|Inflammatory Digestive Tract Disorders
By Julie Aikens
With irritable bowel syndrome, the large intestine or colon is not functioning properly. Instead of having regular muscular contractions, the colon is irregular and out of sync. Mucus and toxins build up in the digestive tract causing gas, nausea, vomiting, bloating and frequent bowel movements accompanied by constipation and/or diarrhea as the body tries to rid itself of these poisons. A person with irritable bowel syndrome may also suffer with anorexia, anxiety, depression and severe headaches.
It is believed that 1 in 5 Americans have irritable bowel syndrome. As scientists have searched for the cure, they have been unable to locate physical signs of disease in the bowel tissue. Rather, this disease seems to be caused by stress and food intolerances. It may also be connected to the overuse of antacids, laxatives or antibiotics.
Studies show that there is a strong connection between this disease and stress. People with irritable bowel syndrome often have higher levels of nervousness and depression. If you have IBS, work to discover what brings stress to your life. Keep a diary of the situations that cause you stress and look for patterns. Meditation, counseling and biofeedback are all ways in which you can relieve stress. Exercise has also been proven to relieve stress, especially if you do something you enjoy like taking the dog for a walk or playing tennis with a friend.
About 2/3 of the people with irritable bowel syndrome also have food intolerances. Studies show that the body does not respond to these food allergies through the immune system, so having an allergy test might not give you accurate results. Rather, it is best to watch which foods or drinks bring on digestive problems and eliminate them from the diet.
Milk and dairy products, gluten, as well as wheat are foods to which people are commonly allergic. Try eliminating these first. Changing your diet to include more fiber can also help relieve irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber bulks the stools and helps the body to have regular bowel movements. Include foods in your diet such as bran, whole (organic) grains, fruit and vegetables.
As you work to remove the stress and foods which are causing digestive distress, you can also take herbs which will speed the healing process. Following are herbs which help remove toxins from the bowel, soothe bowel inflammation and regulate and tone the bowel.
The bark of the slippery elm tree
has been shown to be a good remedy
for those with IBS. It is a mucilaginous
herb which pulls water into itself
thick and pasty.
This pulling action draws congested
toxins from the bowel. Because slippery
elm becomes bulky, it helps to
regulate elimination and its slippery
consistency is soothing to the inflamed
intestinal walls. Slippery elm is very
mild and is an excellent form of nutrition
for people who are having trouble
digesting other types of food. Slippery
elm can also be made into a tea and
used as an enema.
Chamomile and valerian have an antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal tract. They calm intestinal cramps, expel gas, tone the stomach and relieve pain.
INTESTINAL SOOTHE & BUILD is a combination which helps IBS. It contains the mucilants slippery elm and marshmallow which become soft and bulky when combined with water and help to relieve the irritated intestinal tissue and regulate bowel movements. Plantain, rosehips and bugleweed are included because of their astringent effects which work to tone the bowel. Chamomile relieves inflammation and soothes nervous conditions which can cause constipation.
Doubled over in pain, drinking milk or taking an antacid is how you might find someone who says, “I have an ulcer!” One in 10 Americans will find themselves dealing with this painful disease.
Peptic ulcers are found in the stomach or duodenum (the first section of the small intestine just below the stomach). Ulcer pain occurs because part of the mucous membrane of the stomach or duodenum is being eaten into by the digestive secretions.
Ulcers are characterized by intense stomach pain. The sufferer may also experience heartburn, nausea and/or anemia. Because eating neutralizes the stomach acid, food intake temporarily stops ulcer pain, but the pain returns once the food is digested.
Doctors have long gone by the theory that too much stress is the main cause of ulcers. Stress causes the stomach to churn and the acids to increase to such high levels that the stomach begins eating itself. To solve this problem doctors first suggest taking antacids. Antacids reduce the acid in the stomach and relieve pain, but they may cause kidney stones, heart and kidney problems, calcium and phosphorus depletion and/or aluminum accumulation in the brain that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Doctors may also prescribe drugs such as Tagamet and Zantac for ulcer treatment. These drugs have an antispasmodic effect and they suppress stomach acid production. These drugs successfully relieve the pain, but they also have serious side effects. By increasing estrogen levels, they can cause sexual dysfunction and breast development in men, PMS, endometriosis and uterine fibroids in women. Patients on any of these medications must be on them long term or the ulcers will return.
New scientific studies on ulcers and their treatment show that stress may be only part of the cause. A spiral bacteria, Heliobacter pylori, is almost always found in persons who have ulcers and seldom found in those who don’t. By killing this bacteria, ulcers are commonly relieved. This bacteria survives in the stomach acid by living in the protective lining and producing an enzyme, urease, which neutralizes the stomach acid.
With a blood test from your physician, you can discover if you are infected with these ulcer causing bacteria. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics to treat this infection which also can have serious side effects.
There are several lifestyle habits that may increase your ulcer risk. Studies show that diets low in fiber, smoking, regular intake of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and regular drinking of alcohol, coffee or caffeinated drinks can cause ulcers. Food allergies may also be the cause of ulcers and if this is the cause the ulcer will continue until the food is eliminated. Try an elimination diet.
Besides changing your lifestyle to remove stress and other factors which may cause ulcers, there are also many herbal products available which can ease the symptoms and help the stomach to heal. Because ulcer symptoms are similar to those of gastric cancer, be sure to consult with a physician before trying the following natural forms of ulcer therapy.
Licorice root (in whole form) is an anti-inflammatory and has long been used historically in the treatment of ulcers. Licorice strengthens the stomach lining by increasing the number of mucus secreting cells. Because the use of licorice extract brought on extreme edema and heart failure, many people were scared away from using licorice, but licorice in its whole form or as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) causes no side effects and is highly effective in treating ulcers. In one study 40 patients with severe duodenal ulcers prevented surgery and relieved all ulcer pain and symptoms by taking 3 to 4.5 grams of licorice daily for 8 to 16 weeks.
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