Digestive problems are the No. 1 problem in North America. These diseases,
encompassing everything from hemorrhoids to colon cancer, result in more time lost—at
work, school, and play—than any other health problem. They also appear to be
occurring with much more frequency—while many of them were almost unheard of in our
grandparents’ times, they are cropping up more and more and at an earlier and earlier
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common complaint: some 10
to 20 percent of the population experiences the diverse symptoms this syndrome causes. IBS
goes by several different names. It is also called spastic colon, spastic bowel, mucous
colitis, spastic colitis, colitis, intestinal neurosis, and functional bowel disease
As its name indicates, it is a collection of symptoms
that can appear in any number of combinations. These symptoms include bloating, gas,
diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and spasms, and
nausea. The pain is often triggered by eating, so people suffering from IBS don’t
always eat enough, which results in malnutrition.
Most health practitioners agree that there is no set
cause of IBS, and that food allergies, medication, stress, hormone changes, low fiber
intake, infection, parasites, lactose intolerance, laxatives, and antibiotic abuse could
all be involved. In fact, the consensus is that just about anything that disturbs our
intestinal bacterial balance—the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria—could
have a hand in causing IBS. IBS is not serious in that it is not life-threatening;
however, it makes for a very uncomfortable life.
In IBS, the normal rhythm of the muscular contractions
of the digestive tract becomes irregular and uncoordinated—the body’s digestive
system usually churns along like a good washing machine, but in IBS, the "wash
cycle" is irregular, and this interferes with movement of food and water. This means
that the food, instead of "rinsing out" of the body efficiently, accumulates in
the digestive tract, which, in turn, leads to the accumulation of mucus and toxins in the
intestines. The result of this is that gas and stool do not flow freely, and, viola,
the above-mentioned symptoms begin to appear.
Because many of the IBS symptoms are the same as those
found in more serious digestive problems (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative
colitis), the first thing to do is to eliminate the possibility that the symptoms are
related to one of these. After you and your health practitioner are sure that your problem
is IBS, action can be taken.
Many health practitioners feel that food
allergies are the main cause of IBS and recommend being tested for allergic reactions to
foods. Foods that trigger allergies include cheese, milk, chocolate, butter, coffee, eggs,
and nuts. Controlling food allergies often controls IBS.
Dietary changes can help relieve symptoms. Avoid animal
fat, butter, carbonated drinks, chocolate and candy, dairy products, fried foods, sugar,
food additives, alcohol, and tobacco. Most health practitioners recommend a high-fiber
diet and supplementing with a bulking fiber like psyllium. Drinking plenty of water is
Helpful supplements include aloe vera, peppermint,
chamomile, melissa, valerian, ginger, and chaste berry
Diverticular disease is common among the older set. Estimates are
that 30 to 40 percent of North Americans over age 60 have this problem.
Diverticula are pea-shaped pouches that forms in the
colon wall. The underlying cause of diverticula is constipation: the pressure that
straining produces causes pouches to form at weak points in the colon.
Diverticulosis is the condition of having diverticula
present. This condition is usually symptom-free, and most people do not realize they have
it. However, for a few people, diverticulosis results in spasms and pain.
If the pouches become inflamed or rupture, the condition
is called diverticulitis. This generally occurs when waste matter is trapped in a pouch.
Diverticulitis can result in pain and fever. It may require surgery.
For diverticulitis, antibiotics and a soft-fiber diet
are initially recommended, with a switch to a high-fiber diet as progress is made.
The key to preventing diverticulosis and repeat incidences of
diverticulitis is diet. In the past, a low-fiber diet was recommended. Today, experts
recommend a high-fiber diet—at least 30 grams of fiber a day. Especially good is a
bulk and stool-softening fiber such as psyllium. Plenty of water should be consumed.
Stay away from eating nuts, grains, and seeds, but
well-cooked brown rice is helpful. Eliminate dairy products, red meat, sugar, fried foods,
and spices from the diet. Get plenty of leafy greens, and do not overuse laxatives as they
can irritate the colon wall. Probiotics—"friendly" bacteria or the food
that feeds them—and aloe vera are also recommended.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses two serious
problems: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These two diseases are similar but
have different characteristics. They also share many of the symptoms of IBS.
.Diet plays an important role in IBD. Epidemiological
studies have shown that populations that consume plenty of fiber and a minimum of sugar
rarely experience IBD. There is also a positive correlation between cigarette smoking and
fast food and IBD.
.IBD is considered an autoimmune disease—that is,
the body’s immune system attacks itself. There is no set cause of IBD. Theories
center around infection, hypersensitivity to antigens (the body components that stimulate
the immune system) in the gut wall, inflammation of blood vessels that results in less
blood getting to tissue (ischemia), and food sensitivities. These causes may be
IBS can result in abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea,
fever, rectal bleeding, constipation, and weight loss.
Ulcerative colitis is the continuous inflammation
of the mucosal lining of the colon and/or rectum. Once this inflammation is established,
it remains forever. Ulcerative colitis can be quite mild or very severe. The most common
symptoms are diarrhea and bleeding.
