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THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

In many respects the digestive system is the most important set of organs in the body for it is here that what we absorb all the nutrients we need in order for all our cells to function and hence for us to survive. The old adage "We Are What We Eat" has a lot of validity, since poor nutrition can lead not only to problems such as constipation, flatulence or diarrhea but also to more general ailments like headache,chronic tiredness poor concentration and memeory loss.

The digestive system is also an integral part of our immune defences, recognizing potentially toxic substances and either breaking them down into safer compounds or else eliminating them. Western dietary and life style habits have created their own disorders, from gastric ulcers to constipation and irritable bowel syndrome; this last condition has become something of a "waste-basket diagnosis" - if nothing else shows up, then that is what you have! Treatment for this should really be individual, such as stress, diet, posture and exercise all play part in each person's symptoms.

Acidity And Heartburn
Many people get accasional bouts of acids dyspepsia, usually related to temporary problem such as having eaten rich, spicy foods or having eaten too quickly when feeling rushed and stressed. If the symptoms happen very regularly, you may need to look more carefully at what you eat and how fast you eat it. If there is a persistant discomfort, seek professional treatment.

Heartburn Symptoms. When excess acid leaks back up into the gullet, this inflames and irritate the lining of the oesophagus and the feeling of heartburn is produced. Taking antacid tablets regularly may not only mask underlying problems, but can slao be counter-productive as the stomach tries to compensate by creating more acid!

Digestive disturbances generally respond very well indeed to herbal treatment, and acid dyspepsia can be improved considerably.
For a temporary problem choose:

Chamomile
( chamomilla) infusion; a relaxant & anti-inflamatory remedy that helps the whole digestive tract; if acid symptoms are related to stress or over-eating of rich foods, this herb makes an excellant choice. Lemon Balm another excellant herb where the condition is caused by stress; if available use the fresh leaves for much fine flavor.

COLIC
Colic is the term used to discribe spamodic bouts of cramping pains, especially in the bowel which often assosiated with trapped gas. The symptoms may be related to tension generally, but if there are other digestive disturbances, do see your doctor.

For an occasional attack of colic, use hot teas of Catmint, Chamomile, Fennel, Mint, or chewing of few of the Fennel seeds, or Aniseed after a meal can help you a lot if you are prone to colic after eating.
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Constipation

This problem that is largely confined to a typical Western Diet and Lifestyle. Inadequate amonuts of dietary fibers and perhaps a lack of exercise, lead to the slow passage of faeces through the bowel and this allows water to be re-absorbed, leaving hardened, rabbit-like stools. The frequency of bowel movements is less important than the harder consitancy; straining can cause piles (Hemorrhoids).

Types of constipation. There are essentially two types of constipation. Where there is inadequate fibre and a sluggish digestive system, treatment should be aimed at toning up the bowel; when constipation is linked to high level os stress and spasm, treatment may nedd to focus on relaxation and even reducing excessive fibre such as bran. If in doubt seek professional treatment, as the regular use of laxatives may be completely counter-productive. There are good reasons to look for more natural ways!

Herbal treatment. Always start with gentle laxatives, or aperients, which increase bowel tone without giving griping. One of the best is Dandellion Root, ideally taken as decoction, or you may get a gentle action from one of the Dandelion coffee drinks on the market.

Flatulence
The accumulation of gas in the stomach or intestines can occur as an isolated event, for instance after a meal containing particularly wind-producing foods, or can be a constant, chronic sign of digestive problem. In the latter case, it may indicate a condition such as diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome, and these will need to be addressed in order to sort out the causes of flatulence.

Eating Habits. A useful starting point for self-treatment of flatulence is to look at eating habits; are you eating very quickly, while tense, or grabbing a bite to eat "on the run"? This is likely to lead to swollowin gas with the food; inadequate digestive enzymes may be produced and the meal can ferment in the intestines rather than be properly digested. This leads to more gas being created and flatulence gets worse! Also take care not to do bending, or sitting curled up on a low sofa, immediately after a meal, as this encourages a gas build-up with bloating and painfull abdominal cramps.

Herbal treatment. A number of herbal teas are excellent at relieving flatulence, but do remember that if this is a major problem to get professional herbal treatment. Choose from Catmint, Chamomile, Lemon Blam or pepermint if the problem in the stomach; any of these plus Dill or Fennel if the small intestines seems to be affected, and Ginger or Peppermint for bowel flatulence.

Indigestion
Indigestion is a general term for discomfort, often accompanied by bloating, acidity, heartburn, nausea or bowel disturbances. Usually it is a temporary problem, brought about by eating too much or the wrong kind of foods, excess alchohol or from stress. Long-term digestive pains may be caused among other reasons by taking aspirin-related drugs, by heavy smoking or other digestive ailments.

Herbal remedies. Herbal teas in the first place may well sort out the immediate indigestion, Choose from: Chamomile, for the effect of over-eating, also if in a stressed state; Lemon Blam, for nervous indigestion; related to meals or not settles a churning stomach. Meadowsweet for acid indigestion especially if accomapanied by some looseness in the bowels.

Diarrehea
Loose frequent bowel movements can happen as a short-term reaction to infection, inflammation or food poisoning and as such are quite a positive, cleansing action. A common experience is holiday diarrhea, and this is usually a response to exposure to unfamiliar bacteria.

Causes of diarrhea. Some foods have a laxative effect naturally, for instance prunes or figs, so over-indulgence will give temporary diarrhea. Stress and anxiety often increase peristlasis and hurry bowel contents through. Repeated diarrhea may indicate more complexe digestive problems and should be treated professionally. Prolonged diarrhea, especially in young children, can be quite serious as it causes dehydration; ensure adequate fluid intake and see you doctor the soonest.  A simple yet dramatically effective rehydration drink can be made by dessolving 5ml (1tsp) salt and 15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar in 600 ml (1 pt/ 2 1/2 cups) of boiled water. Keep in the refrigerator in a screw-topped bottle, and give small amounts frequently; Use for a short itme only.

Herbal treatment. If a mild food poisoning of infection has upset the bowels, try eating garlic as a natural gut disinfectant. Agrimony; astringent and healing to the inflamed and swollen membrane lining the gut, helful in mild gastro-enteritis. Chamomile: calming and anti-inflammatory, reduces the impsact of tension on the digestive tract. This is one of the first herbs to think of in many digestive disorders.

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