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The Digestive System
Annette Vandendriessche

The digestive system provides us with “food for thought”.  This body system carries out a series of physical and chemical changes by which food is broken down in preparation for absorption into the blood stream. The digestive system includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine or colon. The intestines were covered separately in a previous article

The pharynx is the space at the back of the mouth where the passages to the nose, lungs, and stomach begin. The esophagus is a passage for food from the mouth to stomach. This area can become damaged with prolonged acid reflux. The stomach is an integral part of digestion. Digestive juices called enzymes cause the chemical breakdown of food.

How many of us have been reminded to chew our food slowly? The sage advice of generations of parents still applies today. Digestion starts in the mouth by thoroughly chewing our food and mixing it with saliva. Purposely and methodically chewing our food leads not only to better digestion but also to eating of smaller amounts. Too many of us hurriedly wolf down our foods, whether in a restaurant, food chain, at work, or home. The name “fast foods” not only implies quick and easy preparation but also the speed at which we tend to inhale it.

A meal in a lovely French restaurant in Quebec City brought home the fact that many people in our culture eat too quickly. Meals have become perfunctory and quick to prepare to fit in with our hectic lifestyles. Traditional French cuisine, on the other hand, is savoured. This brings home the point that we also need to have a calm atmosphere in order to properly digest our food. It would be wise to consider the environment in which we eat.

Watching my mother steadily lose her health over the years, instilled in me the importance of good digestion. Interestingly enough, long before she lost the use of her limbs, her digestive system started to cause her a great deal of discomfort. She was unable to digest most foods and ultimately was reduced to a very small selection of bland foods. Because her digestive system was not working properly, all the other systems in her body started to feel the negative impact of not receiving proper nutrients. Many years of personal research has brought me to the conclusion that if digestive problems are addressed many other debilitating symptoms can be avoided. Imbalances in this system affect nutrient absorption and therefore impact all other body systems.

Even the circulatory system is often affected by imbalances in the digestive system as unwanted toxins are absorbed and elimination is stagnated. The need for efficient digestion cannot be overstated.

Many people experience issues with acid reflux and in some cases suffer from hiatus hernia. Left unattended this can lead to more serious issues by causing acid damage to parts such as the esophagus. For some this can be controlled by avoiding offending foods that bring on the attacks. Most of us however don’t wish to abstain from what we enjoy so resort to using antacids. This can become a vicious circle for some. The more antacids, the more the brain registers, “not enough acid, produce more”. Antacids can sooth the symptoms of heart burn and indigestion. They are best used as a quick, temporary support.

The use of high quality digestive enzymes helps the digestive process with the additional support of food enzymes. They supplement the natural production of hydrochloric acid, bile salts and digestive enzymes. As people age, they generally produce less hydrochloric acid, which affects the amount of protein they can digest. Undigested proteins have been shown to contribute to muscle loss, and allergic food sensitivities, as undigested protein substances can activate allergic reactions.

 Some people are able to reverse the mechanical malfunction of a hiatus hernia using a protocol of herbs recommended by some herbalists. I have not experienced a hiatus hernia (and hope I never do) but I am aware of individuals who have experienced a reversal. For others, medical intervention may be required.

Ulcers can be another issue of the digestive system. Gastric ulcers were once thought to be caused by stress and related excess acids. They are mostly caused by a bacteria “Helicobacter pylori”. Recent scientific studies have found that certain herbal combinations have a strong inhibitory action against H. pylori bacteria. It can require a combination of five herbs.

When properly cared for, the digestive system can add years to your life and life to your years.

Please recognize that this article reflects personal research, experience, and observations. It is not intended to replace medical advice. If you believe you are experiencing digestive issues please seek the advice of a health care practitioner.  When properly cared for, the digestive system can add years to your life and life to your years.

Ailments of the Digestive System

Hiatus Hernia & Acid Reflux

Hiatus Hernia is where the top of the stomach, with the open and close valve (sphincter) has been forced up through the diaphragm, beside the esophagus.

This distorts the valve so that it cannot close properly. Bending over and lying down causes the digestive juices to leak into the esophagus, causing the burning known as acid reflux.

Also for most, swallowing becomes difficult because the esophagus tube now has a bend in it, caused by the stomach being pushed upwards toward the throat.

The following 5-day programme has worked for many clients:

First thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, before breakfast take 1 teaspoon of Nature’s Sunshine Lobelia tincture (#1765-8) along with one 12 oz. glass of lukewarm water. Follow this by taking one more teaspoon of Lobelia and two 12 oz. glasses of lukewarm water. Wait 2 to 3 minutes, and then hop down 4 to 5 steps with both feet at the same time.

This gently jars the stomach back into its normal position, and by doing so will pull the top of the stomach down through the diaphragm.

