Eating food is a pleasure, not a problem for most people, but for those who have trouble digesting it, food can cause intense suffering. When the digestive system becomes inflamed, problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and hemorrhoids occur leaving the eater wishing that food was not such an important part of life. Happily there are some foods that not only don't cause a problem, but also work to solve the problem. Herbs such as slippery elm, capsicum, aloe vera and goldenseal are just a few of the foods that can be eaten to soothe the inflamed digestive tract. If food isn't always so appealing to you because of the events that occur after you've eaten it, read ahead and find out how to solve those problems today!
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Have you ever suffered with abdominal pain and alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation? If you have, maybe you've discovered that these digestive upsets often occur when you eat certain foods, drink certain drinks or when life gets stressful. These symptoms are those of a person suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). With irritable bowel syndrome, the large intestine or colon isn't functioning properly. Instead of having regular muscular contractions, the colon is irregular and out of sync. Mucus and toxins build up in the digestive tract causing gas, nausea, vomiting, bloating and frequent bowel movements accompanied by constipation and/or diarrhea as the body tries to rid itself of these poisons. A person with irritable bowel syndrome may also suffer with anorexia, anxiety, depression and severe headaches.
It is believed that 1 in 5 Americans have irritable bowel syndrome. As scientists have searched for the cure, they have been unable to locate physical signs of disease in the bowel tissue. Rather, this disease seems to be caused by stress and food intolerances. It may also be connected to the overuse of antacids, laxatives or antibiotics.
Studies show that there is a strong connection between this disease and stress. People with irritable bowel syndrome often have higher levels of nervousness and depression. If you have IBS, work to discover what brings stress to your life. Keep a diary of the situations that cause you stress and look for patterns. Meditation, counseling and biofeedback are all ways in which you can relieve stress. Exercise has also been proven to relieve stress, especially if you do something you enjoy like taking the dog for a walk or playing tennis with a friend.
About 2/3 of the people with irritable bowel syndrome also have food intolerances. Studies show that the body does not respond to these food allergies through the immune system, so having an allergy test might not give you accurate results. Rather, it is best to watch which foods or drinks bring on digestive problems and eliminate them from the diet. Milk and dairy products as well as wheat are foods to which people are commonly allergic. Try eliminating these first.
Changing your diet to include more fiber can also help relieve irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber bulks the stools and helps the body to have regular bowel movements. Include foods in your diet such as bran, whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
As you work to remove the stress and foods which are causing digestive distress, you can also take herbs which will speed the healing process. Following are herbs which help remove toxins from the bowel, soothe bowel inflammation and regulate and tone the bowel. Herbs are also listed which help to relieve the symptoms of IBS.
The bark of the slippery elm tree has been shown to be a good remedy for those with IBS. It is a mucilaginous herb which pulls water into itself becoming slippery, thick and pasty. This pulling action draws congested toxins from the bowel. Because slippery elm becomes bulky, it helps to regulate elimination and its slippery consistency is soothing to the inflamed intestinal walls. Slippery elm is very
mild and is an excellent form of nutrition for people who are having trouble digesting other types of food. Slippery elm can also be made into a tea and used as an enema.
Aloe Vera is another plant which can help calm inflammation of the bowel. Sipping the juice throughout the day helps to soothe the irritated mucous membranes of IBS. This juice also is a bulking laxative that can help normalize bowel function.
Chamomile and valerian have an antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal tract. They calm intestinal cramps, expel gas, tone the stomach and relieve pain.
Intestinal Soothe & Build ( Used to be called: UC3J) is a combination which helps IBS. It contains the mucilants slippery elm and marshmallow which become soft and bulky when combined with water and help to relieve the irritated intestinal tissue and regulate bowel movements. Plantain, rosehips and bugleweed are included because of their astringent effects which work to tone the bowel. Chamomile relieves inflammation and soothes nervous conditions which can cause constipation.
CLT-X works to calm the inflammation of the digestive system. It contains the mucilants slippery elm and marshmallow to pull toxins from the digestive tract and relieve constipation. Dong quai and wild yam are included for their anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger calms indigestion.
Bowel Detox absorbs toxins and irritants from the digestive system. It contains the following: psyllium which is a bulk laxative, algin to absorb heavy metals, bentonite clay which pulls irritants from bowel pockets and tightens bowel tissues and chlorophyll to control stool odor. Take this combination with plenty of water to avoid constipation.
