Frequently Asked Questions - Digestive Health
by T. L. Cornish, CNP
If you're like many health-conscious people, you pay a lot of attention to what you eat. But even the highest quality foods won't necessarily help you build health if you don't digest them well. Following are some tips for optimizing your digestive process and preventing digestive problems from arising in the first place. You may not need to employ all of these strategies-look at your own eating habits and decide which ones will help you most. Then you'll have the right tools to keep your digestion running at its best; so you can absorb more nutrients and prevent indigestion. You'll also find a special list of remedies for indigestion. If a particular food or eating experience upsets the applecart the more familiar you are with your options, the better chance you'll have of limiting discomfort and finding relief when you need it.
Improving Digestion and Preventing Indigestion
The List of Do's:
- Let your mouth do the work - Chew your food as much as possible before swallowing. Your mouth produces powerful digestive enzymes. Their function is to partially digest your food before it goes to your stomach. Chewing your food until it is broken down into a smooth, thin liquid is ideal; usually chewing twenty times or so per bite will do the job.
- The right attitude - Try to eat with a feeling of gratitude for your food and an awareness of its nutritional power. Conscious eating will enhance your body's ability to assimilate the vitamins, minerals, and life force of your food.
- Eat the salad last - Eat your protein and fat rich foods first and your salad last so that the water in the salad veggies does not dilute your digestive fluids.
- Probiotics - Use Probium DDS acidophilus capsules, (beneficial intestinal bacteria), daily. Use up to eight capsules per day to increase your digestive system's power and resilience.
- Soil Based Bacteria - SBX brand supplement between meals will colonize your intestinal system with HSMs (Homeostatic Soil-Based Micro-Organisms). These help to reduce putrefactive bacteria from growing out of control as they can in the case of severe or chronic indigestion. A strong intestinal population of HSM's also supports nutrient assimilation.
- Herbal Tea - To aid digestion, try sipping a small cup of herbal tea during your meal; green tea or a blend of green tea and other digestive herbs such as Traditional Medicinals' Eater's Digest, work well.
- Enzyme support - Use AbsorbAid Platinum full-spectrum plant based enzymes to do some of the work for your digestive system. Take one capsule with every meal and snack daily. Extra heavy meals will require additional doses as needed. AbsorbAid Platinum promotes the process of converting virtually any food you consume into its most usable forms while supporting proper elimination of toxins and waste, leaving you with a cleaner, healthier body.
- Bitters - Use herbal bitters before biting your first bit of food to rev up your digestive potency. The usual dosage range is between one teaspoon and one tablespoon of bitters, taken from thirty to five minutes before a meal. St. Francis Herb Farms Canadian Bitters are available in the WholeApproach Store.
- Walking to prime digestion - A brisk twenty to thirty minute walk after a meal helps activate digestion.
- Investigate the possibility of food allergies - Repeated episodes of indigestion may be a signal that you suffer from food sensitivities or allergies. Try eating a four-day rotation diet,(don't eat any food more than once every four days), and tracking what you eat and how you feel in a food diary. You will discover what foods trigger irritation and inflammation in your digestive tract. You can then avoid those foods, which will both strengthen your overall digestion and reduce the number of times you experience indigestion. Electro Dermal Testing is an effective method of allergy detection (for more information see WholeApproach™ newsletter article,"Candida Related Complex and Food Allergies" in the Articles section of the Whole ApproachForums™).
The List of Don'ts:
- Don't nap or lie down right after your meal or eat just before going to bed - When you sleep, your digestive functions slow down. Also, if you lie down after eating, your stomach acid has a better chance of seeping up into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Being awake strengthens digestive power and the downward direction of gravitational force works to keep strong stomach acids where they belong.
- Don't eat when you are not hungry or when you are extremely tired - Under these conditions your body may not produce adequate digestive enzymes for efficient digestion.
- Don't drink cold water just before a meal, as it suppresses gastric secretions. - Minimize fluids during and immediately after meals. A cup of water one hour before a meal will help insure that your body has adequate water with which to produce digestive fluids.
- Don't drink coffee and black tea with meals - These drinks can relax the ileo-secal valve, creating premature emptying of the stomach into the small intestine before food is properly broken down by the stomach acids. This, in turn, can lead to indigestion. Remember, these drinks are generally inappropriate for inclusion in an immune-boosting, candida-starving diet.
