Cell environment is the second area of the Healthy Cell Concept that we want to address.        
       We can eat the highest quality diet possible, avoid all refined and processed foods, never grace the door of a fast food restaurant and yet not experience good health if we are not regularly and efficiently eliminating the normal and natural wastes associated with metabolism.  Metabolism is all the chemical and physical processes that occur in the body to facilitate growth, repair and energy production.  Maintaining a clean cell environment is vital to having proper energy levels, experiencing a strong immunity and avoiding everything from the common cold to cancer.

       A variety of organs are involved in the eliminative process.  The skin, with its sweat glands provides an outlet for the elimination of toxins.  By excreting or conserving water and inorganic salts, particularly sodium, the kidneys determine the amount of fluid the body retains.  Therefore the kidneys control the volume of extracellular fluid, and in so doing, influences blood pressure and blood ph levels.  The kidneys also filter out impurities and toxic agents.  The lungs excrete carbon dioxide and various impurities.  The liver is a major organ of detoxification.

       Two major eliminative pathways that the body utilizes to remove the wastes of metabolism are the lymphatic system and the colon, also known as the large intestine.  We will address the lymphatic system first.


       The space that exists between cells, called the interstitium, contains fluid (lymph) which flows into lymphatic vessels which look like veins, but have thinner walls.  Lymph passes through lymph nodes located throughout the body.  This fluid flows through these nodes where special cells called macrophages engulf waste particles carried by the lymph and destroys them.   Much of the lymph collects into a central lymphatic pool located in the abdomen and from there it travels up the thoracic duct which connects with the blood stream near the neck.  The blood then serves to detoxify the lymph.

       Since the lymphatic system is not connected to the heart, how does fluid move through this system?  Within the vein like structures of the lymphatic system are one-way valves located every few millimeters.  Anytime there is pressure below the valves they open up and allow for the flow of lymph.  Greater pressure above the valves will keep them closed.  The key to maintaining a flow of lymph is exercise.  Exercise creates pressure below the valves and keeps them open.  Exercise that places the body in resistance to gravity is the kind of exercise that is especially effective in maintaining lymphatic flow.   Walking, running, skip roping, jumping and rebounding are all excellent ways of facilitating the pumping of lymphatic fluid through this system.  Regular exercise is of critical importance to the proper function of the lymphatic system and its waste removal function.

       One other way to stimulate the movement of the lymph is to use a body brush made from vegetable fibers.  When using such a brush, it is best to brush the skin in a motion toward the abdominal area of the body where much of the lymph is collected before being picked up by the blood.  Massage is also a great way to work the lymphatic system.


       The other major pathway of elimination that we will discuss is the colon.  Nearly everyone living in modern societies is constipated.  The word constipation is from a Latin root which means, “to press together.”  Constipation is a condition where one’s feces are pressed together.  There are two types of constipation.  One type is where the feces passing from the body is overly packed together.  This kind of constipation is easily recognizable as hard bowel movement.  Many suffer from this type of constipation on a regular basis.  A second and most common type of constipation is where hardened feces stick to the walls of the colon and do not pass out with regular bowel movements. This kind of constipation is not often recognized as one can have reasonably normal bowel movements and still have this type of constipation.  It is this type of constipation that leads to problems of the colon and to health problems in general. Anyone who has eaten refined, processed food for any length of time has this kind of constipation.

       How does the colon work?   When we eat a meal, the food from that meal enters the stomach where hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin begin to break down proteins and minerals.  The food then passes into the small intestine where digestive enzymes from the pancreas and intestinal walls complete digestion.  Waste from this digestive process, including undigested food, then pass into the colon in a liquid form.  Muscular contractions move this liquid along the walls of the colon which begin to absorb the water from this liquid material. This water is returned to the body and reused.  The solid material that is left forms the stool which is eliminated. 

       The purpose of the colon is to eliminate the wastes of metabolism.  In order to do this, the muscles of the colon must be able to contract.  This contraction, called peristalsis, is what moves waste material along the walls of the colon and out the body.  In order for this contraction to take place, there must be sufficient fiber in the diet to stimulate peristalsis and also enough water to form a soft bulky stool.  It’s in this area of sufficient fiber where we Americans are experiencing a serious problem.  If you’re eating the standard American diet which is high in processed, refined foods, you are getting around seven to ten grams of fiber per day in your diet.  We should be getting forty to fifty grams of fiber per day in order to prevent the buildup of waste in the colon.

