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Monthly Archives: August 2013

9 Common Myths About Your Digestive Health

ImageYou might think that living in The Information Age would mean that our incredible access to knowledge would easily dispel myths that abound about our health. But in fact, it seems that so far, the internet has only helped propagate some of them. Hopefully, reading this will help set you straight on a couple doozies you might not have been aware were actually untrue.

1. The Ulcer-Causer. This is a big one for untrue myths: that spicy foods and stress cause ulcers. In fact, they can aggravate your ulcers, but the most likely cause of ulcers is infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (aka H. Pylori), a commonly occurring bacteria in your stomach. Another likely suspect for most people is the overuse of NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen).

2. The Ulcer-Curer. This myth, that milk can cure your ulcers, has been believed for some time now, but alas is also untrue. If it’s bacterium that cause your infection, only antibiotics can cure it. Even in the case of NSAID-caused ulcers, the milk would at best only provide temporary relief. Sorry dairy farmers!

3. The Liver-Killer. Many of us believe that only alcoholics can get cirrhosis of the liver, but this is actually not true. While alcoholism may be a big cause of this disease, there are many other ways to damage your liver, including infection with hepatitis B or C, severe reaction to prescription drugs, and more commonly via something called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is becoming the most common liver disease in the U.S., associated with the increasing number of people with obesity and diabetes.

4. The Fibre-Lover. It’s vitally important to get enough fibre in your diet, and this is especially true if you suffer from something like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But you don’t need more than approximately 25 grams of fibre per day, and if you’re increasing to this amount, do it gradually or you’ll get a lot of bloating and gas as payback. And, if you do suffer from IBS, you’re better off with soluble fibre like psyllium instead of insoluble fibre like bran to reduce your symptoms.

5. The Colon-Cleanser. Some people religiously go for colon cleanses to detox their bodies, or do serious juice-fasts to lose weight or to ‘get clean’. But the truth is, these sometimes radical changes to your diet can be robbing you of needing nutrients, and can even put your digestive system into a kind of shock, causing diarrhea and/or abdominal pain, for example. The best way to cleanse is to eat cleanly: add more fruits and vegetables (organic if possible) to your diet, and stay away from refined foods. Cut down on your caffeine and alcohol intake and quit smoking. Plus, adding in a little more exercise can help tremendously when it comes to flushing out your system of unwanted toxins.

6. The Nut No-No. Diverticulitis is a common condition in which pockets of your intestine become inflamed and irritated. But if you’ve been told to avoid nuts, corn, popcorn and food with small seeds such as strawberries, you should know now that researchers have found no link between eating them and the often painful condition. In fact, it’s a low fibre diet that is the usual cause of diverticulitis, which nuts can be a part of curing, since they contain fibre themselves.

7. The Heartburn-Smoker. If you’ve ever tried smoking as a means of relaxing, you may have also been fooled into thinking that a cigarette can help relieve you of heartburn. Alas, the truth is that nicotine can actually contribute to acid reflux, as it causes the sphincter muscle between your stomach and esophagus to relax. And not relax in a good way, because this allows hydrochloric acid to leak up into your esophagus, causing a very uncomfortable burning sensation!

8. The Dairy-Dodger. If you’re lactose intolerant, you have a deficiency of the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, a sugar found in milk products. But a deficiency is not a complete lack, and you might have more or less of the enzyme than the next person. So with some trial and error, you can actually consume some dairy products.

9. The Bowel-Brouhaha. Many people are worried when they don’t have a bowel movement every day, or if they have as many as three a day. The truth is, it’s a variance in your bowel movements to watch for. If you’re eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, and nothing changes in your lifestyle, then your bowel movements should stay relatively the same. Get worried if you’re having less than 3 a week, or more than 3 a day. And while we’re at it bowel-wise, getting older doesn’t mean fewer bowel movements in and of itself, either. Ageing folks tend to get constipation because of the medications they’re taking, or because they’re getting less exercise. Not because they’re older.

By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc

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6 Natural Remedies for Indigestion

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Nearly all of us suffer from a little indigestion now and then, and more and more of us these days are eschewing medical remedies because of potential side effects, and their tendency to treat the symptoms but not the source. Luckily, you don’t need to just suffer through your pain either! Here are some excellent natural methods that you can use to help relieve you of your upset, reflux, pain, nausea, or whatever other indigestion symptom you may be feeling.

1. Sleep it off. Try sleeping on your side instead of on your back. This simple trick can help tremendously when it comes to decreasing the sensation of heartburn or acid reflux.

2. Raise your pinky. There are a variety of different teas that can help your digestion. Chamomile and mint are popular choices, but Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends the mint more for upper abdominal issues and the chamomile for lower tummy complaints. Ginger is also good if you don’t suffer from acid reflux, as is tea with fennel or anise.

3. Get in the habit. What you eat and how much obviously have a great deal to do with how you feel. If you haven’t already, try avoiding foods that are high in fat, are fried or are greasy, plus generally avoid eating too much food at one time. Sometimes an elimination diet is helpful – this is a method of identifying your ‘trigger foods’, i.e. those that cause you abdominal upset, by using trial and error with eliminating suspect foods and then after some time, re-introducing them to your diet. Start by eliminating all manner of dairy, and anything you drink except for water and the above-mentioned teas. This includes caffeine-containing drinks as well as juices and pops.

4. Get rubbed or poked. Both massage therapy and acupuncture are excellent natural medicines for curing you of indigestion. A gentle session with a registered massage therapist can help loosen your abdominal muscles and get things moving in the right direction again. Acupuncture can help to relieve heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and more, using Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theories that look at your digestive system as part of your greater whole. Be sure to visit a Registered Massage Therapist or a Registered TCM Practitioner for the best possible treatment.

5. Chew on it. In fact, chew your food rather slowly and also savour your food. This enables digestive enzymes in your mouth to start breaking down some parts of your meal, and helps prevent gas and bloating. It can also help you to recognize when you’re actually full, and might help keep you from eating too much (see #3 above).

6. Work it out. Exercise in general is great for getting your digestive system in gear and for reducing stress hormones that can contribute to tummy upset. In particular, try a few yoga poses that might help: these include downward facing dog pose, wide squat (with twist to alternating sides) pose, and wind-relieving pose (aka knees to chest pose). Try these on for size daily for a week, and they can do wonders!

By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc

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