Table of Contents
Digestive Problems and Conditions
Constipation can be a Digestive Problems symptoms of an underlying problem characterized by the difficulty of passing stools, infrequent elimination, or an absence of the urge to eliminate. Stools that are passed may be hard, dry knotted, or dark. Other symptoms may include bloating, appetite loss, indigestion, mild nausea, hemorrhoids, headaches, bad breath, skin problems, liver problems, or weight gain (often noticed in the stomach area).
Chronic or ongoing constipation is delicate because viruses are formed and may be re-absorbed when waste resides in the intestines for lengthy periods of time. It has been theorized that chronic constipation can significantly increase a person’s susceptibility to intestinal cancer.
Waste should be eliminated in the bowels, always at least 1-2 times per day. A normal colon eliminates waste in 6-12 hours. The underlying cause of constipation is usually a low fiber, high sugar diet, which causes sluggish and weakened peristaltic muscles. Refined (white) flour, rice, and pasta, which have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients, also act as catalysts. Cows milk and high-stress levels can also cause constipation. Eating enough whole grains, raw fruits, and vegetables ensures that your body is receiving the fiber and nutrients that are necessary for proper digestion and elimination.
Stimulating laxatives (such as Cascara Sagrada and Senna) can significantly compound the problem because the constant stimulation of the bowels interferes with the body’s natural functions. Drinking adequate water and engaging in frequent physical activity is vital for proper bowel function. Many herbal products exist in the marketplace that can help improve digestion and elimination. A gentle but effective colon cleanse program at least once per year can help ease occasional constipation and promote a healthy digestive system.* Remember, keeping the gastrointestinal system healthy is an excellent foundation for Preventative Health.
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Diarrhea is a strong signal of another Digestive Problems in the system. Dehydration is always a concern in severe diarrhea, especially in infants, children, the elderly, or those too weak to notice their thirst for liquids. Danger signs are excessively dry mouth and eyes, leg cramps, and sunken eyes. One simple test for dehydration is to pull the skin between the fingers and let go. If water is lacking, the skin will not snap back. Dehydration can be severe and requires immediate medical care. Probiotics (such as acidophilus, Bifidus, etc.), are often essential in the treatment of diarrhea by reintroducing the natural bacterial flora, which exists to fend off germs and fungi.* High-quality fiber is also important as it helps remove toxins, pesticides, and some heavy metals from the gastrointestinal tract.*
Diarrhea is a natural reaction of the bowels to purge the body of toxins, irritations, infection, and other unwanted substances. Unclean water, spicy food, eating too quickly, unripe fruit, or undigested vegetables or other foods can cause diarrhea. Only persistent diarrhea is a cause for concern.
The acute symptoms of gastroenteritis can be due to viruses, bacteria, or parasitic infections. Parasites can cause long term or repeated diarrhea. Many people suffer from parasitic infections for years without realizing that parasitic infection may be the cause of their digestion and elimination problems. It’s advisable to complete an effective parasite and/or colon cleanse once per year to ensure that intestinal parasites do not compromise the digestive system.* Chronic cases of diarrhea can also be due to improper digestion. Full-spectrum digestive enzymes would be extremely helpful when eating cooked, enzyme deficient meals.*
Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and alcohol abuse can also cause constant problems with diarrhea. Recurring attacks of diarrhea can signal illnesses like Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or colitis. Children with persistent diarrhea who do not gain weight should be checked for celiac disease, or they may have parasites, which children are very susceptible to. Symptoms of alternating diarrhea and constipation indicate a possible candida infection or diverticulitis (pouches which develop in weakened areas of the large intestine). Medications can also be the source of problems as they can taking large dosages of Vitamin C.
Crohn’s disease is very similar to colitis in that recurring attacks of inflammation cause abdominal cramping and frequent urging along with diarrhea. Diarrhea can be so problematic that it causes anxiety and distress. Poor appetite and weight loss are common.
