The Digestive System
Lipase is the enzyme that helps break down fats.
Normally the cardiac sphincter, the circular band of muscle located between the esophagus and stomach, relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach and then tightens back up to prevent the contents of the stomach from flowing back up. But when this muscle becomes weak or fails to close appropriately, the acidic juices in the stomach can flow back up or reflux into the esophagus. Sometimes the sufferer experiences regurgitation, in which the acidic stomach contents cause a sour taste in the mouth. Because the problem tends to flare-up more at night, he or she might also suffer from disrupted sleep and daytime drowsiness.
Unlike the stomach, the esophagus does not have a barrier of mucus to protect it from acid. As a result, reflux can cause irritation, inflammation, and even damage to the inner lining of the esophagus. This irritation is often perceived as heartburnan uncomfortable burning sensation behind the breastbone. Many of us experience occasional heartburn, particularly after eating a fatty meal. But individuals who suffer from persistent heartburn are said to be suffering from a chronic condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. According to some medical experts, 7 percent of Americans have heartburn daily and 14 percent have it at least once a week. Other medical estimates indicate that GERD affects about 20 percent of the adult population in the United States, mostly affecting individuals over 40, although it can affect people of all ages including children.
The antacid industry would have us believe that the problem is too much stomach acid, but it is more likely to be caused by poor digestion due to a lack of digestive enzymes. Sometimes the culprit is actually a lack of sufficient stomach acid. Although they can provide some temporarily relief, antacids will usually only make the problem worse in the long run, because they can cause an acid rebound effect. Other factors that may contribute to GERD include overeating, or being overweight or pregnant. I mentioned earlier that many digestive disturbances could be avoided with the proper chewing of our food. This is especially true of GERD. Food selection is also an important factor. Highly refined foods, such as those made with sugar and white flour, and fried foods can cause the problem for some individuals. Alcohol, coffee, carbonated drinks and even smoking are known to cause or aggravate GERD. If you suffer from acid indigestion and are in the habit of drinking a carbonated beverage with your meal or a cup of coffee afterward, stop that unhealthy habit and watch your condition improve. Eat slowly chewing your food well, don't overeat, don't eat within 3 hours before bedtime, eat fewer fried foods and refined foods, and take digestive enzymes, such as Food Enzymes or Proactazyme Plus, before every meal.
GERD may also be caused by H. pylori, the bacteria that has been associated with stomach ulcers. Individuals who suffer from GERD who are not helped significantly with digestive enzymes (and by better chewing habits) may find that Gastro Health can help their condition. (More on this product later.)
Nutritional Support for the Digestive System
Fiber is one of the most effective dietary supplements for body detoxification. Herbal fiber supplements can help lower blood cholesterol while removing waste and toxins from the digestive system. Adding a fiber supplement to your diet can help stimulate digestion and detoxification and cleanse your body at the same time.
Herbs that are classified as aromatic are generally very helpful for the digestive system because they increase the secretion of digestive juices, which contain the important enzymes. Mints, such as peppermint, spearmint and catnip are particularly helpful. This is the idea behind the "after-dinner mints" that are served in many eating establishments.
Pure peppermint oil has many uses including helping with digestion. A drop placed on the tongue or added to a small glass of water can often ease a sour stomach (indigestion, heart burn, acid stomach, etc.) almost immediately. Be careful not to get it in your eyes and keep it away from children because it can be very irritating to the eyes. (Note: For some individuals using straight peppermint oil can be too strong and my actually increase GERD temporarily. If this is the case use less, use less frequently, water it down, drink weak peppermint tea, or stick with peppermint leaves rather than the pure concentrated oil.)
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) has a calming effect on the stomach and the nerves. In addition to aiding digestion, it can reduce cramps, gas, hiccups, nausea and colic.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an aromatic that improves digestion and appetite. Medical studies have shown that ginger is a more effective treatment for motion sickness than Dramamine, the most commonly used drug for the condition. Moderate use of ginger has also been medically shown to be a safe and effective remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy. (Classification: Aromatic herb. Warm energy.)
Mucilaginous herbs are herbs that contain mucilage, a long chain of sugars (polysaccharides) that make a slippery substance when combined with water. They have a soothing effect on inflammatory problems of the stomach and intestines, perhaps helping such conditions as ulcers, colitis and Chron's disease.
Not to be confused with the confection, which is only puffed up sugar, marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) has traditionally been used for ulcers, as well as irritated throat and chest problems caused by bad coughs, mucus, emphysema, and other lung problems. It is also considered by herbalists to be beneficial in removing stones and gravel from the urinary tract. The modern confection has none of the plant in it, but in times past the boiled roots were used to make marshmallows. (Classification: Mucilaginous herb. Cool energy.)
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used for sore throat, dryness of the respiratory tract, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, ulcers, and to treat sores and wounds. Like other mucilaginous herbs it soothes irritated mucus membranes. Slippery elm grows widely throughout North America, and is also known by the names Red Elm, Moose Elm and Indian Elm. It is rich in nutrients and is easy to digest, making it an excellent food to replace those that may cause digestive discomfort. It can be made into a gruel for food purposes. In times of famine early American settlers used it as a survival food. It is said George Washington and his troops survived for several days on slippery elm gruel during the bitter winter at Valley Forge. (Classification: Mucilaginous herb. Neutral energy.)
Herbs that make a slippery substance when combined with water, providing a soothing effect on inflamed tissues, are know as ___________ herbs.
(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)
Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.