       The colon is constructed of a series of pouch-like segments called sacculations.  When waste material is not moved out of the colon in a timely manner, this material begins to accumulate on the walls of these colon sacculations which begin to balloon.  Accumulation of waste also decreases the diameter of the colon, leaving only a small opening for fecal matter to pass on through.  As this process continues, the eliminative process becomes more and more sluggish and the potential develops for a variety of colon problems such as diverticulosis, diverticulitis, colitis, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), crohn’s disease and colon cancer.  Colon problems are epidemic in America and colon cancer ranks right near the top in death from cancer.

       The key to preventing colon problems is to increase transit time.  Transit time is the time it takes from the moment you eat a meal to the time you eliminate the wastes from the digestion of that meal.  The shorter the transit time, the less chance there is of waste material accumulating and sticking to the walls of the colon.  Dr. Dennis Burkitt, a British surgeon, demonstrated the relationship between transit time and colon problems back in the 1940's, when he studied the health habits of native Africans.  He found the transit time for these native Africans to be around 30 to 35 hours. At the same time, he found that for many in his own country who were eating the typical low fiber Western diet, the transit time was often 72 hours.  The Africans had virtually no colon problems.  Their intake of fiber was around 40 to 50 grams per day obtained from their natural diet.

       Research shows that cultures around the world that have high fiber content to their diet have practically none of the colon problems so common to Americans.  Yet when these same cultures begin eating the refined, processed food diets so common to Americans, they develop the same colon diseases that so many of us have.

       So what can we do to increase the fiber content of our diets?  First of all, what is fiber?  Fiber is the non-digestible portion of the foods that we eat.  Your best source of dietary fiber is found in grains and beans.  If the grains and beans have been processed, there’s a good chance that some or all of the fiber has been removed.  For example, grains that have been processed into white flour products have had their fiber removed. You can maximize the fiber obtainable from grains by simply cooking unprocessed whole grains such as wheat berries, millet, brown rice, whole barley etc. and adding these foods to your diet.

       Beans are not only one of the best fiber foods that you can eat, but they will also provide you with excellent complex carbohydrate along with good protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals.  Beans can be prepared in a variety of ways including soups, casseroles and salads.

       Fruits and vegetables will provide a good variety of different types of fibers.  It is best to eat them in their raw, unprocessed state in order to obtain their maximum fiber and nutritional value as well.  You can purchase fiber obtained from wheat, oats, rice, corn, apples and grapefruit.  Such fibers can be added to cereals, pastas, meatloaf and a variety of other foods or they can be eaten by themselves.  Psyllium seed fiber, obtained from the psyllium plant, provides an excellent bulking agent, facilitating a soft and easy to eliminate stool.  Using psyllium seed fiber over an extended period of time will accomplish a slow and gentle removal of impacted waste material from the colon.  Another good source of fiber is flax seed. Flax provides many nutrients plus good balance between mucilaginous (water holding) fiber and roughage (non-water holding fiber).

       An important point to remember when increasing the fiber content of the diet is to also increase the amount of water that you drink.  Water is a critical component of the entire waste removal process, and fiber demands water for it to properly facilitate waste elimination.  Try to drink purified water!

       Even after increasing the fiber content of the diet, you may still experience a sluggish bowel reflex resulting in poor and irregular eliminations.  Standard over the counter laxatives are habit forming and tend to irritate the bowel into action.  Herbs, such as cascara sagrada and senna leaf, can be used to stimulate the flow of bile from the gall bladder which in turn will create the urge to have a bowel movement. These herbs should not be used routinely as they also can become habit forming.  There are a variety of colon cleansing formulas available from health food stores.  One such product we carry at Milk ‘N Honey is called Herbal Fiber Blend.  This product has proven to be very effective in facilitating good bowel function and cleansing of the colon.

The Healthy Cell Concept: Part Three