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Understanding Your Digestion.
Fiber, Water, and Intestinal Exercises: Secrets to Healthy Digestion.
Using Your Mind-Body Link to Maximize Digestive Wellness.
SPECIFIC DIGESTIVE CONDITIONS.
Easy Ways to Get Rid of Gas and Bloating.
What to Do about Heartburn.
Causes and Treatments of Constipation.
Easy Treatments for Diarrhea.
Keys to Overcoming Diverticular Disease.
Easy Prevention and Cure of Hemorrhoids.
Natural Answers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
New Treatments for Peptic Ulcer and Inflamed Stomach.
Healing Gallbladder Disease.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Causes of Intestinal Pain.
Intestinal Invaders: Parasites.
The Candida-Related Complex.
The Intestinal Tract and Serious Disease: Colorectal Cancer and AIDS.
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT'S WRONG AND FIX IT.
Finding and Healing Your Food Allergies.
Using Your Power Tools: Digestive Enzymes.
Detoxification and Rebuilding Programs.
This book is about natural answers to digestive problems, but it is also about the relationship between your digestive tract and your overall health. Who would have thought a book on digestion would end up pertaining to all aspects of your health-- immune system, emotions, allergies, vitality, and more? Let me explain.
Your overall health can be pictured as a circle, with your digestive tract an essential triangle inside that circle.
The three points of digestion-- absorption, assimilation, and elimination-- are at the core of your overall health. Doctors and researchers recognize the importance of diet in health and well-being. Now the fundamental role of absorbing that diet is beginning to be appreciated.
Three Keys to the Digestive Process
You have heard the saying "You are what you eat." Well, this isn't really the whole story. It's not until your food is optimally digested that it actually becomes part of your body. So, the saying really should be "You are what you digest." Karen's story, which follows, illustrates this. But we actually can take this saying a little further: "You are how you live, because your habits and emotions affect your digestion."
Did you know that eating refined grains (white bread, white pasta, white rice, and refined flours in bakery goods) can create vitamin B deficiencies? Did you know that being low in B vitamins can promote maldigestion, or that inadequate levels of B vitamins can also make you tired, moody, anxious, or depressed?
Did you know that overconsuming alcohol stresses your ability to digest? If you drink to excess for only one evening, over the next few days a portion of the food you eat, even if it is organic and high in nutrients, could be toxic to your body rather than nourishing. Even short-term alcohol abuse can adversely affect intestinal digestion.
Emotional trauma can negatively affect digestion. It has been found that bouts of extreme anger, the loss of a loved one, or a diagnosis of catastrophic illness may adversely affect digestion for the following few weeks or even months.
KAREN'S MEMORY LOSS AND FATIGUE STARTED IN HER STOMACH
Karen was a chic, successful computer expert in Silicon Valley in northern California. At forty-two, she was happy with her job, excited by her future, but troubled by her body and mental health. She was exhausted and had significant difficulty concentrating and remembering things. After an exam and some basic blood tests, her regular physician chuckled and told her that she wasn't getting any younger.
Not satisfied, Karen asked around. A friend recommended my holistic clinic in Palo Alto. There I gave Karen an initial hour and a half interview and asked many questions, especially about her digestion. Karen said every time she ate she'd become severely bloated. Based on tests, Karen was diagnosed as having too little stomach acid, inadequate levels of B vitamins, and a diet insufficient in fiber, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
Karen was put on a nutritional program. I suggested she sit down and eat her lunch in silence and peace. After two weeks of taking digestive enzymes, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein, and doing a simple ten-minute meditation/affirmation/reflex session at home every morning, Karen was a new woman. The key point was that Karen had not been absorbing her food optimally. She hadn't been sick enough to be diagnosed with a disease, yet she hadn't been well enough to be enjoying vitality in her life. When she attended to her digestive tract, Karen's health returned.
Warning Signals: Red Lights on Your Body's Dashboard
If your body were a car, you'd have a dashboard. On this dashboard would be warning signals to tell you if something was wrong. Well, our bodies actually do have warning signals, but we are not trained to notice them. We often recognize illness only when we are so ill that we can no longer avoid the fact. But there were probably warning signals all along the way, if only we had noticed them. What are the warning signals that our digestion is not optimal or that we may be absorbing our food poorly?are usually warm and
Dr. Emmanuel Cheraskin has stated that there is really only one disease: malnutrition. In America, many cases of malnutrition are not caused by overt starvation, but rather by eating low-quality food and doing an even lower-quality job of digesting it.
