Digestion – Our health or lack of health is directly tied to what we eat and how we digest it. Digestion is the means by which the body transforms food into the energy and nutrients 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.Antacids and acid blockers perpetuate the problems of indigestion. They neutralize or block stomach acid, preventing the stomach from digesting 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. 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 – especially those with betaine HCL, a mild form of hydrochloric acid (similar to what your stomach naturally produces.)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 liningDigestive troubles such as gas and bloating are most commonly caused by yeast or fungus overgrowth in the small intestine. Reasons for this overgrowth include not enough stomach acid, too much sugar and white flour, use of antibiotics, etc. Sometimes a good digestive enzyme and a probiotic are enough to “fix” this issue. However, sometimes it is necessary to kill the yeast/fungus and then re-establish proper biology with a good probiotic – it also helps to quit sugar and other foods that metabolize quickly as sugar. Diarrhea tends to be a small intestine problem caused by bacteria, virus, yeast/fungus or parasites. These issues can be helped by herbal parasite remedies and probiotics. Sometimes diarrhea is a gallbladder issue – especially after gallbladder removal. Supplementing bile salts usually helps this significantly.Problems with the large intestine usually involve constipation. If you have any of the problems discussed above, you might have this one too. Typically, fixing the problems above the large intestine will help it work better. But sometimes constipation is related to not enough fiber, not enough exercise, thyroid issues, liver/gallbladder congestion, and magnesium deficiency.This has been a quick overview of common digestive issues from a natural perspective. Remember, you are what you eat, assimilate and do not eliminate.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas. www.naturalcowgirl.wordpress.com