MILK 'N HONEY HEALTH FOODS

 

DEALING WITH INTESTINAL PROBLEMS NUTRITIONALLY

       

Medications for treatment of intestinal disorders have become a multi-billion dollar industry.  Millions of people regularly take prescription and non-prescription drugs to deal with these problems.  While these drugs will often provide some relief, they most often treat only symptoms while ignoring the cause of the problem.  Then there are the negative side effects.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people taking prescription heartburn drugs such as Prilosec and Prevacid are much more susceptible to becoming infected with the bacteria C. difficle.  This bacterium causes diarrhea and can lead to acute stomach pain and inflammation of the colon.  This study showed taking heartburn drugs such as Tagamet, Zantac and Pepcid also increased the risk of acquiring C. difficle. 

GAS, BLOATING AND ABDOMINAL PAIN:

       Common digestive problems such as gas, bloating and abdominal pain are frequently associated with lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCL) and/or digestive enzymes.  When you eat a meal, digestion of carbohydrates from that meal begin in the mouth with the secretion of salivary amylase, a carbohydrate digesting enzyme.  As your meal passes into the stomach, HCL and an enzyme called pepsin begins to break down protein and minerals.  Your meal then travels to the small intestine where enzymes such as amylase protease and lipase digest carbohydrates, protein and fats.  Bile from the liver is also involved in fat digestion. 

       When there is insufficient HCL or enzymes at any stage of the digestive process, fermentation of undigested food can take place and the result is gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort in general.  If the problem is insufficient secretion of HCL by the stomach, taking acid inhibiting drugs such as Prilosec and Prevacid will reduce HCL even more and prevent proper digestion of proteins and other nutrients.  It is HCL that helps prevent unfriendly bacteria from making a home in the intestinal track.  By reducing HCL through use of antacid drugs, we reduce our natural defense against opportunistic organisms such as C. difficle. 

       When experiencing abdominal discomfort after eating a meal, supplementation with HCL and pepsin and/or a good quality digestive enzyme formula may be the answer. We have found over the years that most customers find relief from abdominal discomfort when using these kinds of products.  At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry a variety of high quality digestive aids.  

HEARTBURN (ACID REFLUX):

       A more problematic problem associated with the gastrointestinal tract is heartburn.   Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart but is caused when HCL backs up from the stomach into the esophagus and burns the tissues of the esophagus.  HCL is a very strong stomach acid. While the lining of the stomach is built to handle this acid the esophagus is not.   Where the esophagus connects to the stomach, there is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which opens to allow food to enter the stomach and closes to prevent HCL from entering the esophagus.  Overeating and certain foods such as citrus fruits, tomato based products and spicy foods, can cause the LSE to relax and open at the wrong time thus creating the symptoms of heartburn.  Cigarette smoking and too much abdominal fat contributes to heartburn.  As we age, the peristaltic muscles of the esophagus which moves food to the stomach slow down.  When this happens the function of the LSE also slows down.

       If heartburn occurs on a frequent basis, it could indicate the LES is failing to do its job.  This is identified as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.   GERD can over time lead to erosion of the esophagus tissue which can lead to problems swallowing and increase the risk for esophageal cancer.  Antacid drugs will reduce stomach acid and thus reduce GERD.  The downside is that these drugs result in the stomach producing more HCL to compensate for the loss due to the action of the drugs. It then becomes a vicious cycle of having to take stronger drugs to combat increased levels of acid.  With time, the stomach’s ability to make HCL becomes weakened and so does the corresponding digestive function. Antacids interact with or prevent the absorption of many drugs including diabetic medicines and the common pain killer aspirin.  Antacids such as Tagamet impair certain vitamin and mineral absorption. 

       There are some natural methods of dealing with heartburn that are safe and effective.  The company Enzymatic Therapy markets a product called Heartburn Free which is an extract of orange peel that has been clinically shown to reduce or totally eliminate heartburn.  Participants in clinical trials reported freedom from heartburn even weeks after discontinuing the use of this product.  No negative side effects were reported and this product does not interfere with the body’s production of HCL.  An additional benefit of orange peel extract is that it inhibits the way in which cancer cells divide and grow. Heartburn free is available at Milk ‘N Honey.

 PEPTIC ULCERS:    

       Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) has been shown to help reduce the inflammation caused by acid reflux.  DGL is an extract of licorice where the glycyrrhizin has been removed. Glycyrrhizin in licorice can contribute to high blood pressure.  Where DGL is even more effective is in helping deal with peptic ulcers.  Peptic ulcers can form in the lining of the esophagus, stomach or upper part of the small intestine.  Most peptic ulcers appear to be caused by helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria.  However, painkillers such as Motrin and Advil and simple aspirin have also been found to contribute to this problem.  Additional contributing factors are smoking, excessive use of alcohol, over production of HCL and high stress.