Although the small intestine is usually affected, any part of the digestive tract can be affected by inflammation, including the mouth and stomach. Since the small intestine is responsible for the absorption of many nutrients, deficiencies are even more common than with colitis. As in other inflammatory bowel diseases, the attacks range from mild to severe, with younger people being more affected.
Crohn’s disease is a serious inflammatory illness because changes in the intestinal mucous membranes leave tissues thickened with scars, which hinders the assimilation of nutrients from the intestines. Intestinal bleeding can cause anemia.
The inflammation of Crohn’s disease has been attributed to an autoimmune process. Still, diets containing fast foods, refined foods, and sugars that are lacking in fiber and fresh raw foods are problematic. Friendly bacteria (probiotics) promote good digestion and help to normalize bowel function.*
High-quality fiber is excellent in promoting healing by lining the walls of the intestinal tract, thereby protecting it from irritation by toxins and abrasive matter.* The formula should be gentle, finely sifted, and contain mucilage to soothe and reduce inflammation of the intestinal wall. Alfalfa leaves are also necessary to provide essential nutrients for healing and to promote natural cell development.
Supplementation for Crohn’s disease should focus on reducing inflammation and supporting the healing of the mucous membranes. It is also important to supply the nutrients that are lost because of poor assimilation and medication use.
Also, itching all over the body could indicate liver involvement, which may be greatly helped by taking a gentle colon to cleanse along with a liver cleanse.*
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Colitis refers to an inflammation of the larger bowels or colon. There are various types of colitis, but ulcerative colitis is the most popular and most dangerous. The inflammation causes small ulcers to develop in the mucous membranes of the intestine. In most cases, the inflammation flares up and then recedes.
Bouts of colitis typically cause relentless cramping pains and diarrhea, possibly containing blood and mucous. Diarrhea often alternates with stubborn constipation and hard stools. Fever and fatigue are common during attacks. Nutritional deficiencies are likely to develop since an inflamed colon cannot adequately perform its function of absorbing water and minerals.
If intestinal bleeding occurs, anemia results. Bouts of ulcerative colitis are highly individual and often dependent upon emotional stress. In long-standing severe cases, the constant inflammation of cells in the colon increases the risk of colon cancer.
Ulcerative colitis can easily be confused with other inflammatory bowel problems, including IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea from inflammation of the colon can have many other causes, including a bacterial or parasitic infection.
Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, but it is strongly linked to a poor diet. A diet low in fiber and high in sugar and other refined carbohydrates, including white flour, rice, and kinds of pasta, which are deprived of their nutrients and fiber can contribute to ulcerative colitis.
Colitis is also linked to an overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system caused by constant stress and unresolved emotional conflicts. Antibiotics cause an imbalance in the intestinal flora of the colon by destroying friendly bacteria. Anti-inflammatory medications tend to increase the need for certain nutrients and contribute to deficiencies.
A helpful solution is to adopt natural food and a predominantly vegetarian diet, consisting mainly of vegetables, fruits, and grains (not wheat), which provide complex carbohydrates and mucilaginous, water-soluble fiber. Psyllium fiber helps soften stools and soothe bowel irritation.* Take 1 1/2 teaspoons in a glass of water or juice before bedtime and the morning when you wake up. Psyllium forms a soft, gelatinous bulk substance that attaches itself to the trapped matter in the bowel pockets and helps ease hard, rope-like fecal waste out of your system. Usually, this encrusted waste would be pulled from the colon wall, much like pulling off a scab, causing bleeding. Supplements with essential fatty acids, along with a high-quality multi-vitamin (high in Vitamin B-complex), can be beneficial. Beta-carotene, magnesium, Vitamin E, and a good antioxidant are musts if the body is going to be given a chance to heal itself.*
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, can easily be mistaken for the other inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, because the symptoms are so similar. Episodes of stomach upset or spasms, causing diarrhea or periods of constipation, are typical for all three intestinal disorders. IBS causes sharp and stabbing pain, or nagging, deep-seated aches.