To relieve the symptoms of IBS try ginger. It expels gas from the colon and calms indigestion and nausea. Charcoal can also be used to relieve gas and bloating, but it is not recommended that it be taken daily because it may absorb other nutrients. If you have been suffering with chronic diarrhea or vomiting, you will want to take Ionic Minerals to help replace the trace minerals lost from your body. Recovery from the Prime Form line can help you replace lost electrolytes. Hemorrhoids
Studies show that half of the people over age 40 suffer from a mild form of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids occur when a vein in the anus or lower rectum bulges beyond it's normal location. You may discover it when you find a glob of flesh protruding from the anus. It can be accompanied by bleeding, itching and pain. If the hemorrhoid ruptures or has a blood clot, it can lead to spasm of the anal sphincter and intense pain.
Hemorrhoids are caused when the blood pressure in the veins in the anal area becomes too large for the walls to resist. The walls then release their hold on the veins, allowing them to fall out of place. There are several reasons why this could happen. People with chronic constipation are often straining during defecation causing increased blood pressure in the lower veins. Holding one's breath during defecation also has the same effect.
Other things that cause an increase in blood pressure in the anal veins are heavy lifting, general high blood pressure, pregnancy and heredity (weak walls).
In working to treat this problem, you may start out trying over-the counter creams which relieve some of the pain and itching, but don't solve the problem. A visit to the doctor may lead to removal of the hemorrhoid.
This is done by wrapping a rubber band tightly around it until the tissue dies and drops off. Injecting chemicals, freezing or burning the area or having the hemorrhoid surgically removed are other medical options to treat hemorrhoids. These procedures will bring about temporary relief, but unless the cause of the hemorrhoid is addressed, it will come back.
If you are a first time hemorrhoid sufferer and these methods sound scary, don't panic. Here are some natural therapies and herbal treatments that can help.
1. Often a first time hemorrhoid can be returned to place by hand. Try pushing it back up into the rectum.
2. To prevent further irritation try the following. Before defecation, lubricate the anus with Golden Salve about ½ an inch into the rectum. After, use damp toilet paper or tissues coated with moisturizing cream when wiping. Though hemorrhoids often itch, resist the urge to scratch them because you can hurt the vein walls.
3. Daily warm sitz baths help to relieve pain, increase blood flow to the area and shrink the swollen tissue. Sit in 3 to 4 inches of water with the knees raised.
To help tighten and heal the loose veins, try astringent herbs such as Butcher's Broom and Uva Ursi. St. John's Wort helps to heal dilated veins in and around the anus by increasing circulation. It also helps anxiety, nervous tension and irritability which can cause a person to be uptight and constipated.
If you have hemorrhoids because of constipation try the laxative herb Cascara Sagrada. You can also work to soften the stool. Change to a high fiber diet and drink lots of water. Flax Seed Oil and Psyllium Hulls will also help soften the stools.
Nature's Three contains mucilant herbs which bulk and soften the stool and relieve constipation.
There are several herbs and formulas which can be applied directly to the hemorrhoid and surrounding areas to increase healing and relieve pain. White oak bark can be made into an infusion and used externally. It has astringent, tonic and antiseptic effects which help hemorrhoids. Aloe vera juice applied to the hemorrhoid and the anal area once every 2 hours soothes the irritated mucous membranes.
Applying yarrow to the hemorrhoid will help stop any bleeding and reduce inflammation. BlackOintment contains herbs which can be put on the hemorrhoid to draw out toxins and tighten tissues.
In the 1980's a doctor named Sikirov did an e x p e r i m e n t with 20 of his patients who had hemorrhoids. He asked them to wait till the urge to defecate was strong and to defecate in the squatting position. 18 of them had a significant reduction or even an absence of symptoms within a few days to a few months of following his advice. The 2 who had no improvement had previous surgical treatment for hemorrhoids. As a side note, Sikirov found that in the squatting position it took an average of one minute to defecate while those in the sitting position took 4 to 15 minutes to defecate.
The squatting position is actually the more natural position and seems to prevent hemorrhoids. To achieve this position with a conventional toilet you can buy a step which goes around the toilet. Another alternative is to bend over or put your feet up on a small stool while sitting on the toilet. These positions give you some of the advantages of squatting. Ulcers
Doubled over in pain, drinking milk or taking an antacid is how you might find someone who says, "I have an ulcer!"
One in 10 Americans will find themselves dealing with this painful disease. Peptic ulcers are found in the stomach or duodenum (the first section of the small intestine just below the stomach).
Ulcer pain occurs because part of the mucous membrane of the stomach or duodenum is being eaten into by the digestive secretions. Ulcers are characterized by intense
stomach pain. The sufferer may also experience heartburn, nausea and/or anemia.