       Medical treatment for peptic ulcers generally includes antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria and antacids to reduce irritation to the ulcers from stomach acid. While this approach will help the ulcer to heal, it does nothing to address why the body succumbed to the bacterial attack in the first place.  DGL, on the other hand, improves the quality and the quantity of those components of intestinal lining that protects it from ulceration.  DGL stimulates the body’s production of secretin which is protective to intestinal lining.  Recent research has revealed that DGL contains flavonoid compounds that eradicate H. pylori.  

       Researchers have reported DGL to be as effective as the drugs Tagamet and Zantac in curing gastric ulcers.  While antacid drugs are known to cause headache, diarrhea, nausea, rash and other such reactions, no negative side effects have been associated with DGL.  DGL is available at Milk ‘N Honey.  Aloe Vera, taken internally, has been shown to promote healing of ulcers.  One study conducted in 1991 found that when aloe was administered to animals having ulcers, healing of such ulcers was three times faster than in animals not receiving the aloe.  A study published in 2004 showed that aloe relieved the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition of the colon.   Aloe appears to protect intestinal lining and stimulates the growth of new cells.  At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry a variety of high quality aloe products.

       The amino acid L glutamine acts as a virtual cell food to repair intestinal tissue.  Glutamine supports growth and protection of the gastrointestinal lining by helping maintain the flexibility, strength and integrity of this lining.  Glutamine is found in such food as carrots, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage and papaya.  Unfortunately cooking easily destroys glutamine.  The body also makes glutamine with much of it being stored in muscle tissue.  Supplemental glutamine is also available. 

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS):     

       A very common bowel problem is called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is sometimes referred to as spastic colon.  The bowel is the large intestine and also referred to as the colon. The bowel is the part of the digestive system that makes and stores stool. IBS is called a syndrome because it is characterized by a group of symptoms.  For example, IBS can cause cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and mucus in the stool.  IBS is more properly defined as a functional disorder rather than a disease.  The bowel simply doesn't work as it was designed to work.

       With IBS, the nerves and muscles in the bowel don’t function in a normal way. For example, the muscles may contract too much or too little when it’s time to have a bowel movement. Too much contraction can cause cramping and diarrhea whereas lack of sufficient contraction can cause constipation.  The nerves of the bowel can be overly sensitive to the stretching of this organ which can result in cramping and sometimes sharp stabbing pain. 

       While no specific cause of IBS has been identified, testing has revealed that many individuals with IBS have present within the colon various fungi, parasites, Candida yeast overgrowth and pathogenic bacteria. It is uncertain as to the role such organisms play in the onset of IBS.  All indications point to a lack of sufficient dietary fiber as a primary culprit in the development of IBS.

       When you eat a meal, the wastes from the metabolism of your meal pass in a liquid form from the small intestine into the bowel.  The bowel extracts water from this waste which circulates to other body tissues.  Dietary fiber plays an important role in the rate at which water is absorbed and how well the muscles of the bowel contract to move waste out through the rectum.  Fiber helps activate the peristaltic muscles of the colon which are responsible for the movement of waste material out the body.  Fiber also collects waste material and retains enough water in the stool for it to be soft enough for easy evacuation from the rectum.  Lack of fiber reduces accumulation of waste material, slows muscle contraction, and reduces water retention resulting in constipation. 

       Nearly everyone living in modern societies is constipated.  The word constipation is from a Latin root which means, “to press together.”  Constipation is a condition where one’s feces are pressed together.  There are two types of constipation.  One type is where the feces passing from the body is overly packed together.  This kind of constipation is easily recognizable as hard bowel movement.  Many suffer from this type of constipation on a regular basis.  A second and most common type of constipation is where hardened feces stick to the walls of the colon and do not pass out with regular bowel movements. This kind of constipation is not often recognized as one can have reasonably normal bowel movements and still have this type of constipation.  If you’re eating the standard American diet which is high in processed, refined foods, you are getting around seven to ten grams of fiber per day in your diet.  We should be getting forty to fifty grams of fiber per day in order to prevent the buildup of waste in the colon.

       The colon is constructed of a series of pouch-like segments called sacculations.  When waste material is not moved out of the colon in a timely manner, this material begins to accumulate on the walls of these colon sacculations which begin to balloon.  Accumulation of waste also decreases the diameter of the colon, leaving only a small opening for fecal matter to pass on through.  As this process continues, the eliminative process becomes more and more dysfunctional and the colon becomes a breeding grown for unwanted organisms and the buildup of toxic material.  These are all dynamics that contribute to IBS.