In other cases, there is no pain, just sudden urging, and diarrhea, which can be so urgent that it causes stool incontinence. Bloating is the most common symptom, with much gas, belching, and flatulence. Nausea can occur, and they’re usually is an excess of mucus in bowel movements. Stress and anxiety can trigger attacks. Parasites and infections causing diarrhea should also be ruled out, as parasites, in particular, can be quite difficult to diagnose and eliminate. Stool results for parasites usually return with negative results several times before one returns positive, if at all.
IBS is the #1 reason for general practitioner referrals to specialists. In well over 80% of cases, tests reveal the presence of an overgrowth of parasites, fungi, or pathogenic bacteria.* IBS is caused by a change in the number and strength of intestinal contractions, which push food waste through the intestine. When the contractions are faster and stronger, they cause diarrhea, but if they are slower and weaker, constipation follows. Anxiety and emotional tension adversely affect symptoms or bring on an attack even when there have been no other problems with the colon. Dairy products, wheat, corn, and citrus fruits are often irritations.
Diet plays a large part in IBS. Stomach and intestinal disorders occur when refined and processed foods are eaten regularly (several times a week). They are much more difficult to digest than wholesome foods rich in enzymes and other essential nutrients. Adequate dietary fiber may also be lacking.* If allowed to persist without correct treatment, IBS can progress into more serious disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome, candidiasis syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities, many autoimmune diseases, and possibly even cancer.
When treated with traditional medicine, IBS is rarely cured. To treat it correctly, natural treatments work best and must include the removal of the cause, improvement of gastrointestinal function, and healing the lining of the gut.
Increasing dietary fiber and drinking lots of purified water is the key to alleviating IBS. A full spectrum probiotic, psyllium with therapeutic herbs for the gastrointestinal tract, and a thorough parasite cleanse can often bring some relief from some of its symptoms.*
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Multiple diverticula are small pouches that develop in weakened areas of the large intestine. They usually do not cause any discomfort unless they become infected and inflamed, which causes irritation in the bowels. Abdominal pain and tenderness result, generally on the lower left side. If severe, fever, spasms, bleeding, anemia, and diarrhea alternating with constipation are also present. In some cases, the diverticula grow large.
Diverticulitis usually occurs after age forty as a result of weakened tissue and pressure against the intestinal walls due to aging. Inflammation occurs when these pockets fill with the matter. As in all diseases of the digestive tract, diet is largely responsible for the state of the intestinal tissues and inflammation. A fiber-free diet full of sweets and refined foods, including white flour, white pasta, and white rice, is low in nutrients and particularly hard on the digestive tract. Fresh raw vegetables are rich in fiber and should be a primary constituent of every diet in place of fast food, processed, canned, or frozen foods. Hard stools and constipation from lack of fiber cause constant pressure against the colon walls and weaken intestinal tissue.
A full-spectrum probiotic is highly recommended to reestablish the natural bacteria in the bowels that exist to fend off illness.* They are also needed to produce several B Vitamins, which are important for digestion and are often missing in people with diverticulitis. Whole psyllium (husk, seed, embryo, and endosperm) is considered the best fiber choice.* So using a concentrated product (80% whole psyllium with herbs to support the gastrointestinal tract) will yield the best results. A psyllium seed husk complex cleanses the intestinal tract, protects the colon and circulatory system (cholesterol-lowering), and builds colon cells.
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Benefits of Herbal Cleansing
Psyllium is the most exciting fiber source because of its broad range of cleansing actions in the body. It has the wonderful properties of both soluble and insoluble fibers. In general, insoluble fibers add bulk and attract water into your bowel, whereas soluble fibers are responsible for the other heart-healthy, cancer-protective, bacteria building properties. Psyllium fiber adds both bulks, acting as a gentle broom for your intestinal lining, and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels to protect your heart against heart attacks.*
No cleansing program can be successful without removing toxins and wastes from the colon, and studies have shown that no fiber is as effective as psyllium seed husks for trapping and removing toxins and wastes.* Imagine a sponge that expands fifty to eighty times its original size, with expanded scrubbing powder. That gives you some idea of the power of Psyllium seed husks.
