KEYS TO FITNESS: How Healthy Is Your Digestion?


By Sheila Yonemoto, PT
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on May 19, 2011.)


I once met an oral surgeon who believed health begins with a good digestive tract and gave me tips on how you can tell how healthy your digestive tract is.

• Bowel elimination should be fast. By the time you put all your weight on your buttocks, you should be done.

• There should be no smearing when you wipe and you should only need 1 toilet paper square. Smearing indicates the fecal material will be left behind in the intestinal tract and toxins can be reabsorbed into the body instead of being eliminated.

• The feces should be well formed, not hard or liquefied, and should float.  This indicates there is sufficient fiber in the diet to act as a scrubbing brush on the inside surface of the intestines, not allowing toxins to stick on the walls and get reabsorbed.

• You should have two to three bowel movements per day. People with really healthy bowels have movements 30 minutes after meals. Constipation is a real problem in America. Toxins can be reabsorbed and material can rot and fester, causing odor, gas, pressure and pain.

In the 1940s, Dr. Francis Pottenger wrote a book called “Pottenger’s Cats” and found cats eating raw food were healthier than cats eating cooked food. The raw food diet cats remained healthy generation to generation. The cooked food diet cats developed numerous problems including infections, dental problems, vision problems, skin problems, allergies, arthritis, miscarriages and behavioral changes, including nervousness and violent behavior.

Studies showed sailors eating processed foods with no fresh foods developed shortness of breath, paralysis, atrophied muscles, enlarged hearts, constipation, anemia and joint pain after being on the diet for 6 months. Once fresh foods were added to their diet, in only 10 days, the crew made significant improvement in their health.

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.

Here are some suggestions:

• 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 which generally requires more chewing, thus stimulating production of acid and digestive enzymes. It is suggested you chew your food 30 to 70 times per bite, breaking the food into smaller particles for easier digestion.

• Certain foods digest better in more acidic environments and others digest better in more alkaline environments. The usual rule is eat proteins with vegetables or starches with vegetables and not eat protein with starches. So, the popular meat and potato diets would not be recommended. Fruit should be eaten alone since it digests more quickly than other foods. If a fruit salad is eaten, eat the acid fruits first, and 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.

• Many, including Dr. Hiromi Shinya, who developed the colonoscopy procedure, do not advocate antacids or medication that decreases acid production in the stomach. Most conditions are not the result of too much acid but rather too little, and taking these remedies would make the situation worse. Food staying in the stomach too long because of low acid causes the food to rot and become more acidic. Emptying time in the stomach is more critical in this case and would be better handled with proper chewing, eating smaller portions, food combining and eating foods that promote cellular health.

• One of the keys to good health is establishing healthy eating habits.  Take charge of your life by preventing illness in the first place by doing everything you can to keep your body running well. Life has enough challenges, so why would you want to create more by eating poorly?

Get more energy, lessen stress and rid yourself of aches and pains. Try a no-impact “Chinese Energy” exercise class at our office. Your first class ($30 value) is free! Call or visit our website for more information.

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for over 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. Call (626) 576- 0591 for a free consultation, or visit for more information. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.