Repeat for 5 consecutive days.

This will allow the enlarged hole in the diaphragm, where the stomach was protruding, to go back to its normal size. The valve in the top of the stomach will then heal and be able to open and close properly. You will not experience any more acid reflux and swallowing will be easier.

Daily use of Bifidophilus Flora Force (Stock # 4080-4) will help the healing of acid-damaged tissue in the area of the esophagus. Open the capsule and pour into the mouth.

If you have prescribed medicine for acid reflux, continue to take it until your esophagus has had time to heal. In some situations a person needs to take a small amount of Lobelia for several weeks. Most people have it dealt with in 5 days!

Other recommended aids for digestion: Garden Essence (if you have your gallbladder) (#1643-9) or Digestive Enzymes (if you had gallbladder removed) (#1761-1).

Stomach Comfort (#1820-0)  for those rare times when your stomach acid is causing discomfort. Stomach Comfort has less side effects than other antacids. It should be for temporary relief and not used as a solution to an ailment.

For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177. 


Intestinal System
by Annette Vandendriessche

In the previous article of this series the parts and function of the digestive system were addressed. The intestinal area is also a part of the digestive system, but is so important it will now be looked at separately.

The intestinal system consists of the small and large intestine (colon). Contrary to popular belief, it is not the stomach where nutrients are absorbed into the body via the blood, but rather through the small intestine. It’s for this reason that it is so important that this area is properly maintained. In the large intestine, water is absorbed from the digestive waste and then eliminated from the body, hence the need to drink several glasses of water a day.

A malfunctioning intestinal system leads to a release of toxins into the bloodstream from decaying fecal matter. This leads to a host of other issues that people try to deal with directly without connecting the dots back to the intestinal system. Through personal and herbal clinical observations I have repeatedly seen issues in other areas of the body vanish once the intestines are returned to normal. Imbalances of the intestinal system affect all other systems.

Herbalists traditionally start a programme by cleansing the intestinal area before addressing other concerns in the body for this reason. It is the job of the intestines to carry away toxic by-products of the healing process.

My mother’s ailments became more “visible” as her digestive and intestinal issues worsened, with symptoms such as fatigue, psoriasis, aching joints, poor sleep, allergies, respiratory issues, constipation, diarrhea, and depression. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the importance of the digestive and intestinal system eventually led to decades of pain in a wheelchair.

There are many things you can do to maintain good intestinal health. The solutions are simple but not necessarily easy in our culture due to the processing of our food and lifestyles.

I am sure you have heard them all before! Peak efficiency results from good muscle tone, a healthy bacterial environment, and sufficient amounts of indigestible fibre to give bulk to the stool.

So how does one go about this? Exercise is a key, with walking being a great option. Eating several vegetables and fruits (preferably raw) and whole grains helps to maintain a healthy intestinal area. Some require additional fibre to supplement our modern diet. Avoiding sugar, white flour and other processed foods is  key to a healthy system. It basically means returning to preparing your own foods, with care about what goes into the meals.

A healthy flora of bacteria needs to be maintained in the intestinal tract. There are a number of different strains of friendly bacteria (not all bacteria is bad). They can be found in products such as natural yogurt. Keep in mind that most commercial natural yogurts also have sugar or a form of sugar. It is usually best to make your own.

As was mentioned, the solution is simple but not necessarily easy because of the habits we have developed with our present lifestyle. Note that modern does not necessarily denote better.

The many ailments that one can suffer ranging from constipation to cancer of the colon have not been addressed here. The focus was on how you can be well and what can be done for intestinal health. You have to decide to make it a priority.           

If you suspect issues, please contact your health care provider. This article reflects personal research, experience, and observations. It is not intended to replace medical advice. If you believe you are experiencing intestinal issues please seek the advice of a health care practitioner.  
For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177. 

Circulatory System
By Annette Vandendriessche

The circulatory system is an incredible network of over 96,000 kilometres of blood vessels. Imagine the job that your body has to keep this amount of roadway clear for your life-sustaining flow of blood throughout your body! With the heart at the centre, the circulatory system is responsible for transporting life-giving oxygen to cells. At the same time, it also has the task of carrying away harmful by-products. The circulatory system consists of the heart, blood, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.

Maintaining this system requires pure water, regular exercise, stress management and good nutritional support. Ignoring this system can lead to heart attack and strokes. Imbalances in the circulatory system can affect all other systems, particularly the nervous, respiratory, and gastro-intestinal systems. For the purpose of this article an emphasis will be placed on what you can do to maintain a healthy circulatory system.      Pure water is very important. Just as our intestinal system requires sufficient amounts of water to function properly, so does our circulatory system. Many of us work at jobs that limit our access to water. To be more accurate it is not the water that we have limited access to, but rather the use of a washroom since many jobs restrict times to leave a work position. After repeatedly denying our thirst signal, many of us confuse it with hunger and eat, instead of drinking needed water.

