Pictured in the bowl are the four vibrantly coloured herb powders that make up my Digestive Blend capsules. I made this batch just after New Years in the wave of digestive complaints that coincide with the holiday season. Given the culinary temptations all around us at this time of year, combined with an often hectic schedule, it is not unusual for us to find our digestive system out of balance. In occasional circumstances such remedies can be good for easing the symptoms and restoring balance to our digestion.
However, when digestive imbalance begins to take on a chronic tone it is time to take a deeper look at the underlying cause. A symptomatic approach to your chronic condition will only make you a slave to your remedies.
In chronic conditions, a holistic approach can offer impressive results.
As a holistic herbal practitioner, I see many patients who present with similar symptoms, yet the path that brought each of them there can be quite different. Therefore, the healing plan must be equally unique.
What you eat has a massive impact on your overall health. The first line of interface between body and food is the digestive system, starting with the mouth.
The body speaks to us through symptoms when we make bad dietary and lifestyle choices. As an example, frequent consumption of foods heavy in sugar or acid can cause acid states in the stomach that can lead to heartburn.
The environment in which we eat in is also important for good digestion. Watching telly, listening to music or being involved in some other activity whilst eating distracts us from the process. This may lead to inadequate chewing that results in larger chunks of food being swallowed. These chunks put a greater demand on the stomach.
Furthermore, exciting activities can stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System, which is part of the Fight or Flight mechanism. Digestion takes place when we are in a more relaxed Parasympathetic mode. Food ingested in the Sympathetic mode will not be well digested. When this is a regular pattern at meal times it can, in time, lead to a host of digestive problems.
Insufficient digestive juices, especially stomach acid and saliva, can play a role in poor digestion and nutrition. This state is more common in the elderly. Again, chewing properly helps by making the food smaller and easier for the stomach to handle. Thorough chewing also allows saliva, which contains enzymes involved in the breaking down of starches, to mingle with the food and begin the digestive process in the mouth. When this mass passes into the stomach, after thorough chewing, a sufficient presence of saliva will keep the acid environment at bay for a time, thus allowing the breakdown of starches in the stomach to continue. This is because the enzymes involved in the digestion of starches function in an alkaline environment.
Where there is an insufficient amount of digestive juices, bitter herbs can be used to stimulate digestive activity from the mouth all the way to the liver.
Emotional states can also play a role in poor digestion. Feelings of anger or anxiety can upset the digestive balance. If there is a chronic digestive disorder, it is vital that the cause of these feelings is addressed and resolved for proper digestive function to be restored. Ongoing strong emotions or suppressed emotions can also contribute to conditions of the lower digestive tract.
In some cases the condition may sit deeper still. Diseased states of the liver and gallbladder can contribute to imbalances of the digestive system. Gallstone is one such condition....as is a congested liver or insufficient bile production.
On an emotional and energetic level, the liver is the seat of inward anger while the gallbladder houses unreleased outward anger. Diseases of these organs can develop when these emotions become chronic and are not released.
If you suffer from the odd case of digestive upset there are herbal remedies that can be used to quickly restore the balance. However, if the condition is ongoing, it might be wise to make an appointment with a holistic herbalist to get to the root of the problem and facilitate a lasting resolution.