Digestive Support in Troubled Times

Many people think its just a tube, but the digestive system is actually quite complex and dynamic. It starts in the mouth (though some say the brain, as we contemplate what we are about to eat!) where saliva begins the digestion of starches in carbohydrates. Down the hatch and into the stomach, starch digestion halts and proteins get the main stage. Fats get a pretreatment here as well. After a couple hours those contents are allowed to pass into the small intestine where the liver and gall bladder contribute bile to emulsify fats into smaller droplets and to raise the pH to a more alkaline level, and the pancreas contributes enzymes to further work on carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The bulk of the time is spent in the small intestine where most of the micronutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. The large intestine pulls out water and returns it to circulation as well as recycling some minerals. Healthy bacteria are crucial to both a healthy functioning small and large intestine, both for the nutrients they provide and the environment they create.

Digestive problems are often felt by “hot” natured people in the stomach, up near the ribcage, with reflux and burning pain. Best for this constitution are herbal bitter tonics with a cold energy as they are stimulating but do not provide heat directly. They are contraindicated for the thinner, weaker, more nervous and dry constitutional types, and for children in large amounts. Some examples include aloe vera, barberry, gentian, golden seal, peruvian bark, and kutki and neem in Ayurvedic herbs. Aloe, marshmallow root, and amino acids like glutamine help soothe and support a healthy mucosal lining that won’t be vulnerable to high acidity.

For nervous constitutions prone to schedule and sleeping irregularities and sporadic appetites, some digestives include ajwan (celery seed), asafoetida or hing, black pepper, prickly ash (trifolia), and ginger. This type of person tends to be more “cold” natured and needs warming herbs and spices as well as enzymatic and mineral support. A broad spectrum enzyme supplement with HCL and pepsin, pancreatic enzymes, and probiotics may be useful. Constipation, gas and bloating may be common. Soothing demulcents like slippery elm may help move things along, as well as gentle fibers and occasional sea or epsom salt flushes. Magnesium citrate is also a great help for some.

For a heavier, more congested and phlegmatic constitution with slow digestion and a tendency toward a coated tongue, the above are useful, but cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, horseradish, garlic, mustard, onion, and pippali (longpepper) are all the more effective. The metabolism may need a little boost with these hotter spices and more laxative herbs at times like Senna, Cascara Sagrada, and Triphala. Ox Bile may be a helpful addition to any enzymatic formula, as it helps break down fats. Coffee enemas are very helpful for this type of person too who may have more of a tendency to accumulate fat in the liver (The Detox Book, Bruce Fife, N.D.).

Sidebar: You are cool- or cold-natured if your skin is cool or cold to the touch, you prefer warmer climates, you are made jittery or sluggish by the cold weather, and you crave richer foods; plus BMs are slow or constipated. You are hot-natured if your skin is most always warm to the touch, you perspire easily, your skin flushes, you are bothered by heat and humidity and prefer temperate drier climes, and if you are thirsty a lot; plus BMs are looser and more frequent.

Digestive Support in Troubled Times-AmberLynnVitale

Other references: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. and Phyllis A. Balch, 1997 Avery Publishing, $19.95

Ayurvedic Healing; Dr. David Frawley, 2000 Lotus Press, $22.95

Good products to pair: Garden of Life Omega Zyme, Raw Zyme, Primal DefenseAdvanced Naturals Intestinew, or DigestMore or DigestMax Planetary Formulas Triphala, or Nature’s Formulary Triphala

Published for Taste For Life Magazine March 2014

Ramy Mam