Food Combining Don'ts:
Don't eat concentrated proteins like meat, dairy, fish, cheese, protein powders etc. with concentrated starches like grains, sugars, or fruits.
Don't combine beans or nuts with dairy or meat.
Don't eat fruit with any other foods.
To Remedy Indigestion or Bloating
The List of Do's:
- Take digestive enzymes - If you feel over-full, you can use one or two extra AbsorbAid capsules after your meal to help your stomach cope with the meal.
- Take activated charcoal capsules - Taking charcoal at the first sign of bloating, nausea, or gas can be helpful, as the charcoal absorbs symptom-causing bacteria. Charcoal is suitable for occasional use only. Do not exceed ten capsules in a day or use the product more than two days per week, as the charcoal can also soak up good bacteria and minerals.
- Use homeopathy - A general homeopathic formula for indigestion can be highly useful. Look for one containing carbo vegetabilis, Nux vomica (a.k.a. Colubrina), and Pulsatilla.
- Drink fresh ginger tea to relieve nausea and bloating - Simmer one to two teaspoons of grated or sliced fresh ginger root for ten minutes in one cup of purified water.
- Drink fresh or dried peppermint tea to help dispel intestinal gas - Steep one teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves or three teaspoons of fresh leaves in one cup of boiled water.
- Take fennel seeds - Chewing a half teaspoon full of these aromatic seeds each thirty minutes until your symptoms are relieved helps to reduce discomfort from gas.
- Use Tri Salts or baking soda - One teaspoon of Tri Salts (available from California-based Cardiovascular Research) may relieve heartburn or painful bloating. In a pinch, you can use one teaspoon of baking soda in a small glass of water. Either of these remedies will cause burping, helping to reduce pressure in the stomach. The bicarbonate in the Tri Salts helps neutralize extra stomach acid. (The baking soda option is contraindicated if you have hypertension because sodium bicarbonate has a high salt content.)
- Try carminative essential oil capsules. - Using essential oil capsules containing peppermint can soothe gas and discomfort by acting as a carminative (herbal agent that relieves gas) and an anti-spasmodic (to soothe intestinal spasms). Some essential oil capsules also contain fennel, caraway seed, and other carminative oils. For the quickest relief, you can bite into a capsule and wash the oils down with a few sips of hot water.
- Use herbal bitters as a treatment for upset stomach, excess fullness, and sluggish digestion - In cases of severe digestive deficiency, bitters can be used both before and after a meal. Take one teaspoon before eating and one after to boost your digestive secretions. Be aware that bitters stimulate all of your digestive functions and can speed bowel transit time. They may also loosen stools. Some bitters have a high senna leaf content and can have an exaggerated laxative effect. This is undesirable on a regular basis because your bowels can become dependent on the laxative. St. Francis Herb Farms brand bitters from Canada are excellent and do not have a strong laxative effect.
A Closing Note on Stress and Digestion
Never underestimate how much your state of mind affects your digestion. Our bodies are practical machines that make very logical decisions about prioritizing life-supporting tasks.If your body is experiencing fear, anxiety, or panic, your survival programming will direct your energy to ensuring that your body is ready to fight or flee.
It will shut down functions not essential for immediate survival, such as digestion and subtle immune processes. When your body is on 'red alert' your subconscious survival physiology will initiate movement of blood and energy resources from non-emergency functions like digestion to functions crucial for physical exertion.
For example, adrenaline levels will increase to keep your heart rate up. Your blood vessels will dilate to fill your muscles with blood rich in nutrients and oxygen, to boost your strength. When you eat while you are stressed, your body is preoccupied with the logistics of emergency procedures. It is unable to simultaneously orchestrate the complex processes needed to efficiently digest. You have next to no resources available with which to break down your food and direct the nutrients to where they need to go in your body. The result can often be physical discomfort from weak digestion, including gas, pain, fatigue and heartburn.
Try three to five minutes of deep breathing before you eat to encourage your body into rest mode before you ask it to accept and process food.
Tarilee Cornish is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain. Tarilee is a moderator on the WholeApproach Support Forum.
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