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Everyday there is new research published on the importance of exercise. There are numerous benefits, from the obvious advantages of weight reduction, muscle-fat ratio, cardiac health and metabolism to memory and brain function. Some of the most exciting studies recently published have shown exercise significantly improves the digestive tract and many disorders involving the gut.
Overall health benefits of exercise include:
Exercise and your Gut
Recent research on how exercise effects digestion and the gut has produced some very interesting results. The gist of the research shows what nutritionists and homeopaths have been saying for quite some time…BALANCE is the key!
The gut has been said to have a “second brain.” What this means is that although the digestive tract does not produce emotional responses or memory, over 100 million neurons regulate digestion without any input from you. The digestive tract decides when to move food from your stomach to your small intestine, when to release necessary hormones and when to get rid of the waste.
Dr. Gershon found in his research and detailed in his book entiltled “The Second Brain” (6) that the ‘feel good’ hormone seratonin is prolific in the digestive tract and governs the actions required for normal activity as well as protective responses.
“Serotonin in the gut can mobilize inflammation, detect potential invaders, and essentially get the gut to mount a full-fledged defensive reaction,” says Gershon.
There are many reasons the digestive tract can go off track. Prolonged dietary factors, drugs, mental/emotional disturbances and heredatary factors all can play a role. What can we do to rectify a faulty digestive system?
Exercise is one of the first things shown to have an immediate reaction in a positve way for the gut.
In Julia Edelstein’s article “Your Guide to Digestive Health” (7) she lists “5 Healthy Gut Strategies” and the first one listed is exercise! She states: “1. Commit to exercise. Exercise gets the colon moving, helping you maintain regularity. It’s also useful when dealing with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS: A recent Swedish study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that people who exercised three to five times a week for 12 weeks had significant improvement in IBS symptoms; non-exercisers didn’t see the same benefits.”
While exercising, your heart rate and rate of breathing are increased so that the muscles that support the digestive tract get toned just like the other muscles in your body which aid in improving the mechanical action of your gut and stimulate the ability of the intestinal muscles to contract properly.
Besides being having good muscle tone and physically fit, exercise helps prevent and treat problems (including those in your gut) and may lead to a longer, healthier life so get out there and start your exercise program today even if it’s just a nice walk. Start slow and build up from there and it will not be long before you start seeing results both in your digestion and your overall well being!
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
For the last couple of years, everyone has been talking about our lack of and need for probiotics for numerous reasons. Finally though, the research is in on the importance of PREBIOTICS! What are they? Do we need them? And, if so, how does one get them?
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics (inulin) are food ingredients that are not digested but rather stay in your bowel and feed and promote the growth of the beneficial gut bacteria, which are crucial to our digestive health and overall well being. Prebiotics have been shown to contribute to gut health in several ways:
1) Prebiotics feed the probiotics (good bacteria) ingested.
2) They help repair damage to the lining of the gut.
3) They increase calcium and magnesium absorption.
4) Provide a healthy soluble fiber to the bowel.
5) Improve a host’s immune system.
6) Help with balancing colon pH( lowering colon cancer risk)
7) Aid in remission for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis
8) Allow the probiotics to ‘colonize’ in the gut.
Prebiotics are found in many of our everyday foods such as bananas (only 1% by weight), onions, garlic, jicama and jerusalem artichokes (in their raw forms). By and far though, the most concentrated and easily utilized is the inulin source found in chicory root (over 64% by weight). It is interesting to note that research has found that breast milk, as the first food, sets up our digestive tracts to produce this symbiotic relationship. The downward trend in breastfeeding may also be a contributing factor in so many digestive problems and disease in the western world today.
Why have I not heard more about them?
Two reasons…The first reason is that only in recent years have our diets become so compromised, causing dysfunction in the entire digestive system. This is due to the over abundance of processed foods, sugar consumption, increased use of trans-fats and the overzealous prescribing of antibiotics. Before this occurred in our diets there was no need to know about prebiotics as they were just naturally found in the common combinations of foods we normally ate which contained both prebiotic and probiotic activity.