Because eating neutralizes the stomach acid, food intake temporarily stops ulcer pain, but the pain returns once the food is digested. Doctors have long gone by the theory that too much stress is the main cause of ulcers. Stress causes the stomach to churn and the acids to increase to such high levels that the
stomach begins eating itself. To solve this problem doctors first suggest taking antacids. Antacids reduce the acid in the stomach and relieve pain, but they may cause kidney stones, heart and kidney problems, calcium and phosphorus depletion and/or aluminum
accumulation in the brain that could lead to Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors may also prescribe drugs such as Tagamet and Zantac for ulcer treatment. These drugs have an antispasmodic effect and they suppress stomach acid production. These drugs successfully relieve the pain, but they also have serious side effects. By increasing
estrogen levels, they can cause sexual dysfunction and breast development in men, PMS, endometriosis and uterine fibroids in women. Patients on any of these medications must be on them long term or the ulcers will return.
New scientific studies on ulcers and their treatment show that stress may be only part of the cause. A spiral bacteria, Heliobacter pylori, is almost always found in persons who have ulcers and seldom found in those who don't. By killing this bacteria, ulcers are
This bacteria survives in the stomach acid by living in the protective lining and producing an enzyme, urease, which neutralizes the stomach acid. With a blood test from your physician, you can discover if you are infected with these ulcer causing bacteria. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics to treat this infection which also can have serious side effects. There are several lifestyle habits that may increase your ulcer risk. Studies show that diets low in fiber, smoking, regular intake of aspirin or non steroidal anti-inflammatories and regular drinking of alcohol, coffee or caffeinated drinks can cause ulcers.
Gastro Health is excellent for persistent gastric ulcers and stomach inflammation. Contains herbs (pau d'Arco, cloves and Inula racemosa) that inhibit H. Pylori without the side effects of antibiotics.
Food allergies may also be the cause of ulcers and if this is the cause the ulcer will continue until the food is eliminated.
Try an elimination diet. Besides changing your lifestyle to remove stress and other factors which may cause ulcers, there are also many herbal products available which can ease the symptoms and help the stomach to heal. Because ulcer symptoms are similar to those of gastric cancer, be sure to consult with a physician before trying the following natural
forms of ulcer therapy.
Licorice root (in whole form) is an anti-inflammatory and has long been used historically in the treatment of ulcers. Licorice strengthens the stomach lining by increasing the number of mucus secreting cells. Because the use of licorice extract brought on extreme edema and heart failure, many people were scared away from using licorice, but licorice in its whole form or as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) causes no side effects and is highly effective in treating ulcers. In one study 40 patients with severe
duodenal ulcers prevented surgery and relieved all ulcer pain and symptoms by taking 3 to 4.5 grams of licorice daily for 8 to 16 weeks.
Capsicum brings blood to the area, speeds healing, relieves inflammation and stops bleeding and spasms.
PLS-II contains slippery elm and marshmallow, mucilants which pull toxins from the digestive tract, soothe digestive inflammation and strengthen mucous membranes.
Goldenseal fights infection while fenugreek helps relieve digestive upset.
Lymph Gland Cleanse HY (blends echinacea, goldenseal, yarrow and capsicum to fight infection and reduce inflammation.
The Body System's Approach To Natural Healing by Steven Horne (Payson, UT: Tree of
Light Institute, 1995). Discover Natural Health by Andrew H.Y. Kim (Panaroma City, CA: Kim's Publishing, 1988) The Doctors Book of Home Remedies by Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books (Emmaus, PA: Bantam Books, 1991). An Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Michael T. Murray N.D. and Joseph E. Pizzorno N.D. (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1990). Herbal H-p Fighter Handout by Nature's Field. Herbal Treatment for Ulcers by Paul Bergner and Sharol Tilgner, N.D. in Medical Herbalism (May-June 1991). Neal's Yard Natural Remedies by Susan Curtis, Romy Fraser, Irene Kohler (New York, NY: Penguin Group) Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C. (Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, 1997).
Squatting for the Prevention of Haemorrhoids? by Christine Eimmer, Brian Martin, Noeline Reeves, Frances Sullivan in Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients (October 1996).
The Swiss Nature Doctor's Home Treatment of Common Ailments by Dr. A. Vogel (New
Canaan, CN: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1990).
If you have any health problem we recommend you consult a competent health practitioner before embarking on any course of treatment. Sunshine Sharing is an independent educational publication and receives no financial support from any herb or health product manufacturer.