According to a number of sources, adequate water is needed when dealing with high cholesterol levels. Too high of a level of the LDL “bad “ cholesterol can block blood flow. This can result in a thickening of artery walls. This is known as arteriosclerosis. As blood flow is slowed down the heart receives less oxygen and can result in chest pain or a heart attack. With all of this thickening going on, water can play a very important role. Drinking water can help the blood pump more smoothly. Drinking plenty of water may keep your blood ways clean!

Since exercise, along with a healthy diet, is an important contribution to the lowering of cholesterol, once again, water needs to be drank in order to replenish what was lost. In fact, consumption of water so you are fully hydrated can increase your metabolic rate! For those who have attended weight loss programmes, one of the recommendations is to drink approximately 8 glasses of water per day. A handy way to make sure you drink your quota of water is to pre-measure what you need for the day into a container. The quality of water is also important. Use water sources that have been properly filtered to eliminate chlorine and contaminants.

In our area of the ON circulatory-related illnesses are high in comparison to some other geographical areas. One would think that living with our natural surrounding would make us healthier. Unfortunately along with it comes the necessity to drive everywhere we need to go. Personally I found it much easier to exercise when I lived for many years in a large city centre. I walked almost everywhere and the school was a walking distance for my children. With black flies in the spring, mosquitoes in the summer, and icy dark roads at the end of a winter work day, finding new ways to exercise has become a challenge.

It is vital to have aerobic and weight bearing exercise. It is also important that you find something that you enjoy doing. Many find that interactive computer fitness programmes are beneficial since you are engaged mentally as well. It even gets the children involved since chances are they will have to show the adults how to use it! Exercise equipment is often on a person’s New Year’s resolution list but can often become an expensive clothing rack. Before putting money into equipment I would recommend trying out a local fitness facility.

A mini-trampoline used 15 minutes morning and evening can help to clear the lymphatics since they tend to clear with the up and down motion of jumping.

There are many sources of information regarding the lowering of cholesterol and maintaining good cardiovascular health. I often refer to information by Dr. Ray Strand, a Medical Doctor (available in books and website). Over the last decade he has changed his practice to include homocysteine testing (an indicator of heart attack risk) along with cholesterol levels. According to his studies he recognizes high cholesterol levels as an indicator of inflammation in the system. Dr. Strand recommends lifestyle changes in diet, stress reduction, and exercise, as well as using nutritional supplements, to reduce inflammation.

Nutritionally he recommends low glycemic foods and less red meat and dairy products. Low glycemic foods is a topic unto itself and well worth learning about to maintain health.

The contents of this article reflect personal research and observations. Consult a health care practitioner if you suspect circulatory issues.
For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177. 

The Importance of Fibre
By Annette Vandendriessche

All too often people make resolutions at New Years, often regarding the status of their weight. Rather than solely looking at our weight we need to address our overall health. The importance of fiber in our diets needs to be addressed.

 Decades ago fiber was poorly understood and individuals like my mother who had digestive and intestinal issues were warned to avoid eating fiber. That advice actually compounded problems. Unfortunately, at the same time that we started to consume less fiber and healthy fats, our consumption of sugar and harmful fats increased. This has led to many ailments in our Western society that can be changed through diet and exercise.

We now understand the importance of eating fiber as people have done for thousands of years. High fiber foods consist of whole grains such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, oats, rye, and quinoa. Another important source is beans such as chick-peas, lentils, navy beans, black beans, and kidney beans. There are many sources of beans from which to choose. Many fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are a rich source of fiber.

Fiber has an important job. It reduces cholesterol levels (the bad kind), which is why you often hear about oatmeal being used to control cholesterol. Fiber prevents chronic constipation and strangely enough even diarrhea. It also helps to reduce the absorption of calories you ingest. Self-induced diets rarely work. What does work is eating more foods with fiber so you feel satisfied and are less likely to reach for the high fat / sugar, low-fiber, processed foods. High fiber foods are also recognized as aids towards preventing colon cancer and even prevention of some forms of kidney stones.

There are a number of types of fiber. Cellulose, pectin, hemi-cellulose, lignin and gums or mucilages are all types of fiber found in foods. Cellulose is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and beans. It increases the bulk of stools and quickens the transit time through the colon, helping to prevent constipation. It also dilutes bile acids that can irritate colon walls and promote cancer.

Pectin is known to those who make jam as the substance used to set jellies or jams. Pectin also appears to counteract bile acids and provide prevention from cancer. It can be found in many fruits.

Hemi-cellulose is fermented in the intestine. In the 1990’s it was still being investigated for cancer prevention. It can be found in some fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lignin represents a small amount of the fiber in foods. It is also believed to have some protective properties.

