achieving a balanced diet


The old saying “You are what you eat” is only partly true. It takes a great deal more than just food to create a holistically healthy person, but food does form a good foundation on which to build.

We here so much about the “balanced diet”, but even though there is plenty of literature available, it’s not always easy to translate this into the contents of the shopping cart. In order to get and stay healthy, we need to eat foods from all the food groups: Carbohydrates (including fiber), protein, and fats. We also need vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and water.

Carbohydrates and what they do

Carbohydrates come mainly from plant foods. They are the fuel that provides energy and “staying power” for your body. These nourishing foods also contain fiber, minerals, vitamins, and protein. During digestion, carbs are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose, which is the primary fuel for the brain. What we now know is that not all carbs were created equal. Different carb foods behave differently in our bodies. Carbs that break down quickly have what are called high GI (glycemic index) values; those that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream have lower GI values. For most of us most of the time, low GI foods have advantage over high GI foods, especially for people with diabetes, or heart disease.

Until the last few years, carbohydrates were seen as “fattening”. Foods rich in carbs include:

• Grains and grain foods, including rice, wheat, oats, barley, rye, brad, pasta, noodles, flour, and breakfast cereals.
• All fruits from temperate climates: Apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, and oranges. And tropical melons, bananas, pineapples, and berries of all kinds.
• Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potato, sweet corn, yams, and taro.
• Legumes including beans, chickpeas, lentils, and the favorite stand-by baked beans.
• Dairy products including milk, yoghurt, and ice cream cheese is not a source of carbohydrate, and foods such as butter and cream are primarily a source of saturated fat.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate made up of material that forms the cell wall of plants.

• Insoluble fiber such as wheat bran can’t be digested by body enzymes and passes as roughage through the body. It works mostly in the bowel where it holds water, creating soft, bulky stools, that are easier to expel. It also helps to control blood sugar and cholesterol levels and is valuable in managing diabetes.
• Soluble fiber, present in oats, legumes, and fruits, is digested by bacteria, and produces valuable acids during the process.

Get an adequate supply of both types of fiber by eating whole grain cereals, washed, unpeeled fruit, salads, and scrubbed, raw or cooked, unpeeled vegetables.

Dietary Fiber

Fiber is classified as complex carbohydrates (more than two sugar units linked together). In 2002, the Institute of Medicine created the following definitions for fiber, separating it into three components: dietary fiber, functional fiber, and total fiber:

• Dietary fiber – Includes isolated, manufactured, or synthetic oligosaccharides (complex carbohydrates that contain 3-10 sugar or glucose units) that our bodies cannot digest or absorb and that have beneficial health effects (for example, it can improve regularity, improve blood sugar and dietary cholesterol levels, and reduce disease risk).
• Total fiber – Is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber.

Nutrition Facts Labels on food packages currently list dietary fiber under total carbohydrates and further distinguish dietary fiber as soluble or insoluble fiber. According to the Institute of Medicine, the scientific support for using solubility to determine beneficial health effects is inconsistent, and recent studies suggest that other characteristics of fiber – including fermentability and viscosity – can be important to consider. Because of this, the Institute of Medicine recommends that the terms soluble and insoluble no longer be used.

Fiber is found in a variety of plant foods. Legumes (beans and peas), grains (especially whole grains), fruits, and vegetables all contribute fiber to the diet.

Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber. Resistant starch is defined as the sum of starch and products of starch degradation (breakdown of starch) that’s not absorbed in the small intestine of a healthy individual.

Resistant starch is found naturally in a variety of plant foods or it is added to processed foods. The four main dietary sources of resistant starch include

• Whole-grain foods (whole or partly milled grains and seeds)
• Raw potatoes, unripe bananas, some legumes, and in high-amylose starches such as those obtained from high-amylose corn
• Cooked and cooled foods, such as potatoes, bread, and cornflakes
• Processed foods made with resistant starches

The amount of resistant starch in foods varies widely; our estimated daily intake ranges from about 3 grams to about 8 grams per day. Studies suggest that consuming 6-12 grams of resistant starch at a meal can benefit glucose and insulin levels after the meal; consuming 20 grams per day has also been shown to bulk up feces and benefit digestive health.

Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements are often sold as bran tablets or purified cellulose or in the form of laxatives (stool softeners). Whether in pill, powder, or drink form, fiber supplements can help some people consume adequate amounts of fiber. But taking fiber supplements (or eating fiber-fortified foods) makes overconsuming fiber easy, and too much can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Fiber supplements do not replace a diet rich in plant foods that naturally contain fiber along with other key nutrients and substances that benefit health.

Studies have shown that people who consume more dietary fiber also tend to weigh less. That’s no surprise because many high-fiber foods, especially those that contain a lot of water such as fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains, are very filling. Eating a lot of fiber-rich foods such as legumes; whole grains; and other fiber-rich grains, fruits, and vegetables can help you lower your total daily calorie intake.

Consuming a fiber-rich diet can also help you steady your blood sugar levels and keep you energized throughout the day. It can also help you manage, lower your risk of, or treat obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer as well as gastrointestinal conditions such as constipation.

Too much dietary fiber can reduce the absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and energy. It can also cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea if consumed in excessive amounts. To minimize these symptoms, as people incorporate more fiber into their diet to meet current recommendations, they should also take in more water and other fluids to ease the passage of fiber throughout the body.

Soluble fiber is not digested by the human body; it absorbs and retains water and forms a gel- like substance.

Insoluble fiber is not digested by the human body; it does not absorb and retain water like soluble fiber but stays intact as it passes through the body.

Cellulose is a straight-chain polysaccharide (more than two units of glucose joined together); it is the main component of plant cell walls and is not digested in the human body.

USANA Vitamins Almond Crème and gluten-free† Peach Mango Fibergy are great-tasting ways to get at least 12 grams of fiber from multiple sources in a single serving. USANA Peach Mango Fibergy is gluten free.