The 2nd reason we haven’t heard more about prebiotics is that because of the above, research related to bacterias role in gut issues is new and only in 1995 did a researcher named Marcel Roberfroid single them out and understand their necessary function in our digestive tracts. He has since done many subsequent studies showing diminished prebiotic and probiotic activity and availability of our modern-day diet intake and consequences.
How do I get prebiotics?
Eating foods that contain prebiotics is the first place to start but you need to consider the source. For instance, to eat enough bananas to get a minimal amount of prebiotics, you you would need to eat a pound and a half! That would be a lot of calories and too much fruit sugar! Many fermented and cultured foods are good as they contain both prebiotic and probiotics. If you are supplementing with probiotics you certainly should be adding in the prebiotics so that the probiotics grow and colonize in the gut! Inulin from chicory is the best addition found, when taken with probiotics.
What Should I Eat?
Diverticulitistinfo.com finds that you should stick to some simple, commonsense rules when developing a healthy gut/bowel:
It is helpful to stick to these rules as well as changing your whole diet to be healthier. Eat fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, nuts and whole grains with raw dairy as well as fermented and cultured foods.
What If I am Not Getting Enough Prebiotics?
If you aren’t getting enough prebiotics in your diet and especially if you are having digestive problems, you may need to take a supplement to get your digestion back in balance. Food supplements with raw chicory root (Healthy Bowel Support) as an ingredient are especially beneficial.
Chicory root gives support for the digestive system by providing the needed prebiotics and by increasing the flow of bile. Bile breaks down fats whilst helping to digest your food. Chicory also helps with blood composition and aids with blood sugar levels. Chicory has also been found to have a beneficial effect in fighting salmonella and other diarrhea type disorders.
People with digestive troubles often live their lives in constant fear of eating because it will cause them pain to digest their food. Besides the dietary suggestions offered above the other two easy things you can do to help improve your digestion is:
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
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Many people who report that they experience symptoms of IBS also have panic attacks and vice versa. The exact connection between them is contested, but it is believed that the connection involves a major nerve which is local to the digestive system and which is involved in the fight or flight responses. Muscle tension may also play a role in both. This is why anxiety and depression are common in patients with IBS, and why patients who suffer from mental illness sometimes develop IBS-like symptoms. Panic attacks are one more form of mental illness which can accompany IBS—or spawn IBS symptoms. What should you know about panic attacks and how to treat them?
Panic attacks usually start suddenly. Sometimes there is an identifiable source of panic—an unresolved worry which is not a clear and imposing danger, but which is there nonetheless. Other times, panic attacks begin seemingly out of the blue, with no obvious trigger. Symptoms vary, but a typical panic attack may include a fast or irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing or hyperventilation, vertigo, shortness of breath, faintness, constriction in the chest, nausea, and feelings of unreality or separation from reality. You may experience other more unusual symptoms as well, like discomfort in your skin or a feeling of pounding in your veins. There are often feelings of impending doom. A person having a panic attack may believe that he or she is going to die, or that he or she is going to go insane.
Panic attacks typically peak at 10 minutes; they typically last minutes, but can last hours, and often leave after-effects that may linger for longer. If you are having a panic attack, there are several things you can remind yourself of to try and curtail the length of yours. The first is to remember that IBS can cause panic attacks, and that something as simple as indigestion can trigger feelings of panic, which can in turn lead to a panic attack. It doesn’t mean that you are in danger. And if you remember that the panic attack will typically pass within a relatively short time period, this provides negative feedback against the panic attack, abbreviating its length.
Another important thing to know about panic attacks is that they involve surges of adrenaline and chemical imbalances in the body. These chemicals and hormones can linger in the body for a while before you come down off the “high” of an adrenaline rush. The best thing to do is just wait it out and try to find a way to relax and distract yourself. Whatever you do, try not to fixate on the panic attack, or start believing in the story that the panic is telling you.
Panic attacks are a common complication of IBS, and the first time you experience one, it can be terrifying, but after a while, you will probably get a handle on them. There are patients who resort to anti-anxiety medications, but even doctors are generally not swift to prescribe these since they can be addicting, and can cause many unpleasant side effects, both physical and psychological.
