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Protocols: Gastrointestinal Self-Help
Below are some general suggestions for self-care of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Peptic Ulcer Disease, and Gastroesophageal Disease all lend themselves well to mind/body interventions for both acute treatment and prevention. Always consult your physician regarding matters related to your health.
- Digestive disorders can be often can be traced to dietary problems and digestive disorders. Many individuals have what are known as IgG food allergies or intolerance's. The most commonly noted allergens are dairy products and grains. Consumption leads to increased fermentation by gut flora. Elimination diets that remove certain foods and then slowly reintroduce them may be of assistance. This should be done with the assistance of a registered Nutritionist. Increasing dietary fiber from fruit and vegetable sources may be of more benefit than fiber supplements. Some carbohydrates may aggravate GI symptoms. Meals high in refined sugar may be involved in intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Other common food triggers for Irritable Bowel Syndrome specifically include: citrus fruits, tomato-based products, coffee and tea, chocolate, allium vegetables and peppermint.
- The gastrointestinal tract is very susceptible to the disturbing influence of stress because it contains the largest center of nerves outside the Central Nervous System. Many of the same neurotransmitters found in the brain are also found in the gut. Stress management practices can be of great benefit in treating GI problems of all types. (see our A.S.S.E.N.T. Into Health program)
- Avoid gaining too much weight; excess weight puts excess pressure on the stomach.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don't wear clothing that is tight around your abdomen and waist.
- Eat many small meals rather than three big ones.
- East slowly, taking small mouthfuls and chewing thoroughly.
- Eliminate from your diet any food that causes GI discomfort. The most common offenders are hot and highly seasoned foods, milk products, fried or fatty foods, processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, sausage, bacon); chocolate, coffee, alcohol, carbonated beverages; spearmint and peppermint (even in gum).
- Exercise which strengthen the upper external obliques and upper rectus abdominus muscles tend to reduce symptoms of IBS but worsen symptoms of reflux.
- Don't smoke and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Wash your hands often. H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for most gastric ulcers, is spread through fecally contaminated food and water. It also may be carried by flies so cover up food so flies cannot get at it.
- Avoid bending over at the waist; bend instead with your knees.
- Sleep with your head elevated about 6 inches.
- Relax. Do frequent deep breathing. Learn a yoga regimen or self-biofeedback. Get plenty of rest.
- Reduce your stress both at home and at work through self-care, self-esteem, boundaries and limit-setting.
- Practice gastrointestinal yoga routine before meals and at bedtime (four times a day). See attached descriptions of specific GI yoga exercise.
Herbal supplements that may be helpful for different gastrointestinal conditions are:
- Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) DGL increases the mucous coating the stomach, making it more resistant to the effects of acid. (Do not take Glycyrrhizin or Glycyrrhetic acid as it does have significant potential side-effects. See our protocol for further information.) Has been shown to have similar efficacy to cimetidine. Dosing of DGL is 0.75-1.5 ml three times per day between meals.
- Peppermint tea is wonderful for nausea, indigestion, and some cases of heartburn but because it relaxes the sphincter where the esophagus joining the stomach, it can worsen esophageal reflux syndrome, in which stomach acid irritates the lower esophagus. (Choose German Chamomile instead for reflux disease.) In general, it relieves nausea, relaxes smooth muscle spasticity caused by histamine and cholinergic stimulation and has mild anaesthetic properties. A number of cases of stomach pain is cured by simply switching from coffee to peppermint tea. If you eat too much, an after-dinner dose of peppermint tea can helps relieve discomfort. Buy pure peppermint tea, brew it in a covered container to retain the volatile components, and drink it hot or iced.
In supplement form this herb should be taken in enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil. Enteric coating resists attack by stomach acid, so the capsules pass into the intestines intact and release their contents there. Take 1-2 capsules containing 0.2 ml oil three times daily between meals.
- German Chamomile, one of the mainstays of European folk medicine, is the dried flowers of a low-growing plant of the daisy family. The entire plant has a pleasant, apple-like smell. (The name chamomile comes from the Greek words meaning "ground apple".) When brewed into tea, chamomile flowers release this same aroma and flavor along with a slightly bitter taste.
Chamomile tea is an excellent home remedy for upset stomachs. It relieves heartburn, indigestion, and colic and is completely harmless. In addition to it's antibacterial and antispasmodic properties, it is also a mild relaxant and sedative and tends to inhibit ulcer formation. Chamomile is often helpful for upper abdominal complaints. You can give it to infants and young children with good results, as well as to old people. Most people find the taste of the tea agreeable.
You can buy extracts of chamomile in herb stores, and ordinary tea bags of it are now available in most supermarkets. As long as they have a strong fragrance, they are fine to use. Brew the tea in a covered container to prevent loss of the volatile constituents in steam. Let the flowers steep in the hot water for ten minutes before pouring.
- Ginger is very helpful for gastrointestinal upset, nausea and reflux symptoms. It tends to inhibit smooth muscle contractions induced by 5-hydroxytryptophan. Take 0.25 to 1 gram three times daily. See our Ginger protocol for more specific information.
- "Frutin" a product of the Flora Company can be taken as needed for gastric reflux symptoms. This product contains calcium/magnesium carbonate and pectin.
- "Digestive Enzyme Complex" a product of Healthy Directions Company (http://www.healthydirections.com, or 800-722-8008) provides an excellent balance of digestive enzymes. Alternatively, take a Plant Enzyme and Probiotic (e.g. Solgar brand "Power-Dophillus") supplement in the morning and evening daily. Yogurt is also helpful in developing probiotic intestinal flora.
- Vitamin C has been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of H. pylori which is implicated in peptic ulcer disease. Raw cabbage juice, which contains high levels of Vitamin C, has been documented as helpful in treating peptic ulcer disease. (Drink one liter daily for 10 days.)
- Homeopathic Remedies for reflux disease include: Nux vomica, Lycopodium, Carbo vegetabilis and Bryonia alba. All should be taken at 30C potency 2 to 3 times daily.
Finally, traditional Oriental Medicine (including acupuncture and herbal combinations) can be explored with a qualified Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Individuals with gastrointestinal problems should not rely solely on remedies. Try looking for the cause of the problems, which probably have to do with excess consumption of irritants like coffee, other forms of caffeine, decaffeinated coffee, alcohol, and foods (or food containers) that you don't tolerate well. Smoking is another cause of stomach distress. Make some dietary and lifestyle experiments to see if you can reduce symptoms and thereby eliminate the problem. A simple rule: Pay attention to - and stop eating - what makes your stomach hurt. Try eating smaller amounts frequently. And work on generally reducing stress in your life. If all else fails to relieve your symptoms, ask your doctor to recommend a low-sodium antacid or other over-the-counter medication that is safe for use. Avoid preparations containing sodium or sodium bicarbonate.
Warnings: The information above is provided for educational purposes and may not be construed as a medical prescription or as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Do not use this product without first consulting your physician especially if you are pregnant or lactating. Be advised that some herbs and dietary supplements can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals and may also have an adverse result in conjunction with other medications, or treatments. You should regularly consult your physician in matters regarding your health and particularly in respect to symptoms and conditions which may require diagnosis or medical attention. Reevaluate use of this product after 6 months.
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