Digestive Health

Imagine your digestive system as a car. The fuel is food. How well this car performs and functions depends on the quality of fuel it receives, how clean/dirty the fuel line is and what is the condition of the exhaust?

It is the same with the body. Even if we eat good quality food, we may not be assimilating all of its goodness as digestion may not be working properly.
It is vital, when looking at what constitutes a good diet to simultaneously look at the health of the bowel (part of the digestive system) to maximise what you receive from your food, thereby maximising your energy and vitality.

Why have digestive problems increased significantly over the last few decades?

Over-farming, over-eating, refined and processed foods and long term stress have all contributed to the problems we often see today. However, it is believed that genetic factors not matching modern diets have also contributed considerably.

Thousands of years ago when our ancestors roamed the earth, their diets consisted of things they could find. Fruits, berries, vegetables, fish and the occasional piece of meat when they managed to kill that mammoth!!
Although our diets have changed considerably since then evolution works more slowly and our digestive systems are still designed to have the same diet as our ancestors all those years ago. Therefore, we are just not designed for large volumes of meat and diary.

So what does the bowel do?
The bowel is 26 feet long. Its purpose is to digest, absorb foods and eliminate waste whilst reabsorbing water. An underactive bowel increases the toxic burden on the body, since slower bowel transit times introduces more toxic substances in the blood and lymph systems which then travel to all body parts.

So what can we do?

In detail -
1. Develop positive attitudes and ensure that you don't eat when stressed.
The body's nervous system has two parts to it. The sympathetic nervous system, stimulates the heart rate and blood supply to help us deal with stressful situations. The parasympathetic system does the opposite.

Thousands of years ago, when we were being chased by a mammoth, our sympathetic nervous system was stimulated. By increasing the heart rate and the circulation it improved the flow of blood, oxygen and food to the muscles, allowed us to run faster. At the same time, it would close down non-essential systems such as the digestive, reproductive system. Once we had run away, and the fear had subsided our parasympathetic systems took over, calming us down and returning the body to a balanced state.

Now adays we are no longer chased down the street by mammoths, but we have a more insidious type of stress in our lives, stress that exists over prolonged periods of time. Getting up on time, dealing with deadlines, managing everyone's expectations of us. I believe that this has contributed to the explosion of digestive and reproductive problems seen in the last few decades.

Learning to relax is vital. It will allow the nervous system to regain a balance, to allow the digestive and reproductive processes to increase and work more efficiently. Reflexology can help considerably in this area (see
benefits).

Developing positive attitudes and avoid eating meals when emotionally unbalanced will aid the digestive process considerably.

2. Do not overeat & go to bed on a full stomach.
Obesity is set to become the number one cause of death in UK , according to current trends. It has trebled over the last 20 years and the 2001 Health Survey in England found that around 24 million adults in England are overweight. Of these, 1 in 5 adults are clinically obese and by 2020 this figure is likely to be 1 in 3 according to the Royal College of Physicians.
It is a major contributing cause of diabetes and heart disease, and also increases the likelihood of developing cancer. According to the National Audit Office, by 2010 the cost of treating obesity and related illnesses in England will be £3.6 billion.

When the body is overweight, the heart has to pump harder, circulation is slower, pressure is placed on the hip joints, knees and ankles. The colon can prolapse from the additional weight. People have less energy often with lower self esteem.

When the digestive tract is overburdened with food (especially low fibre foods) it became sluggish. The increased bowel transit time results in an increased likelihood of constipation, fat absorption, cholesterol and bowel toxins. When the colon becomes over loaded with waste material it cannot pass, toxic chemicals from the bowel then pass into the blood and lymph system which places and additional burden on the skin and kidneys.

3. Eat enough fibre.
In the sixties Dr. Denis Burkitt worked with rural tribes in East Africa; he discovered that heart disease, colon cancer, diverticulosis, appendicitis, haemorrhoids and constipation were almost non-existent in the native population whose diet consisted of high-fibre cereals while the same diseases were common in the British living the same area. The natives' bowel transit time was faster and their stools were 3 times larger.

