Taming the tummy: digestive health

Do you experience digestive problems?  If so, you’re not alone.  The standard US diet, coupled with the high level of stress the average American experiences, has created a society with a bottle of Tums in every medicine cabinet.  Digestive problems can range from minor annoyances, such as gas and bloating, to life-threatening illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic diarrhea, and various cancers that target digestive organs. Digestion is one of the main reference points for gauging one’s overall health. If there are weaknesses or imbalances here, it is likely that one’s overall health is compromised. Maintaining healthy digestion is an essential component in our quest for optimal health. Constipation is one of the biggest culprits. The standard American diet can easily lead to chronic constipation. This diet is low in fiber and antioxidants and high in difficult to digest additives and refined ingredients. Many people are constipated and they don’t even know it. They may have regular bowel movements, but they are still not flushing their systems thoroughly, creating intestinal toxicity.  Intestinal cleansing is often a top priority in healing numerous chronic health problems. There are several natural herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that can relieve constipation and heal the underlying imbalances, including aloe vera, flax and senna leaf.

On the other end of the spectrum is diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is still one of the leading causes of death in the world.   Diarrhea is related to spleen weakness or intestinal inflammation. Stress and anxiety can trigger regular bouts of diarrhea, as can processed and refined foods.  There are a few basic remedies for diarrhea, and your acupuncturist can advise you what to try first.  Make sure you rule out more serious conditions like parasites or bacterial infection if necessary.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common problem that affects millions of Americans. Doctors will often diagnose IBS when the patient’s symptoms don’t seem to match up with anything else, so they call it irritable bowel.  This disorder is characterized by bowels fluctuating from constipation to diarrhea, with intermittent abdominal pain or distention.  People with IBS tend to be sensitive to a variety of foods including high fiber foods, refined sugar, wheat, and gluten products. Symptoms can continue indefinitely and can be resistant to conventional treatments. I have treated several patients with IBS, usually with very positive results. Treatment involves relaxing the liver and strengthening the spleen.

Most digestive disorders respond very well to consistent acupuncture and herbal treatment. Making dietary changes that restore and detoxify the gut also enhances treatment progress.  One of the easiest, least expensive ways I’ve found to restore the gut’s natural enzymes that are necessary for proper digestion are lacto-fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.

I should mention for those of you suffering from crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer, it is definitely best to seek out professional alternative and allopathic medical treatment.

Your partner in health,

Amie