There are many better approaches, including cognitive therapy, relaxation techniques, and exercise, spending more time outdoors, and making time in your life to enjoy positive and constructive activities. Spending time with people you love can help you to gain perspective. The worst thing you can do is identify with your panic attacks. Just remember that they belong to your IBS and not you. You are not your IBS, and you are not your psychological disorder. You are bigger than both, and by working to overcome one, you automatically take steps toward treating and resolving the other. There are several homeopathic remedies that can help with panic attacks such as Aconitum Nap, Argentum Nitricum and Phosphorus. The Emotional Balance Kit has helped many with ongoing panic attacks especially with gut issues.
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
For many patients, medications are not the best way to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Medications may be ineffectual or may have so many side effects that they aren’t ultimately worth it, which is why so many patients look to alternative treatments for IBS relief. One treatment which is popular for IBS patients is acupuncture. How effective is acupuncture at treating IBS symptoms and causes, and how does it work?
From a western medical point of view, how acupuncture works is not entirely clear. One possibility is that acupuncture needles help to convey electromagnetic signals which in turn can help to motivate the healing process or the release of chemicals which can provide relief from pain and discomfort. Traditionally, the concept behind acupuncture’s effectiveness is the presence of qi, a kind of life energy. Acupuncture stimulates the flow of qi. While western doctors do not believe in qi, they do believe the body is a collection of energy systems, so in some sense their explanation of how acupuncture might work is simply another model for how it could provide relief for pain and correction in other health issues.
Interested in acupuncture for IBS, but not all that excited about the idea of being poked with needles? Most equate needles with the type we have had while getting ‘shots’ from the Dr. In acupuncture the needles are much, much thinner (some say the width of a strand of hair) and the majority of those who have had acupuncture report it to be painless. Patients who are still totally leery of needles but still interested in acupuncture can try out acupressure, a similar system which doesn’t involve the use of needles, but which stimulates the same points in the body, improving the flow of energy. Many acupuncturists also do acupressure treatments and vice versa.
One great thing about acupuncture is that it’s a completely natural alternative therapy. It can help you to feel better without having adverse side effects. In fact, it may even have positive side effects. Oftentimes acupuncture provides holistic benefits. You may find that it isn’t just your IBS that starts to feel better, but that you experience improvements and relief affecting other aspects of your health at the same time.
Check around in your area to see if there is an acupuncturist or acupressurist near you who can help you with the IBS. Some acupuncturists offer free consultations before actual treatment. Others may charge more for your initial visit and less for subsequent visits later on. Call and ask in advance so you can find the best deal, and ask for referrals from other patients so you can find a really good acupuncturist. Not all acupuncture services are equal, which can be another reason for discrepancies in studies. Be optimistic about your healing process, do what you can to relieve stress in your life, take healthy supplements to support your digestive system, and good luck!
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
1. Eat Whole, Unpackaged, Unprocessed Food
This is the 1st and most important change you can make that will bring about a healthy change in your entire digestive tract. Whole foods that are not processed and pre-cooked (canned or packaged) such as fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, nuts & whole grains is the place to start. Many say just making 4 goals is helpful like:
a) No fast food
b) No canned food
c) Cut out all processed sugar
d) No white flour
2. Reduce Inflammation in the Digestive Tract
The most important step here is to make sure any infections in the gut are addressed including overgrowth of normal bacteria such as candida (yeast). Making sure you have enough Omega-3’s in your diet help reduce inflammation as well as Turmeric.
3. Repair & Regenerate Damage in the Gut
Most of us have suffered from (or are now having) some type of digestive issues. It can be as simple as reoccurring bloating and/or gas to much more bothersome and life-disrupting. There is an extensive list that could be included such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, GERD, Reflux, heartburn, diverticulitis and more. It is reported that over 100 million Americans have digestive problems. In the U.S. the local drug stores carry over 200 over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for digestive problems, many that have shown to actually cause more (and potentially worse) digestive problems!