Gums are a sticky substance often used to thicken foods. Guar gum, oat gum and others are known to greatly reduce cholesterol levels.

During our winter months it can be expensive to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables since they need to be imported. It is interesting to note that the humble, locally grown apple has the first three fibers described. For those who can’t get enough fiber through diet alone, you can take additional fiber such as psyllium.

The contents of this article reflect personal research and observations. Consult a health care practitioner if you have health issues.
For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177. 

Respiratory Allergies
By Annette Vandendriessche

As spring approaches, many of us are eager to go outside and start many of our springtime activities such as gardening. For some people that is difficult to do because of allergies. There are two common types of allergies – food allergies and respiratory allergies. For this article we will be referring to the respiratory allergies which are caused by an overly sensitive immune response to substances (e.g. pollen, dust) in the environment.

Reactions to respiratory allergies can include congestion, sinus discharge, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy eyes, sinus pain and/ or pressure, coughing, and sore throat. It was a common sight in my childhood home to watch one of my brothers go through the spring ritual of rubbing his eyes and sneezing, while my father went through his annual summer congestion, nose blowing and sneezing. They had mixed feelings towards this time of the year since they both loved outdoor activities, yet both suffered from respiratory allergies.

Allergic reactions are an overly sensitive immune system’s attempt to neutralize irritants. Mast cells  burst. This then releases histamines into the respiratory tissues causing symptoms as previously described to occur.  Many of us are familiar with the term anti-histamines. Products that work to counter the histamines provide relief from the symptoms of respiratory allergies.

It is normal to seek relief when suffering from these symptoms. For those who wish natural alternatives there are herbal combinations available that counteract histamines without the side effects of some drugs. But even better than seeking relief is getting to the source of the issue. Why is the immune system overly sensitive?

According to clinical experience, general detoxification of the body is often required. It is especially necessary to cleanse the colon and the liver. Doing so will often desensitize and stabilize the immune reactions in the respiratory membranes. There is a strong link between the health of the digestive system and the respiratory system. Which is why clearing the intestines may greatly reduce the duration and intensity of a cold.

Homeopathics may also help to desensitize the body to allergens. By ingesting a highly diluted remedy made from the very thing you are allergic to, you can gradually reduce the reaction to it. Bee pollen that is local to the area in which you live is known to have a similar effect.

It was through the efforts of my mother’s research, before the days of Internet, that my Father was able to overcome his allergies. Through an entire winter he ate a raw spring onion and some locally produced unpasteurised honey. After a year of doing so he not only overcame his allergies but he had no colds during that winter (possibly because his onion breath kept infected people at a distance!)

The contents of this article reflect personal research and observations. Consult a health care practitioner if you have health issues.
For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177. 

Food Allergies
By Annette Vandendriessche

Like respiratory allergies, food allergies indicate an excessive immune reaction. According to many herbalists this is due to improperly digested food, or food that is incompatible with a person’s blood type. (To learn more about eating right for your blood type refer to Peter d’Adamo’s books and research.)

The many possible symptoms of food allergies can vary greatly and may include gastrointestinal disturbances (inflammatory bowel disorders and leaky gut syndrome), respiratory and lymphatic congestion, rashes, fatigue, headaches, autoimmune disorders, hyperactivity, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and even emotional disturbances. Many health problems can be traced back to food allergies.

There are several ways to test for allergies. A couple of natural ways recommended by a well known herbalist are the following: Take the pulse, eat a small amount of a food, and test the pulse again. Any food that raises the pulse more than six beats per minute after ingestion is probably an allergen. A better method involves eliminating the suspect food for a few days. You could even do a juice and water fast for a couple of days. If symptoms improve, then food allergies may be involved. Re-introduce the suspect food and if symptoms reappear that confirms the issue of a possible allergy.

The most important supplement to help with food allergies are enzymes since allergies are often associated with poorly digested food. According to clinical observations the liver often requires detoxification to overcome food allergies. Trace minerals may also need to be used to increase enzyme function.

As with respiratory allergies, food allergies can also be helped with homeopathics. They can help to desensitize a person’s response to a food.

Many food allergies are also associated with intestinal problems, especially Leaky Gut Syndrome. In this situation, allergic reactions to raw unprocessed foods such as strawberries can often be overcome by taking very tiny amounts of the offending food and gradually increasing them. This works when the “allergy” is not actually to the food, but rather the food is stirring up a toxin in the body (hence the need for liver and colon cleanses) and creates the symptoms of an allergy.

Taking care of the intestinal system and the liver is an important key to health and happiness.

The contents of this article reflect personal research and observations. Consult a health care practitioner if you have health issues.
For further information or to set an appointment for a personal consultation call 613-337-5177.

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