If you were to close your eyes and imagine just about any 1980’s film set in New York City, you probably heard the title of this article recited by someone blowing a whistle, portraying an NYPD traffic cop. Well, this article is not a tribute to those nostalgic screen gems, but in the spirit of those characters directing street traffic, I’d like to share with you how I direct traffic through the 25-30 feet of highway called the digestive tract.
If you’ve read my book, “From Fear to Faith: A Survivor’s Story,” you know that next month (April) marks five years since the climax of what I call the biggest fight of my life: a yearlong physical and mental struggle with a rare form of intestinal c*ncer. In the midst of verbal and written appreciation for sharing the story (for which I am very grateful and very humbled), the common question I receive is, “So Matt, how are you doing today? What do you do to maintain?” When I don’t have time for a sit-down chat to go into deeper detail, my simple answer is, “I keep things moving!” – (pun partially intended). Below are some of the tools I use to “maintain traffic flow”…
Coffee with Chicory
Like most things, coffee has its advantages and disadvantages. While drinking too much of it can either keep you up way past your bedtime, or set you up for a late day energy crash (usually due to the depletion of B vitamins – Google it for more info on that), if you drink it conservatively, it can give you a bit of an energy boost. The other built-in benefit of drinking coffee (again, conservatively) is that it can act as a mild bowel stimulant; but when you throw chicory into the mix, you get a bit more bang for your buck. One of my favorite brands is Café Du Monde (pictured left), but there are other brands that blend coffee and chicory that are also rather tasty. For more information on the benefits of chicory (and precautions), check the links below.
Also, keep in mind, it seems the jury is out every other year regarding how good or bad coffee is for you. One year, the experts say lots of coffee is good for you. A year or so later, the experts are saying too much coffee is a bad thing. Well, I’m not one of the experts, but I’ll say, use a little fact and common sense. It is well known that coffee is in the acidic pH range (below 7) so if you’re wondering why it seems you feel sluggish when the coffee is supposed to perk you up, well, it could be that you’ve had too much of it (too much acid in the diet can make you feel sluggish). Too little acid can make the body work harder to compensate for the deficiency and make you feel sluggish on the other side. Balance is key. Also, remember that while caffeine is a stimulant, it’s also a diuretic and as such, can speed up the depletion of your body’s B vitamin stores. (There are several sources of information available on the Web regarding pH levels of foods and how they affect the body. Just log on to your favorite search engine and and give it a go).
I honestly did not know about using enzyme supplements until I read the book “21 Pounds in 21 Days” by Dr. Roni DeLuz. After going through the 21-day plan outlined in the book, I saw the benefit of taking enzyme supplements with meals and decided to continue the practice. Digestive enzymes help to ensure your food is properly broken down for optimal nutrient absorption. In fact, one thing that reminds me of when I’ve forgotten to take them is excessive gas, either “upper” (burping) or “lower” (use your imagination), minutes after I’ve finished eating. The other benefit of supplementing with enzymes is an easier passing of food wastes. There are a number of different digestive enzyme brands available at various organic grocers or health food stores, and they all seem to vary from enzyme types (ones that help break down fats vs ones that help break down proteins) to the amounts included (some that I’ve tried didn’t seem to work as well; others seemed to cause lower intestinal gas). Do your homework on benefits vs risks and find one that’s right for you. Remember that many of these enzymes are derived from plant sources and with that in mind, I’ll tell you that when I’ve run out before having a chance to restock, I supplement by eating small amounts of pineapple, papaya or a very small amount of raw ginger.
There is a wealth of information available on the Internet regarding probiotics and why they are so important, but in a nutshell, probiotics are essentially live microorganisms that when ingested, help to balance the ratio of healthy to unhealthy bacteria in your gut. You can boost your healthy gut bacteria by eating/drinking natural sources (such as sauerkraut, yogurt, or kefir), or you can supplement it by purchasing over-the-counter supplements. Remember, they vary in the amount of strains (different bacteria types that serve different purposes) as well as in the bacteria count per serving (also measured in cfu–colony forming units). You’ll need to do a little homework to figure out which probiotic blend is best for you. I’ve included a few links below with more information on probiotics.
I could go on about other things I do to maintain good “traffic flow,” like practicing yoga (I don’t know of any other exercise that massages the internal organs quite like it) and eating regular amounts of prebiotic foods (prebiotics feed the healthy bacteria in your gut); but for sake of article length, I’ll save those topics for another article. (For a list of prebiotic foods, just Google “prebiotic foods.” Here’s one search result: https://www.prebiotin.com/foods-containing-prebiotics/).
In conclusion, after spending 13 days in the hospital in April 2011, one of my goals moving forward was to make certain I “went” at minimum, twice a day; and save a few occasions here and there since, I’ve managed to maintain that frequency (I actually feel my best when I average–across a week–three trips per day). My apologies if you think that’s TMI (too much information), but if you’re not going enough, you’re eventually going to have some sort of problem; and if you’re frequency of “elimination” is low, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re eating, how much of it you’re eating, and how well you’re breaking it down. Okay Sir or Ma’am… keep it moving and have a nice day!
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. If you are having any physical discomfort regarding digestion, consult your family practitioner or gastroenterologist.