The digestive system is very complex! Not only is this where food is broken down and nutrients absorbed, the digestive tract also plays a critical role in the immune system, in ways we still do not completely understand. Some vitamins and other nutrient co-factors are synthesized in the intestines. Also, when elimination is inadequate, the resulting fermentation and putrefaction of food produces toxins that play a significant role in many illnesses. Colon health needs to be addressed in every patient.
Causes of Digestive Problems
Most people today experience some degree of digestive difficulty. Several reasons for this problem include:
Stressful lifestyles and poor eating habits. Digestion requires parasympathetic activity. Eating on the run, eating when anxious, deficient chewing and eating too fast suppress parasympathetic activity.
Widespread use of antibiotics. These destroy normal bowel flora. These chemicals are pervasive in our environment - used in human medicine, added to animal feed and residues in all our food and water supplies.
Candida albicans and other intestinal parasitic infections. Candida is prevalent not only due to antibiotic usage. Steroid use, alkaline colons, weak immune systems and copper and other nutritional imbalances also contribute.
Anti-acid medications. These include over-the-counter anti-acids like Maalox, Mylanta, Gaviscon and Ryopan, alkaline calcium supplements such as Tums and prescription anti-acids like Zantac and Tagamet. All these may impair digestion.
Diets deficient in zinc and other trace elements. These deficiencies can lead to a reduced production of digestive enzymes.
Constipation due to stress, low-fiber diets, lack of exercise, improper flora and many medications. This can drastically affect one's health.
Use of coffee, spices, other stimulants and poor food combinations impair digestion.
Food sensitivities. The most severe sensitivities are gluten allergies which cause sprue. Many milder food reactions can also impair digestion and elimination.
With increasing age, digestive enzyme production and bowel motility often decrease.
Improving digestion should be a first priority in every patient! Seemingly unrelated symptoms will improve when digestion and elimination improve. Always ask patients about gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, food reactions and abdominal pain.
Simple measures to improve digestion are to avoid acid-decreasing drugs (Tagamet), alkaline calcium supplements like Tums and constipating medication whenever possible.
Use antibiotics only after natural methods such as vitamins A and C, Limcomin, echinacea, goldenseal, astragalus, olive leaf extract and colloidal silver have been tried first.
Correct the diet if it is excessive in sugars, carbohydrates, stimulants, too many spices or other damaging foods.
Improve eating habits: Chew each bite 10 times, sit down for meals, and relax at mealtime and at least five minutes after meals. Reducing liquids at meals and simple food combinations can also help weak digestion.
Lifestyle is very important. Adequate rest, some daily exercise, deep breathing and positive attitudes have a great influence on digestion and elimination.
Digestive aids are often needed for a period of time. These include probiotics such as acidophilus products. Quality varies and one product may work better than another. One must usually take several acidophilus capsules per day, preferably before breakfast, for several months.
Digestive enzyme products include Betaine HCL-Pepsin, liver and pancreas enzymes such as Enz-Aid and vegetable-based enzymes. Extra dietary fiber composed of psyllium husks and fruit pectin may be very helpful for some people and may be taken on a long-term basis.
For constipation, extra magnesium is safe, helpful and may be used indefinitely. GB-3 is also excellent. It acts on the liver to improve bile production which has a slight laxative effect and helps digestion as well. Cascara sagrada and sena leaves are sometimes used for constipation. However, they can be irritating and habit-forming.
Exercise and deep breathing are also helpful for constipation. Herbs such as aloe and slippery elm are soothing to an inflamed digestive tract. Bentonite and azomite are sometimes used for colon cleansing programs. Use only when needed, as they contain a lot of aluminum. Mechanical procedures such as colonic irrigation, enemas and castor oil packs over the abdomen are excellent to help restore a toxic colon.
The gall-bladder flush with olive oil may also assist digestion and elimination. For heavy infestation of candida albicans, or if someone does not respond to simpler measures, candida may be controlled with Caprylate Complex, grapeseed extract, tannic acid or medications like Nystatin and Nizoril. At times, parasite medications or herbs are needed. If heavy infestation with parasites or candida are suspected, comprehensive stool tests may be helpful.
Other supplements sometimes used to restore the digestive tract include L- glutamine, medium chain triglycerides, butyrates and herbs for the liver.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. If you experience frequent indigestion, eat smaller, more frequent meals to help ease the effects of stomach acid.
- Avoid irritating foods. Avoid foods that irritate your stomach, especially those that are spicy, acidic, fried or fatty.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Excessive use of alcohol can irritate the mucous lining of your stomach. Limit yourself to one drink per day if you're a woman or two drinks per day if you're a man.
- Consider switching pain relievers. If you use pain relievers regularly, ask your doctor whether acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may be an option for you. This medication is less likely to aggravate your stomach problem.
- Manage stress. Stress may make your gastritis symptoms worse. Stress may be unavoidable, but you can learn to cope with it. If you have trouble relaxing, consider trying calming activities, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Foods to be avoided if you have gastritis or peptic ulcers
A proper diet for the treatment of gastritis or ulcers should not include whole milk, cream or sour cream with a fat content of over 20% as well as any fermented milk products. In addition you should avoid high-fat cheeses (over 45%) and blue cheese (ripened) varieties such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Camembert.
For those who suffer with gastritis or peptic ulcers (and anyone who wants to be more healthy) fatty, smoked or cured meats should be left out of the diet. Additionally spicy roasted meats, meats prepared along with bacon, naturally high-fat meats like goose or duck, and higher-fat animal parts in general (e.g. skin) as well as any type of sausage should all be avoided.
Types of fish like eel, herring and salmon as well as smoked fish of any sort, dried or otherwise preserved fish or fish products should not be consumed if you have gastritis or peptic ulcers.
Bread and baked goods
Eliminate fresh bread and baked goods as well as coarse whole grain bread, fresh pastries, high-fat baked goods like éclairs and doughnuts from the diet if you currently have gastritis or ulcers (as well as after the symptoms have subsided).
Potatoes and vegetables
Avoid any potato dishes which have been prepared using oil, including chips (French fries, pommes frites, wedges, etc.) and crisps (i.e. potato chips) if you have gastritis or an ulcer (and in general).
Also potato salad containing bacon, mayonnaise or excessive oil should not be part of your diet. There are also several types of vegetable which are difficult to digest: cabbage, leeks, onions, mushrooms, peppers, olives, pickles, cucumber, horseradish and beans. These should be left out of your diet, as well as any vegetable salads which have mayonnaise or other sauces which are high in fat.
Fruits and Nuts
Good nutrition for gastritis and ulcer sufferers does not include unripe fruit, raw drupes (i.e. fruits with a pit like cherries and plums), nuts of any kind as well as almonds and pistachios and avocados.
Likewise candy, sweets and sugar in general should not be part of your diet if you have gastritis and/or an ulcer as well as spices, especially those which have been dried or are in powdered form.