Digestive problems are one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor’s office. Making matters worse, few realize that digestive issues actually cause or complicate other problems in the body, leading to more and sometimes much worse illnesses like arthritis, autoimmune disorders, anxiety & depression, allergies, acne, cancer and more.
The most common causes of digestive problems are our modern day diets that are high in sugar, calories and bad fats with not enough fiber, vitamins and minerals. Another culprit is the overuse of antibiotics and other medicines that damage the gut…especially the lining!
Your gut (and thus your entire body) is regulated and protected by the lining in your gut. When that lining/barrier is damaged, you become sick and foods you would normally digest perfectly either all of a sudden or gradually start giving you problems. Then your immune system becomes overactive you begin producing inflammation throughout your body.
Often, if this goes unchecked your enteric nervous system, or your guts ‘brain’ start to ‘misfire’ messages to your brain and your health will suffer more.
Your gut also has to rid itself of the waste (toxins) produced by your metabolism, through your liver. If things don’t eliminate properly (like when you are constipated), then your whole system can become toxic and your health will suffer more.
4. Increase Your Own Enzymatic Activity
Enzymes are a key component for digestion in the gut. Without the proper enzymes or enough of them you will not be able to break down the foods you eat into the raw materials necessary to your body and brain. So most go out and buy digestive enzymes to take with their food to make things better. And they do UNTIL you stop taking them! The problem is that when you supply what is missing from the gut instead of creating balance you still have not fixed the problem but have ‘put a band-aid on it’, so to speak. Live plant enzymes like (DigestPlus) nourish the body to produce its own proper enzymatic balance so true healing is accomplished.
5. Balance Your Digestive Microbial Environment
Because of our history of with processed foods, bad fats, too much sugar & too many calories and way too many antibiotics and other medicines most of us do not have the correct ratio of good to bad bacteria causing many problems in our guts! Many have turned to probiotic supplements. Again, this will help to start but we must do more than ‘supplement’, we need to help the body do what it is supposed to do namely produce its own good bacteria and destroy the bad. How do we do this? By eating correctly as stated before and remembering to take prebiotics WITH your probiotics (like Healthy Bowel Support) for repair of the lining of the gut so that your body corrects itself and comes into balance!
Through the above 5 listed tips not only will your digestion improve but your entire system will improve as health starts in the gut!
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may feel like there is no relief in sight. Many patients find that their IBS gets much better or even goes away completely after time and treatment however. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest that you try taking a medication to counteract your IBS. Not all IBS patients require medication; in fact, the vast majority do not. If your case is very debilitating, you might consider some of these possibilities, but as we will discuss further on, there are many reasons to consider alternative therapies in addition to or in lieu of medications.
If you have IBS that switches between constipation and diarrhea, treating your symptoms using medications like these may well be ineffectual since these medications can only help with one or the other, and may make your other symptoms worse. Natural alternatives like yogurt, probiotics and supplements such as Healthy Bowel Support and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Kit can assist you in balancing out both aspects of your IBS so that you have less constipation and less diarrhea. Ultimately, treatments like these will probably be more effective.
There are also medications available for the other adverse effects which can be caused by IBS. For pain and cramping, you may be able to take antispasmodics such as dicyclomine (Bentyl). This may relieve some of the pain you feel throughout the day. Antidepressants like desipramine (Norpramin) may also be suggested, though they can cause a lot of severe physical and psychological side effects, so you may want to think twice before you take them.
Both depression and anxiety are common complications of IBS. Since anxiety and depression are often felt physically in the digestive tract, alleviating them can help to reduce physical symptoms and not just psychological ones. Counseling or therapy can also be used as an alternative to medication, as well as relaxation techniques, leisure activities and other stress reduction measures. Once again, ultimately these natural methods will probably prove to be more effective in the long run. They are healthier, and they help you to gain control over your life, instead of becoming dependent on a drug.
