Abdominal Pain and Gut Problems

Information and suggestions to consider for abdominal pain and gut problems.

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP

abdominal painThe base of the stomach is separated from the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum) by the pyloric sphincter. This valve controls the release of the now acidified contents of the stomach into the alkaline small intestine.

The small intestine is where the majority of nutrient absorption takes place. This twenty-foot long organ is alkaline. The inside surface of the small intestine should vaguely resemble shag carpet. Each shaggy thread, or villus, has a very thin surface. The total absorptive surface area of the small intestine is comparable to a tennis court. Immediately under the surface is a dense capillary bed. It is through the thin surface membrane and into the bloodstream via the capillary bed that nutrients are absorbed and transported throughout the body. Poor diet choices (white flour, milk, cheese, cheap chocolate, etc.) clog up the surfaces of the villi, preventing the movement of nutrients into the bloodstream.

To unclog the surface of the villi one must increase the fibre and water in the diet. Fibre is nature’s scouring pad, and all scouring pads need water. Whole grains, vegetables with the skins on, fruit (depending on the climate), nuts and seeds, and lentils and legumes are good ways to increase fibre in one’s diet. Adequate fluid, taken between meals, is important to help loosen and wash away any ‘gunk.’ Supplemental fibre can be taken in the form of Loclo or Psyllium Hulls. Psyllium seed is especially good if there is an irritation in the intestinal tract.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Canada Nature’s Sunshine Products USA
Loclo Loclo
Psyllium Hulls Combination Psyllium Hulls Combination
Psyllium Seed Psyllium Seed

 People with conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and other intestinal disorders have flattened villi. Their small intestine looks like linoleum instead of shag carpet. This seriously reduces the absorptive surface area (to a surface of approximately six inches wide and twenty-five feet long) and can lead to being undernourished in spite of seemingly adequate calories being taken in. This problem is correctable with diet (Food and the Gut Reaction, Elaine Gottschall) and nutritional supplements. Two of the most common offending food groups for this problem are soy and gluten-bearing foods (wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, etc.). Two herbal formulas that were specifically designed for intestinal problems are CLT-X and UC3-J. These are excellent combinations that I have used with many clients for problems ranging from intestinal bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea to ulcerative colitis. Sometimes the addition of extra slippery elm is warranted also.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Canada Nature’s Sunshine Products USA
UC3-J Intestinal Soothe & Build
Slippery Elm Slippery Elm, capsules
Slippery Elm, powder

I have had especially good results with using slippery elm in bulk. Up to ¼ cup, mixed with warm water and a little honey or molasses to make a ‘hot cereal,’ taken before each meal, has led to some wonderful healing and has promoted weight gain in people who were wasting.

The Essential Liquid Minerals provide easily assimilated trace minerals that are critical to the functioning of every body system.

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Essential Liquid Minerals Ionic Minerals w/Acai

abdominal painThe large intestine or colon is short, being only about five feet long. Its main purpose is to absorb fluid and mineral salts from the very soupy stuff (chyme) that is moving through the intestinal tract, to make a semi-solid fecal mass. As with the esophagus and small intestine, the contents of the bowel are propelled along by peristalsis. If the bowel is moving ‘stuff’ along too slowly, absorption of some of the toxic waste takes place. Your body didn’t want to deal with this toxicity in the first place; that’s why it made it to the bowel without being absorbed the first time. To absorb it now only puts an added strain on the liver, kidneys, and skin to eliminate it.

Fibre is a stimulant for the gastrointestinal tract. The function of the entire GI tract is largely dependent on how full it is. Think of fibre as being like feathers tickling the GI tract. The more the tract gets tickled, the more it is stimulated to squeeze its contents along. This is called peristalsis. Fibre is found only in plant-source foods that have not been refined. There is no fibre in dairy products, meat, or white flour.

Where there is chronic diarrhoea, fibre might be the right answer. (Other possible solutions will be addressed later in this article.) Diarrhoea is sometimes the result of chyme moving through the intestinal tract too quickly. When diarrhoea is not the result of an infection like the flu, bulking the chyme up with fibre (not bran, which may irritate an already cranky GI tract) may actually slow down the movement of the fluid and allow the body to assimilate the fluid and nutrients it should from the chyme.