Psyllium contributes to the cleansing process in a multitude of ways. In addition to scrubbing the colon walls and removing toxins, it promotes a shorter transit time. This means that your body’s waste matter spends less time in your colon and has less contact with the mucosa of your colon.
Psyllium seed husks strengthen the integrity of the intestinal lining, reducing the chance of bacteria and intestinal toxins penetrating through the wall and into your bloodstream. As a soluble fiber, psyllium promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon. Friendly bacteria support the cleansing process and help restore normal bowel function.
In addition, most modern people engage in activities that cause damage to the intestines (poor diet, overconsumption of alcohol, eating undercooked or raw eggs, fish and seafood that may produce bacterial infections, use of aspirin and other pain killers, and use of antibiotics).
In the United States alone, every year, humans, livestock, and poultry consume over thirty-five million pounds of antibiotics. Also, we may unknowingly consume second-hand antibiotics hidden in meat, poultry, and dairy products unless we eat strictly organic without the use of antibiotics. The overall effect of our antibiotic habit has been not only the destruction of helpful bacteria in the intestines but also the establishment of harmful strains of bacteria that antibiotics can no longer kill.
Over the last thirty years of antibiotic use, strains of bacteria have mutated to become antibiotic-resistant for almost every known bacterial disease. In 1993, 70,000 hospital patients died of infections that resisted every drug tried. Every year it multiplies.
A quote from Dr. Bill Jarvis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
‘Resistance to antibiotics is probably the number one public health issue. So it only makes sense that instead of killing the bad bacteria, as it also, unfortunately, kills the good bacteria leaving us even wider open to infections, let’s concentrate on cleansing the body of toxins and waste matter. Let’s replenish ourselves with friendly bacteria in which to overtake the bad bacteria, which in turn, will naturally strengthen our immune system to fight bacteria instead of weaken it.’
Indigestion occurs when there is difficulty breaking down and assimilating foods after a meal. There are many symptoms, including heartburn or burning anywhere in the stomach, a feeling of heaviness long after a meal, belching, bloating, gas, flatulence, nausea, and a poor or inconsistent appetite.
The type of food eaten and bad eating habits directly cause most digestive problems. Refined, processed, and altered foods all stress out and wear out the digestive organs. Excessive fats, especially unhealthy saturated fats from deep-fried and fast foods slow down digestion. Over-consumption of coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and spicy foods makes the stomach overly acidic. Indigestion can also be due to or increased by improper eating habits such as eating too quickly or when stressed, not chewing well enough, and not drinking enough liquids with meals. Other causes are imbalances in bile, stomach acids and enzymes, food sensitivities, and improper combinations of different types of food.
Wholesome, unprocessed foods are the key to good digestion. Eat only when hungry and relaxed, and eat slowly without swallowing air. Take time to smell and taste your food. This not only increases your enjoyment but also prompts the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes into the small intestine.
Digestive enzymes are necessary for complete digestion, and it begins with the digestive enzymes in saliva. If food is not chewed and swallowed before these enzymes have done their work, the stomach and pancreas will not be able to perform their digestive functions properly.
Over-acidity of the stomach is often the result of too much coffee or alcohol, along with acid-forming foods. If under activity of the stomach is the problem, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with meals will help.
Although digestion is a highly complicated process dependent upon many factors, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile are crucial. If any of these are lacking, digestion will be incomplete and will result in bloating nausea and digestive upset. If healthy intestinal bacteria are deficient, as a result of antibiotic use, for instance, digestion will be poor. Re-establishing the intestinal flora (good bacteria present in the stomach) with probiotics such as acidophilus supplements will aid digestion.*
Avoid antacids as they inhibit digestion, causing cycles of indigestion, gas, bloating, and constipation. Neutralization of suppression of gastric acid with the use of antacids has no long term therapeutic benefits. Digestive enzyme supplements can be beneficial in promoting proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food.