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Natural Health from A to Z
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 • Posted June 17, 2009

Digestion – Our health or lack of health is directly tied to what we eat and how we digest it. Today’s topic, digestion, is the means by which the body transforms food into the energy it needs to build, repair and fuel itself. Most of us assume that whatever we put into our mouths is going to be digested and nourish us. However, many different factors can interfere with this process resulting in indigestion.

Indigestion has many forms, whether it’s acid reflux, bloating, gassiness, constipation or diarrhea. It is generally caused and/or aggravated by poor eating habits such as eating the wrong types of food, eating too fast, drinking too much liquid with meals, eating when upset or anxious, and/or eating too much. Indigestion occurs more often in adults, since, as we age, our digestive systems tend to slow down and are more easily overwhelmed.

Over-the-counter and prescription antacids perpetuate the problems of indigestion. These antacids neutralize stomach acid, preventing the stomach from digesting the food. A vicious cycle is then set up since more acid is needed to digest the food; so, more acid is then produced in the stomach, then more antacid is needed, then the stomach produces more acid, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, over 90% of indigestion is caused by lack of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, not by too much stomach acid. Many of the symptoms of indigestion will disappear when digestive enzymes are supplemented.

For the 10% of indigestion that does not get better with digestive enzymes, it helps to repair the stomach lining by taking supplements like aloe vera, slippery elm, and deglycerrhized licorice. It may also be helpful to take something to eliminate bacteria or parasites that are compromising the stomach lining.

Proper diet and eating habits can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion. Certain foods should be avoided. These include spicy foods, foods high in fat, caffeine, alcohol, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, beans, and red meat. Food allergens are another cause of indigestion. Common food allergens include wheat (especially things made with white flour), dairy, caffeine and sugar.

Eat foods that are easy to digest. Take time to eat when you are relaxed. Chew each mouthful of food thoroughly. Chewing makes digestion less stressful for the stomach. Eat frequent small meals at regular intervals. Avoid skipping meals. Avoid eating too much at once. Avoid drinking too much liquid with your meal as it dilutes digestive fluids.

Also, go back to last week’s column and read about congestion. It may be time for an internal cleanse to get your organs of digestion in good working order.

Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.

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