Normal vs. Abnormal Bowel Movements
The "father of medicine," Hippocrates, used to urge upon the citizens of Athens that "it was essential that they should pass large bulky motions after every meal."
People always ask me how many times a day it is normal to defecate. It's important to remember that there is a wide range of normality. However, the real question becomes: Is what is considered normal actually too wide a range, so that many people who are abnormal are included?
Medical textbooks say normal defecation in suburban America ranges from two to three times a day to several times a week. In my experience with thousands of people, I have found that not eliminating daily is associated with a higher risk of incurring many intestinal as well as other health problems. I have observed that when people balance their diets and nutrients enough to eliminate their symptoms of ill health, they usually have bowel movements one to three times a day.
You should eliminate at least once a day.
Note: Microscopic stool analyses can assess a number of facts about absorption. These tests are available through various labs. See appendix B.
Home Assessment of Digestion
Analysis of Your Stool. Good digestion should result in stools that are large, round, medium to dark brown, do not float, are not bubbly, are somewhat soft and mushy, and do not frequently exhibit undigested food. You should not need to strain. Passing stools should not hurt or burn, nor should they have a noxious odor.
Intestinal Transit Time. This is an important and easy test to do at home. Optimal digestion includes optimal intestinal transit time-- the average time food takes to go through (transit) your body. Healthy intestines contract about 12 times a minute, which propels food on its digestive journey. This should optimally add up to about 24 to 30 hours from mouth to rectum. In the United States, the normal transit time is about 48 hours or larger. This is normal, but by no means, optimal. To test your transit time, use a "color marker," such as activated charcoal or corn kernels.
What to do: Swallow about 20 grains of activated charcoal tablets (5 to 12, depending on how large they are) all at once with water. You can purchase charcoal tablets from your drugstore or health-food store. If they are not available, swallow 4 tablespoons of whole corn kernels. Note the time you swallow the charcoal or corn. Then note the first time you see your stool turn black (from the charcoal) or you notice clumps of the corn kernels in the stool.
Optimal transit time is approximately 24 hours. With prolonged transit time, you first see indicators at 30 to 40 hours or more. If you first see indicators at 78 hours, or you never see them, this suggests a "toxic" bowel. Also, once you notice the indicators, you should keep noticing pieces of them for no more than another 12 hours. If you continue to see bits of the indicators for several more days, this is another sign of a sluggish bowel.
When I was in practice, over 20 percent of the people who took this test never saw the indicators come out. This suggested too long an intestinal transit time and a "sluggish" intestine. Not adequately eliminating waste products increases the risk of numerous diseases, as well as suffering with poor digestion.
Redo this easy home test once a year to make sure you are "on target" with optimal gastrointestinal health.
Children and Digestion
Dr. Jonathan Wright, M. D., internationally renowned nutritional expert, suggests we never have a guarantee of good digestion or absorption, no matter what our age. He has records of more than fifty children under the age of three who had no outright disease, yet had inadequate digestion and absorption as proven by laboratory tests.
DAVID-- BETTER LIVING THROUGH IMPROVED ABSORPTION
Seven-year-old David suffered from severe asthma. He had been diagnosed as emotionally unstable and had been seeing a psychotherapist for over a year, as well as taking drugs, but his asthma continued to worsen. David's mother took him to a nutritionally oriented doctor who discovered David had frequent tummyaches and excessive intestinal gas. Tests showed that David didn't make enough stomach acid. The doctor explained that David had not been adequately digesting his food. The undigested food particles traveled through David's body, probably causing inflammation and irritation in his lungs, contributing to his asthma and food allergies.
Within one week of taking digestive supplements and going off milk and wheat, David's stomachaches went away. Within one month the asthma was gone. David was happier and more emotionally stable. David's digestive problem was causing his asthma. Avoiding milk and wheat products and taking digestive supplements allowed David to live a normal life without dependency on steroids.