Treating IBS can be difficult since the condition manifests in such diverse ways with different patients. With the help of your doctor, you may be able to identify an over-the-counter or prescription medication which can help restore some quality to your life, but you should not rely on drugs alone, and you may wish to forego them completely. Don’t overlook the power of natural treatment methods in helping to counteract both the physical and psychological aspects of IBS. Natural treatment methods can be used to balance and normalize your condition, even when you suffer both constipation and diarrhea.
While medications can be helpful in treating IBS, many patients will find some measure of relief or even recover completely without their assistance. Natural methods are usually safer and are generally side-effect free. Try checking into different probiotics (with prebiotics like the Healthy Bowel Support) and supplements which you can add to your diet, and also try adjusting the foods you eat and the timing of your meals. Look for ways to relax and maximize your enjoyment of life, and you will hopefully start feeling better sooner than you think.
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom
Slow elimination is frustrating for anyone and constipation is even worse. Constipation is defined differently for different people. As a clinical problem, chronic constipation isn’t diagnosed until three months, and is defined in specific ways. In terms of everyday life, though, everyone is going to get constipated now and again. And if you have IBS or another bowel problem, it may happen more often for you than it does for other people and can be an ongoing, frustrating problem. Learning how to track your particular system and figure out when you are more prone to problems can help you to alleviate your symptoms and establish regularity and balance more quickly.
Clinically speaking, chronic constipation is characterized by having to strain to have a bowel movement more than 25% of the time, and/or having hard stools more than 25% of the time, and/or having incomplete bowel movements more than 25% of the time, and/or two bowel movements or fewer during the course of a standard week. In order to qualify as chronic (according to most health practitioners), at least two of these scenarios need to be present. In acute terms, constipation may last only a day or two, or it might go on for a week or longer. Acute episodes can go on as long as a month or two without it being considered to be chronic.
Some people think they are only constipated if they “can’t go to the bathroom.” While this certainly counts, there are other warning signs you can look for. If your stools are hard, even if you manage to go “a lot,” there is a chance you are becoming constipated. If your bowel movements are happening less frequently than you expect them to, that also could be an indication you may want to get things moving along again. For most people, some shifting back and forth between looser and harder stools is expected, as well as some alternating between going more or less. For people with IBS that alternates, this cycle is usually exaggerated. People with IBS-C (IBS with predominant constipation) have to work extra hard not to be constipated all of the time or most of the time.
Many find that keeping a journal to document your bowel movements to be enlightening. If you start noticing a deviation, it’s best to take care of it right away. The 1st thing to do is make sure you are hydrated properly. Most recommend drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water daily… so if you weigh 140 lbs try to drink 70 oz of water daily. Make sure you are ingesting good oils on a daily basis like Olive, coconut oil and foods high in Omega-3’s like Salmon, Sardines, Flax & Chia seeds. Make sure your fiber intake is good with lots of freash veges, fruit and whole grains. You may find you need to consider taking some fiber supplements for a time period. If you usually only are constipated for a couple of days out of the week, but you’ve been having harder stools for several days in a row, try taking fiber to fix it before it turns into a really frustrating problem. You don’t need to be full on stopped-up to put a full stop on constipation!
Fiber has a cumulative effect. Many people will only take a few tablets and then wonder why it isn’t working for them. The reason is usually that they gave up too quickly. You may need to take fiber for a few days in a row before you notice an improvement. You might also want to make a supplement like Healthy Bowel Support a standard part of your diet. This supplement contains organic soluble fiber as well as probiotics, prebiotics and healthy food sources which support healthy bowel function in a natural way and has a regenerative effect on the bowel and gut. It has also been shown that live plant enzymes like DigestPlus can help with digestion and elimination. Many find these to be helpful in not only turning around a problem but actually preventing problems, so take them regularly!
The sooner you catch a problem such as constipation, the easier time you’ll generally have getting past it and resuming regularity and normality. Again, one of the best cures however is prevention. Taking Healthy Bowel Support and DigestPlus regularly can help you to prevent constipation from happening in the first place, or reduce its severity, You also can try boosting your activity levels and reducing stress in your life. Anything you can do to improve your metabolism and mood can also help you to overcome the woes of a less than optimum digestion and elimination tract.
Paula Tipton-Healy L.M, CiHom