Good health begins with a good digestive tract.

Bowel elimination should be quick. By the time you put all your weight on your buttocks, you should be done with your bowel elimination. So, there should be no reason to have reading material in the bathroom.

There should be no smearing when you wipe and you should only need one toilet paper square to wipe. Smearing indicates that the fecal material will be left behind in the intestinal tract and the toxins can be reabsorbed into the body instead of being eliminated.

The feces should be well formed, not hard and not liquefied, and should float. This indicates that there is sufficient fiber in the diet that acts like a scrubbing brush on the inside surface of the intestines, keeping it clean and not allowing toxins to stick on the walls and get reabsorbed.

You should have two to three bowel movements per day and people with really healthy bowels have movements 30 minutes after meals. Constipation is a real problem in America and is not a healthy situation. Toxins can be reabsorbed, material can rot and fester, causing odor, gas, pressure and pain.

Generally speaking, there should not be much problem with gas, odor or constipation. These are all signs of a sluggish system.

Many people advocate a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruit. These provide the fiber, enzymes and vitamins, and set up the environment in the digestive tract for good, healthy bacteria. What you eat, how you eat and when you eat can contribute greatly to improved digestion, which means better absorption of nutrients and better functioning of the cells.

Drink one to three glasses of water when you first get up and then drink two to three glasses of water before each meal. Drinking water with meals tends to decrease the acid in the stomach, and you need the acid to break down the food.

Start your meal with raw food first. Raw food generally requires more chewing, which stimulates acid production and digestive enzymes. It is suggested that you chew your food 30-70 times per bite, breaking up the food into smaller particles for easier digestion.

Proper food combining is important. The usual rule is eat proteins with vegetables or starches with vegetables and do not eat protein with starches. So, the popular meat and potato diet would not be recommended. Fruit should be eaten alone since it digests quicker than other foods. Eat melons by themselves because they digest more quickly than other fruits.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes may be helpful as the amount of digestive enzymes decreases as we age. One of the keys to good health is establishing healthy eating habits. You can take charge of your life by making sure you prevent illness in the first place by doing everything you can to keep your body running well.

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. She also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

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