Wouldn't you want to know if your child could get rid of or improve asthma (and other problems) through diet and digestive enzymes rather than through medication? Doesn't it make sense to try natural methods first?
Optimal Digestion Needs Supportive Players
Digestion is a transformative act. It takes external matter (food) and attempts to break it down to absorbable pieces, so that some is let into the body and the rest is removed. Food kept in the body has to be broken down sufficiently to lose its foreignness. This lets the body accept the food as nutrition, rather than fight it as it would a foreign invader. In this sense, digestion is part of our unifying relationship with the external world.
There's a lot involved: from simple unsophisticated activities, such as chewing, to involved and complicated substances, such as the protective, paintlike coating of the intestinal wall. There are digestive enzymes, fiber foods, quality water, the balance between stressor foods and protector foods, the intestinal ecology (composed of friendly and unfriendly bacteria), exercise, the presence or absence of infectious agents, nutrient levels, and the health of the intestinal lining. We will talk first about the intestinal lining.
Key Functions of a Healthy Intestinal Lining
When the intestinal lining is healthy, it assists in the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and acts as a traffic guard, or discerning barrier, not allowing potentially noxious substances into your body (while still letting in the "good" ones). Remember, whatever substances get inside your intestinal tube are "outside" of you until they cross your intestinal lining. The lining also has an immune function-- protecting you against and neutralizing unfriendly bugs, microorganisms, and allergic substances.
The intestinal lining has a muscular layer, and like any muscle, it can have good or bad tone. A weak muscular lining doesn't propel food through your intestinal tract at a healthy rate. An overstimulated muscular lining can cause spasms.
A healthy intestinal lining is self-cleaning and renewing. Because the lining of the gastrointestinal tract comes into contact with so many different foods and substances and because it has such diverse jobs to perform, it must be able to "clean and rebuild" itself quickly in order to stay competent. The cells that make up the lining of your intestinal tract are shed and replaced every three to six days. This is one of the fastest cellular turnover times (mitosis) in the human body. Because of this fast growth rate, the cells making up the lining of the digestive tract are extremely sensitive to daily nutrition, easily damaged by dietary and lifestyle indiscretions, and affected by the balance between protector and stressor factors.
Since nutrients are recommended for each condition discussed in this book, a short word on how to take them is essential.
Take fat-soluble nutrients (they often come in gel capsules) with fatty meals. Water-soluble nutrients can be taken at any time of day, but most people tolerate nutrients better with some food in their belly. If you have intestinal discomfort, take them throughout the meals.
It is a good idea to add one supplement a day to let your body acclimate to taking nutrients, or to identify ones that may not agree with you. Sometimes taking nutrients with digestive enzymes for the first two weeks helps you acclimate a little more easily. Take most herbs on an empty stomach 15 to 20 minutes before meals. Whenever a separate B vitamin is recommended, take it with a B complex and only take the specific B vitamin for one to three months. Multiple nutrients are part of any healing program-- but these programs are for limited periods of time.
Protectors of the Intestinal Lining
Stressors of Your Intestinal Lining
Intestinal Immune System
Every time you eat, your intestinal tract is exposed to a wide variety of substances, food, and microorganisms. To deal with this challenge, the intestinal tract has one of the most powerful immune systems in the body. Eighty percent of the body's lymph nodes (the immune system's hotels for white blood cells that fight off foreign invaders) are located around the intestinal tract.
Secretory IgA, protective proteins that fight off foreign invaders and substances, make a sticky antiseptic paint that forms a protective coating along your intestinal tract. The antiseptic paint "licks" the bad guys (toxic and allergic substances). This licking "warns" the rest of the body.
Four Factors That May Tax the Immune System of the Gut
The combined actions of absorption, assimilation, elimination, and immunity are supposed to make sure that whatever gets into your bloodstream from your intestinal tract will cause as few problems as possible for the rest of your body. Avoiding stressful foods assists this process.
Are You Confused about What to Eat?
I think it is important to make a comment about what constitutes an optimal diet. This is because nutrition is confusing, even to experts (if they are honest). For example, one day the results of research say eggs are good, then after more studies they say eggs are bad, and then they say eggs are fine if eaten in moderation. One day fiber is protective against colon cancer and lowers cholesterol, then, with the next new study, its benefits are nil or questionable.
