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Eating like an elephant helps you avoid IBS

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Would you like to have a nude picture of you taken while you're sitting on a toilet and then have the photo published in a national newspaper? Surely, we'd all sue for such an indignity. Once, a photo showing Diew, a bull elephant who'd been trained to sit on an elephant-sized toilet, appeared in a paper. No doubt the photo was meant to show irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an elephant-sized problem. But editors published the wrong photo.

It's ironic that an elephant can be trained to sit on a toilet seat but humans can't be taught how to avoid IBS. It's estimated that 25 per cent of North Americans suffer from this disconcerting disease.

Diew, sitting on his throne, might question whether IBS is actually a disease. Diseases are supposed to have pathology, and with IBS, the bowel appears to be normal.

Nevertheless, Diew might have sympathy with so many humans who suffer from abdominal bloating, irregular bowel movements, constipation and gas.

Medical journals report no known cause for IBS. But the intelligent elephant might know that humans get into trouble because of a variety of human errors.

I'm not an expert on bull elephants, but I've never heard they need laxatives. Humans, on the other hand, have devoured laxatives for years. TV commercials stress the need to take them daily. And the habit has ruined millions of bowels. Human intestines become lazy when laxatives do the work for them. Studies in mice show when they're given laxatives for four months, degeneration of intestinal nerves occur.

Diew is obviously not easily embarrassed. He can defecate anytime and anywhere he desires, with or without a toilet. But humans sometimes delay the call of nature. Patients tell me they frequently postpone a bowel movement. They may be at an important meeting or the call of nature is inconvenient for other reasons. This is a good start on the road to IBS.

A bull elephant could also remind humans he and other animals in zoos receive a more nutritious diet than humans. There are no packaged dinners or junk food with salt and sugar.

Rather, they receive adequate amounts of fibre, which make their stools bulky and soft rather than hard as rocks.

I tried to convince readers several years ago a high-fibre diet usually causes soft stools to float. This column caused one reader to complain he got a stiff neck from checking the toilet bowl.

Since elephants have long memories, Diew might also give humans a history lesson on the virtues of a high-fibre diet. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, preached the value of whole-wheat bread, vegetables and fruit as a way of assuring soft stools. Dr. Cleaves, the ship's surgeon on the battleship King George V, cured his sailors of constipation during the First World War by giving them unprocessed bran.

Humans also need to be reminded that by keeping stools soft, increased dietary fibre helps to prevent diverticulosis. Hernias of the colon sometimes become infected, resulting in diverticulitis that may require surgery to remove segments of the large bowel.

To further drive home the value of fibre, Diew would also explain that it fights obesity and diabetes, two of the nation's top killers. It's easy to drink sugar-laden drinks and still be hungry. But when bulky fibre foods are part of the diet, they decrease the hunger reflex and fewer calories are consumed.

To prevent bowel movements as hard as rocks, labels on food products report the fibre content. The day should start with all-bran cereal and whole-wheat bread. Whole-wheat pasta, fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and raisins should be added to salads. Plain popcorn, almonds, dried apricots and dates make good snacks.

Since Diew can be trained to sit on a toilet, perhaps he can also be taught to use a camera. It's only fair game that editors should allow Diew to snap a photo of an embarrassed human sitting on the throne in his birthday suit while desperately straining to pass the hard rocks of IBS.

info@docgiff.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 A19

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