Other studies such as the one conducted by Harvard University showed that nurses with the lowest fibre intake and highest sugary-starchy intake had a two-fold increase in diabetes than those with more fibre and less sugary-starchy food.

4. Over half of our diet should be raw with much variety
Heat, air and contact with boiling water all significantly reduce the vitamin and mineral content of food. For example, when boiling foods, 48% of iron is lost, 31% of calcium is lost, 46% of phosphorus and 45% of magnesium are wasted and vitamins B complex and C can be completely eliminated.

Raw seeds and nuts are excellent sources for the nerves and glands providing lecithin, protein, vitamin B complex and E and essential minerals. Raw fruits high in bioflavonoids are excellent for healthy connective tissues in the skin, veins and capillaries. Raw green vegetables, especially leafy greens, are high in chlorophyll which is nature's best internal cleanser.

5. Eat as much natural, pure, whole, fresh foods as possible
What does this mean? Organic foods are without chemical additives, salt or sugar. Whole means, without refining and with skins. For example, when wheat is milled 22 nutrients are greatly reduced.

6. Try and avoid the following - caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, soft drinks, fried foods, fatty foods, cow's milk, white flour and gluten.
Caffeine stimulates the heart and nervous systems. Alcohol is hard on the liver and the body needs to use up a lot of nutrients and energy in order to detoxify the alcohol. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which stimulate the heart and nervous systems.

7. Try and eat more alkaline foods
80% of nutrients carried in the blood are alkaline and 20% acid. To help keep the blood at the right acid-alkaline balance, we should eat more alkaline foods. So what foods are acid forming?

Acid forming - alcohol, asparagus, beans, chickpeas, cocoa, coffee, cornstarch, cranberries, eggs, fish (including shellfish) , flour, lentils, meat, milk, mustard, noodles, oatmeal, olives, pasta, pepper, plums, prunes, soft drinks, sugar, tea, vinegar, tobacco and most drugs.

Alkaline forming - avocado, corn, dates, fresh fruits (most), fresh vegetables, honey, horseradish, molasses, maple syrup, mushrooms, onions, raisins, soy, watercress, citrus fruits, almonds, millet, soured diary products.

Milk can cause mucus and catarrah in some people. Alternative calcium sources are: seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, greens, grains.

8. Drink more water, although avoid drinking around meal time
Water makes up 83% of our blood, 74% of our brain and 22% of our bones. Fatigue is one of the key symptoms of dehydration. Drink at least 2 litres a day.

Liquids during a meal are believed to dilute the digestive enzyme concentration in the small intestine thereby reducing the effectiveness of digestion. Avoid drinking much liquid 30 mins before and after meal times.

9. Other helpful facts
  • Empty the bowel when you need to
  • Alfalfa and spirulina tablets are high in chlorophyll and fibre to cleanse the colon
  • Chlorella tablets nourish the good bacteria in the colon and cleanse it
  • Regular exercise improves the absorption of nutrients
  • Omega 3 helps to minimise bowel inflammation as well as having many others benefits
  • Linseeds prevent muscle spasms, reduce inflammation and are a good source of omega 3
Researchers in psychiatric epidemiology have found that depression varies as much as sixty-fold from country to country. The study shows that the pattern of major depression corresponds strongly to cross-national differences in coronary artery disease, suggesting similar dietary risk factors. Of all the dietary variables, fish consumption appears to be the most significant, with fish-eating nations at lower risk for both major depression and heart disease. Studies of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Jay R. Burgess of Purdue University has found that 40% showed evidence of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Copyright A L. Stoll M.D.

Excellent Reading Material:
Books by Dr. Bernard Jensen.
Fats that heal, fats that kill - Udo Erasmus

Source Material:
Nutritional Healing - Balch & Balch
Nutritional Handbook - Dr. Bernard Jensen
A. L Stoll MD

All material provided on the levelfooting web site is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program.