What is an ordinary person to do? You can't go wrong if you stay moderate. A moderate, sensible, and optimal diet includes fresh vegetables, fruits, cultured foods like yogurt, nuts, whole grains, along with quality proteins such as beans, fish, and eggs.
Don't believe what just one authority says. Read information from many sources and, when looking toward diet as a therapeutic tool, explore what works best for your unique body and lifestyle.
Not All Oils Are Created Equal
Eliminate as much processed and hydrogenated oil as possible from your diet. Look at the pressing dates on oils that need to be refrigerated to make sure you are getting a fresh product.
Try alternating oils: olive, hazelnut, flax, and sesame. Keep them tightly closed and refrigerated. Break a capsule of vitamin E into each bottle when you first open it to preserve the oil. This is because oil gets oxidized when we leave an opened bottle on the counter for a while, and toxic substances form in the oil that may have irritating effects on the intestinal lining. Since oil is fat and chemicals such as pesticides store in fat, try to buy organic oils whenever possible.
When you start adding tablespoons of oil to your diet, or more seeds and nuts, make sure to take daily vitamin E orally to prevent oxidative stress from the oils.
Ginger cooler Juice carrot and Granny Smith or Macintosh apple together with a slice of fresh ginger, and dilute with water to reduce sugar.
Intestinal Freshener Juice celery, cucumbers, and carrots. Optional: Add a little mint through the juicer.
Berry Madness Blend blueberries and strawberries with a little apple juice, some water, and protein powder. Yum. Optional: add yogurt.
Drink juices immediately. Naturally occurring enzyme activity is released by the juicing or blending and remains at its highest level for about five minutes. If vegetables and fruits have been refrigerated until right before juicing, the cool juice is even more refreshing and tasty.
Another way to use your head is to learn to eat the right amount of food. Overeating and oversnacking are the downfall of many of us. Eat to a comfortable point, so your stomach is not stuffed. Eat only when your stomach is empty and you're really hungry. This greatly improves digestion.
Overeating is a burden on the entire digestive system. Eating too much irritates the delicate cells that line the intestinal tract. Overeating contributes to undigested food and toxins burdening the intestinal tract, the liver, and the entire body.
If you travel to Europe, one thing that will strike you is that people eat at mealtimes and rarely snack. Here in the United States, people eat in their cars, while walking, and while hanging out. We are munching and snacking all the time-- we are obsessed with instant gratification. This traumatizes the digestive system and greatly contributes to many digestive ailments, as well as to other health problems.
It's not infrequent dietary indiscretions that matter. It's how you eat most of the time that counts.
This book not only describes digestive problems but makes suggestions for improvement, including eating, drinking, exercise/yoga and meditations.
I have lent it out twice already and I only bought it 3 weeks ago. Most people I know have no idea how much better they would feel with the proper diet and exercise and so many are just simple exercises that you can do in a short amount of time at your desk or even before you get out of bed - exercises for your internal organs.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2000
This book was the answer to all of my stomach problems. I read all of the book then focused on my specific problem. Dr. Berkson's book addressed my problem and then offered solutions. I tried the recommendations and within 3 weeks, I was feeling so much better. My particular problem has been ongoing for about 3 or 4 years. After trying over the counter products for years, I did as Dr. Berkson suggested...started drinking alot more water, eating yogurt, taking glutamine, fiber pills, and Vitamin B1. I added this to my regimen of exercise, multi-vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, Folic Acid, and Calcium. The results are that I feel and look so much better. I have gained some of my weight back, I have more energy to deal with everyday life stresses, and as an added bonus, my skin looks much better. I just cannot express how much reading Dr. Berkson's book has changed my life and health for the better. I have consulted other physicians and endured several tests without improvement. Now, with these simple offers, I am feeling young and renewed. Also, most of the recommendations are not expensive or life-altering. As a nurse, I appreciate the fact that Dr. Berkson recommends consulting a physician in conjunction with her treatment plan...especially if her home rememdies are not producing results. If you have suffered as I have with stomach ailments, you must purchase this book, read it, and take the steps that will make you not only feel better, but look better, too.
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Posted April 21, 2009
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