      The key to preventing colon problems is to increase transit time.  Transit time is the time it takes from the moment you eat a meal to the time you eliminate the wastes from the digestion of that meal.  The shorter the transit time, the less chance there is of waste material accumulating and sticking to the walls of the colon.  Dr. Dennis Burkitt, a British surgeon, demonstrated the relationship between transit time and colon problems back in the 1940's, when he studied the health habits of native Africans.  He found the transit time for these native Africans to be around 30 to 35 hours. At the same time, he found that for many in his own country who were eating the typical low fiber Western diet, the transit time was often 72 hours.  The Africans had virtually no colon problems.  Their intake of fiber was around 40 to 50 grams per day obtained from their natural diet.  Research shows that cultures around the world that have high fiber content to their diet have practically none of the colon problems so common to Americans.  Yet when these same cultures begin eating the refined processed food diets so common to Americans, they develop the same colon diseases that so many of us have.

       So what can we do to increase the fiber content of our diets?  First of all, what is fiber?  Fiber is the non-digestible portion of the foods that we eat.  Your best source of dietary fiber is found in grains and beans.  If the grains and beans have been processed, there’s a good chance that some or all of the fiber has been removed.  For example, grains that have been processed into white flour products have had their fiber removed. You can maximize the fiber obtainable from grains by simply cooking unprocessed whole grains such as wheat berries, millet, brown rice, whole barley etc. and adding these foods to your diet.  Beans are not only one of the best fiber foods that you can eat, but they will also provide you with excellent complex carbohydrate along with good protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals.  Beans can be prepared in a variety of ways including soups, casseroles and salads.

       Fruits and vegetables will provide a good variety of different types of fibers.  It is best to eat them in their raw, unprocessed state in order to obtain their maximum fiber and nutritional value as well.  You can purchase fiber obtained from wheat, oats, rice, corn, apples and grapefruit.  Such fibers can be added to cereals, pastas, meatloaf and a variety of other foods or they can be eaten by themselves.  Psyllium seed fiber, obtained from the psyllium plant, provides an excellent bulking agent, facilitating a soft and easy to eliminate stool.  Using psyllium seed fiber over an extended period of time will accomplish a slow and gentle removal of impacted waste material from the colon.  Another good source of fiber is flax seed.  Flax provides many nutrients plus good balance between mucilaginous (water holding) fiber and roughage (non-water holding fiber).

       An important point to remember, when increasing the fiber content of the diet, is to also increase the amount of water that you drink.  Water is a critical component of the entire waste removal process, and fiber demands water for it to properly facilitate waste elimination.  Try to drink purified water!

       Even after increasing the fiber content of the diet, you may still experience a sluggish bowel reflex resulting in poor and irregular eliminations.  Standard over the counter laxatives are habit forming and tend to irritate the bowel into action.  Herbs, such as cascara sagrada and senna leaf, can be used to stimulate the flow of bile from the gall bladder which in turn will create the urge to have a bowel movement. These herbs should not be used routinely as they also can become habit forming.  There are a variety of colon cleansing formulas available from health food stores.  One such product we carry at Milk ‘N Honey is called Herbal Fiber Blend.  This product has proven to be very effective in facilitating good bowel function and cleansing of the colon.

       In addition to adding more fiber to the diet, it may be helpful in cases of IBS to add a pro-biotic product to the diet.  This will help restore friendly bacteria to the colon which will make it more difficult for unfriendly organisms to proliferate.  At Milk ‘N Honey we carry a variety of high quality probiotics.   Using grapefruit seed extract can eliminate parasites, fungi and yeast overgrowth.  Enteric coated capsules of peppermint oil inhibit excessive muscle contraction which causes diarrhea.  A product called IBX from Natural Balance has been shown to be helpful in reducing the gas and cramping associated with IBS.  IBX is available at Milk ‘N Honey.

        Many who suffer from IBS have sensitivities to wheat and dairy products and find that eliminating these products from the diet provides some relief.  While stress has not been identified as a direct cause of IBS, it does appear to be a contributing factor once IBS is an established problem.  While it may be difficult to reduce stress, one can prepare the body to better handle stress by eating a high quality diet, taking a high B-Complex, adrenal support products and getting regular exercise.  

DIVERTICULOSIS/DIVERTICULITIS:

       As covered above, the colon is constructed of a series of pouch-like segments called sacculations.  When waste material is not moved out of the colon in a timely manner, this material begins to accumulate on the walls of these colon sacculations causing increased pressure which results in the ballooning of these sacculations.  This results in pouches that bulge outward through weak spots. This is similar to an inner tube that pokes through weak places in a tire. Each pouch is called a diverticulum. Many pouches are referred to as diverticula. The condition of having one or more ballooning diverticula is called diverticulosis. About 10 percent of Americans over the age of 40 have diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age. About half of all people over the age of 60 have diverticulosis.

