Q: I often have embarrassing and painful intestinal distress. One doctor told me to take an antacid, but that only seemed to make things worse. I want to feel better, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you help?
A: The food you eat travels through a complex 30-foot long winding tube. Enzymes are secreted, and small muscles move things along mostly without needing your cooperation. However, there are many simple ways that you can help your digestive process, which is what turns food and drink into the agents of tissue repair and the ongoing energy for work and play that you enjoy every day.
First Things First: Slow Down
First, never eat in a hurry. If you don’t have time to sit, chew your food properly, and relax while eating, please wait until you can make time. This is a big request, admittedly. However if there’s one take-home message in this column, this is it.
Digestion is a parasympathetic function. That’s the opposite of sympathetic (also known as “fight or flight”). There is no way you can digest properly if you’re having an adrenaline rush. For the enzymes in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine to do their jobs, and for the muscular colon to move waste for elimination, you must be at least be somewhat relaxed. To put it plainly, if you want to feel better, you must make time for slow, peaceful eating.
As we age, we need less food. This is why I favor intermittent fasting as a way to both spend less time eating and greatly improve the quality of the eating experience. Two meals a day for folks over 55 is largely sufficient. I like to have one meal around 11:00–11:30 a.m. and another around 6:00–6:30 p.m.. Digestion can be enormously energy-consuming, which is why eating more than you need can age you quickly.
Drugs Aren’t the Long-Term Fix
Conventional doctors like to give names to bodily functions that don’t work optimally. In the digestive arena there’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome C (constipation), D (diarrhea), or M (mixed)—each with a list of recommended drugs. Then there are gastric ulcers, peptic ulcers, leaky gut, SIBO, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastroparesis, and other labels, each with an insurance-reimbursable code and corresponding prescription medicine. These interventions may improve symptoms, but they won’t fix your problem. The only way to do that is to restore your body’s natural digestive process.
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How to deal with intestinal distress the natural way.
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