Constipation can be the result of many things. Genetics certainly plays a part in this, but sometimes I think it is the cookbook that is inherited more than a lazy bowel. We often eat similarly to the way our parents ate. If we were taught to eat a low fibre diet (lots of refined and packaged foods, high dairy consumption, lots of meat) we will be as constipated as our parents were. If we change our eating habits and include more vegetables we will almost always improve the functioning of the bowel. I teach my clients and students that their daily intake of vegetables should be equal to one serving the size of their closed fist for every twenty-five pounds of body weight. This provides the large amounts of fibre and minerals necessary for improved bowel function. For herbal support to correct constipation, LB-X or LBS II are good choices.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Canada Nature’s Sunshine Products USA
LBS II LBS II, capsules
LBS II, vegitabs

Diarrhoea can certainly be the result of allergies, poor food choices, and bad nerves, but as often as not, it is the result of a blockage in the bowel. When there is a narrowed spot in the bowel, or when some chyme has dried out and gotten lodged where it doesn’t belong, a blockage can form. Often the only thing that can get around a blockage is fluid. This will often manifest as constipation alternating with diarrhoea. This is not a good time to use fibre or bowel stimulants. This is where an enema with abdominal massage should be used to dislodge the blockage and get it moving.

There is plenty of debate about what constitutes a good bowel movement and healthy bowel function. Most holistic people are agreed that there should optimally be one bowel movement for each meal, and that food should take between 14 and 20 hours to pass through the system. The colour will depend on the foods eaten. Beets may ‘bleed’ red colour into the feces, while a diet high in green vegetables or chlorophyll will produce green bowel movements. Should they sink or float? Sinking and floating are dependent on fat, fibre, and fluid content. There is not a good consensus on the sink vs. float debate. Once again, however, all are agreed that bowel movements should be easy to pass, should be of a semi-soft consistency, and that ‘nature’s call’ should be heeded when it is given.

There are specific foods that can be used therapeutically to enhance the digestive process. Bitter greens (think of the wonderful little interesting leafy ‘lettuces’ that are so popular) are a marvellous stimulant for digestive juices. These need to be well chewed. Raw vegetables are made up largely of cellulose (virtually plant plastic), for which humans do not have a digestive enzyme. The only way we derive nutrition from raw foods is to chew them until they are liquid, which is how thoroughly we should chew all of our foods anyway. These ‘bitter greens’ do stimulate the production of a myriad of digestive enzymes.

The small and large intestines need fibre. As mentioned earlier fibre ‘tickles’ the intestines into behaving with their peristaltic action. Fibre serves added benefits like preventing colon cancer and reducing cholesterol. It is my opinion that fibre should be in the form of whole foods like potatoes with the skin, cucumbers with the skin, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Nature’s Sunshine Products Loclo and Psyllium Hulls Combination are also excellent sources of fibre.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Canada Nature’s Sunshine Products USA
Loclo Loclo
Psyllium Hulls Combination Psyllium Hulls Combination

The bowel has a preference for specific nutrition also. Its favourite mineral is magnesium. Calcium taken alone or not in the proper balance with magnesium will lead to constipation. To promote bowel function, magnesium is a must. Too much magnesium can cause diarrhoea. Foods that provide magnesium are yellow in colour. This list includes corn (well chewed) and all yellow and orange squashes.

There has been a lot of discussion over the years concerning food combining. It is important to remember that an eating plan that works in a warm climate (California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida) is not appropriate for colder climates like Montana and Canada. The general principles of food combining are: protein rich foods may only be eaten with non-starchy vegetables; starchy vegetables and foods may only be combined with non-starchy vegetables; protein foods should never be eaten with starches of any kind; and fruit should always be eaten alone because of its very high carbohydrate content. This eating plan may not be truly necessary for all people; however, for those with digestive problems it can certainly be a blessing. Starches require an alkaline medium for thorough digestion. Protein requires an acidic environment. The enzymes that are present when starches are being digested inhibit the enzymes that are needed for protein digestion. So, if there are digestive problems, ranging from intestinal gas to cramping, food combining might be the easiest answer.

Natural solutions for stomach and intestinal problems are abundant. It may simply require a bit of trial and error to find the best solutions for your situation.

Find Part 1 – Stomach Pain and Digestive Problems – here.

If you have concerns about your health, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available. I also invite you to like us on Facebook and visit our other websites:
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Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).

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