A correct diet is important in combating ulcerative
colitis. Because it may be partially due to food sensitivities, you should keep a daily
record of foods and how they may affect you. In general, you should eat plenty of
vegetables. If you cannot tolerate them raw, steam them. A high-fiber diet is beneficial,
as is consuming plenty of garlic and drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. You
should avoid carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and caffeine.
Chron's disease also results in
inflammation, but it can occur anywhere from the mouth to the rectum. It usually occurs in
the colon near the ileocecal valve, which separates the contents of the small intestine
and colon. The inflammation in Crohn’s disease goes much deeper than that in
ulcerative colitis, and it can result in abscesses and fistulas (a narrow passage formed
by disease or injury, as one leading from an abscess to a free surface).
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include chronic
diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, fever, headaches, malabsorption of nutrients, and loss of
energy, appetite, and weight. "Nondigestive" symptoms include canker sores in
the mouth and clubbed fingernails.
Crohn’s disease strikes when its victims are at a
young age: between the ages of 14 and 30, and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in
children. Attacks occur every few months to every few years, and, if attacks continue,
long-term bowel function may deteriorate and the risk for colon cancer increases some 20
According to Francisco Contreras, M.D., non-complicated
Crohn’s disease responds to garlic, vitamin A, and beta carotene, and diets that
avoid the consumption of well-known allergenic substances found in wheat, milk, corn, and
Dietary recommendations include eating nonacidic fresh
or cooked vegetables. These include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, spinach,
and garlic. As always, plenty of liquids should be consumed and the "usual"
foods avoided: refined carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, and red
meat. Probiotics may aid in digestion, and aloe vera may soften stool. Stress is also a
factor, so it is important to keep stress levels down. Studies have also indicated that
fish oil may limit reoccurrences.
Leaky gut syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is the name given for the condition that
allows larger food particles to pass through the gut wall. Ordinarily, only properly
digested food permeates through the intestinal wall. When this wall is damaged, larger
particles, such a partially digested food and toxins, pass through. The body does not
recognize them and activates the immune system to search and destroy. The result is
Leaky gut syndrome is linked to autoimmune diseases such
as arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and IBD. Many health
practitioners see leaky gut syndrome as the underlying cause of many food allergies and
food sensitivities because the body begins to recognize many types of food as foreign.
When food slips through the intestinal wall, the body automatically goes into attack mode.
Eventually, the body habitually recognizes these foods as the "enemy," and every
time you eat them, the body reacts—you have a food sensitivity.
There is no single cause of leaky gut syndrome.
Antibiotics, caffeine and alcohol, chemicals and other environmental pollutants, stress,
poor diet, parasites, yeast, and bacteria could all contribute to a leaky gut.
Many health practitioners recommend a hypoallergenic
diet. Sugar, white flour products, wheat, oats, dairy products, high-fat foods, alcohol,
and foods often linked to sensitivities and allergies must be eliminated for periods of
time to see if problems result. If so, they should be eliminated from your diet.
How you eat is also important. Chew food more thoroughly
and attempt to eat frequent small meals instead of a few large meals.
Natural antibiotics such as echinacea, garlic, and
colloidal silver may be helpful, as well as probiotics.
Candidiasis is a fungal infection. It is caused by candida
albicans, bacterium that is found in small amounts in nearly everyone. When the
bacteria multiple, they can cause health problems. Most of us know this condition by a
number of names: Candidiasis is called a yeast infection in the vagina, a fungal
infection in the fingernails, and thrush in the throat. What many of us do not know is
that candidiasis is indeed a digestive problem.
C. albicans can colonize the digestive tract. When the
colonies grow unchecked, they produce powerful toxins that are absorbed into the
bloodstream. The toxins then travel throughout the body, resulting in many different
symptoms. These include abdominal bloating, anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, depression,
environmental sensitivities, fatigue, food sensitivities, fuzzy thinking, insomnia, low
blood sugar, mood swings, PMS, recurring vaginal or bladder infections, ringing in the
ears, and sensitivities to perfume, cigarettes, or fabric odors. C. albicans also
affect the immure system, hormone balance, and the thought process.
C. albicans grow out of control when the friendly bacteria
that keep them in check are destroyed. This can happen because of antibiotics, birth
control pills, and steroid medications.
To control C. albicans, look first to your diet. Stop
consuming dairy products (except yogurt), red and processed meats, yeast-based food such
as breads and pastries, alcoholic beverages, dried fruits, mushrooms, and products
containing sugar and vinegar. You should consume pre and probiotics (which are the food
that feeds the friendly bacteria and the friendly bacteria themselves) and eat foods such
as yogurt, which contain friendly bacteria. Certain foods and supplements can kill C.
albicans. These include garlic and grapefruit seed extract.
When C. albicans are killed, they often produce a
"detoxification" type response, which is often worse than the symptoms. This is
known as the die-off reaction or the Herxheimer reaction. Because of this, you should
begin any program that controls C. albicans slowly.