       When the pouches become infected or inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis. This happens in 10 to 25 percent of people with diverticulosis.  Most people with diverticulosis do not have any discomfort or symptoms although some do experience symptoms similar to IBS which may include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. When the diverticula become inflamed, the condition changes to diverticulitis and abdominal pain occurs. The most common sign is tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. If infection is the cause, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infection and complications.  Infection that leaks out and contaminates areas outside the colon can be very serious.  Infection that spreads into the abdominal cavity is called peritonitis.  Peritonitis requires immediate surgery to clean the abdominal cavity and remove the damaged part of the colon.  Without surgery, peritonitis can be fatal.

       As with IBS, the lack of fiber in the diet appears to be the primary dynamic involved in diverticulosis/diverticulitis.  Such colon problems simply were not a problem in our culture prior to the introduction of processed refined foods and are not a problem to this very day in cultures where the fiber content of the diet is high.  We recommend using our product called Herbal Fiber Blend as it has shown an impressive tract record of cleansing the colon of impacted waste material and therefore restoring a more normal colon function.

CROHN’S DISEASE AND ULCERATIVE COLITIS:

       Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are similar in that both inflame the lining of your digestive tract, and both can cause severe bouts of watery or bloody diarrhea along with abdominal pain. Crohn's disease can occur anywhere in your digestive tract, often spreading deep into the layers of affected tissues. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, usually affects only the innermost lining of the colon and rectum and results in ulcers (open sores) in the tissues of these organs.  Crohn's disease begins with inflammation, most often in the lower part of the small intestine (ileum) or in the colon, but sometimes in the rectum, stomach, esophagus or mouth. Unlike ulcerative colitis, in which inflammation occurs uniformly throughout an affected area, Crohn's disease can develop in several places simultaneously, with healthy tissue in between.  In time, large ulcers that extend deep into the intestinal wall may develop in the inflamed areas.

       What triggers the inflammation in Crohn's disease is not clearly understood. Researchers have not seen direct evidence that stress or diet is the causes but both these factors are often seen to aggravate symptoms. The goal must be to avoid processed and refined food and eat a whole food diet.  Some evidence suggests that a virus or bacterium may cause Crohn's disease and that the digestive tract becomes inflamed when the body's immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganism or inappropriately tries to destroy friendly bacteria.

       About 20% of people with Crohn’s have a parent or sibling who also has the disease. Mutations in a gene called NOD2/CARD15 tend to occur frequently in people with Crohn's disease and seem to be associated with an early onset of symptoms as well as a high risk of relapse following surgery for the disease.  Anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first step in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. They include such names as Sulfasalazine, Mesalamine and a variety of corticosteroids.  Unfortunately all these drugs have negative side effects.  Some doctors use immune suppressors as it is believed that inflammation is created when the immune system reacts against the body’s own tissues.  Unfortunately the body’s overall immunity is compromised and resistance to bacterial and viral attack is reduced.      

       Natural treatment of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis includes the following: The amino acid L Glutamine is helpful in that it promotes healing of intestinal tissue.  The vitamin B complex, and especially folic acid, helps to restore healthy cells.  Use of natural anti-inflammatories such as the enzyme Bromelain and herbs such as Cat’s Claw and Boswellia are helpful.  The herb turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids which are phenolic compounds known to facilitate anti-inflammatory effects.  Turmeric’s most active and dominant curcuminoid is curcumin.  Research has shown that curcumin is an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  There have been thousands of studies published on the beneficial effects of the curcuminoids found in turmeric.  All indications are that these compounds will help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the body.  At Milk ‘N Honey we carry several high quality turmeric products such as Turmeric Force from New Chapter and Curamin from EuroPharma.

       Aloe Vera helps heal intestinal lining.  A high quality fish oil will provide certain fatty acids that lead to natural anti-inflammatories in the body. As already discussed, Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) has been shown to help reduce inflammation and have a healing effect on intestinal tissue. Enteric coated capsules of peppermint oil and just plain peppermint tea will reduce nausea and abdominal pain.  Taking a high quality pro-biotic will help maintain the dominance of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract. A product called Sonne #7, a colloidal clay, will curtail diarrhea, help detoxify the intestinal tract and promote healing of intestinal tissue.  Mucilaginous (water holding) fiber such as powdered psyllium and flax seed will also cut back on diarrhea by absorbing water to form a soft bulky stool.  All these products are available at Milk ‘N Honey.


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