Whenever you digest food, it passes through a system of interconnected organs beginning with the gastrointestinal tract (GI) – a long tube inside of your body. Other key organs involved in digestion include the pharynx, stomach, small intestines, and large intestines.
Along the way there are many factors that can cause issues with this process, including emotional and physical stress, as well as various conditions and diseases.
The organs that work together to digest food are sensitive to their environment, and emotional and physical stress can affect their performance, making it more difficult for the body to work and deliver adequate levels of energy.
When we experience prolonged periods of stress, our muscle contractions and blood flow can become impaired, making it difficult for our body to properly absorb essential nutrients. Stress can also increase the levels of stomach acid. This all leads to inflammation in the GI tract as well as a general weakening of the digestive system. Inflammation can cause:
- Symptoms of food intolerance (vomiting, bloating, pain, heartburn, etc.)
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Rapid weight loss
While some digestive issues are symptomatic, inflammation can also lead to these common digestive conditions:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Characterized by recurring abdominal pain, constipation/diarrhea, and excessive gas.
- Crohn’s Disease: A condition where the immune system attacks the inner lining of the digestive tract and causes severe diarrhea, dehydration, fatigue, and pain.
- Celiac Disease: Celiac Disease causes the digest function to deteriorate, especially when gluten is consumed.
- Gastritis: Caused by damage to the gastric tissue in the stomach.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Characterized by severe and persistent heartburn.
- Ulcerative Colitis: An inflammatory condition that involves the colon and rectum which can cause bleeding with bowel movements, diarrhea, and pain.
Digestive issues can also commonly include bloating and constipation in which the belly feels full and tight. In the case of bloating, this can be caused by constipation or gas.
Holistic Treatment Options for Digestive Concerns
While it is always important to follow your doctor’s advice on medical treatment, there are some amazing holistic treatment options you can seek to help with your digestion issues:
Acupuncture can help improve digestion by relaxing the nervous system. This is done by inserting tiny and painless needles around the body to stimulate meridians and promote healing.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, meridians are the channels in which Qi energy flows through the body. Blocked Qi flow can lead to pain and illness.
When it comes to treating digestive issues, your acupuncturists will focus on the following areas:
- ST36 (Zu San Li): The stomach meridian that is located below the kneecap. This pressure point can boost the immune system and heal digestive issues such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
- RN-12 (Zhong Wan): This meridian is located in the middle cavity where the energy of the stomach gathers and collects water and food to convert into nutrients. Releasing this pressure point will help your stomach more efficiently absorb nutrients.
- ST-25 (TianShu): This meridian is located where the upper and lower GI tract meets as well as along the stomach meridian. Release blockages here can help relieve the build-up of excretions by improving blood flow and relaxing the muscles.
Massage can help increase the metabolism of nutrients and antioxidants through the release of enzymes. When metabolism is increased, the body can more easily flush out toxins and allow digestion to work at its maximum potential.
Abdominal massage, which involves a gentle massaging movement used to relax and manipulate the area, can also help alleviate cramping, gas, bloating, and constipation.
This type of massage can also improve the movement between your internal organs and other tissue in your body to relieve stress and body tension.
Your digestive tract is full of digestive enzymes but it may be that your body needs a little boost. A lack of digestive enzymes can lead to a variety of digestive issues and can leave you malnourished (even if you eat a nutritious diet).
Replacement digestive enzymes take the place of natural enzymes and help to break down carbs, fats, and proteins from the foods you eat so that your body can absorb the nutrients and distribute them through the bloodstream.
So, if your body isn’t producing enough enzymes, you may need replacement digestive enzymes to help prevent malabsorption and related digestive issues – especially ones such as GERD, IBS, and Crohn’s.
If you’re wary about taking supplementation, or your doctor advises against it, you can always increase your consumption of foods that are naturally high in digestive enzymes such as:
Chinese Herbal Medicine
As long as you get the okay from your doctor, you can try using Chinese herbal medicine to address your digestive issues:
- Chen Pi: Chen Pi is the peel of an orange or tangerine. It can help regulate your digestive system and help with spleen and stomach issues.
- Geng Mi: Geng Mi is basically rice but it is sweet in flavor and soothing to the digestive system.
- Ji Nei Jin: This is a form of chicken gizzards that promotes digestion by moving stagnant food.
- Shan Zha: This hawthorn berry can be used in tea and helps to keep food moving as well.
- Mai Ya: May Ya is barley and good for food stagnation as well as helping the body digest starches and carbs. It can be used as a substitute for rice or pasta.
One of the best holistic approaches to addressing digestive concerns is to make dietary changes.
Not all digestive issues respond to a dietary intervention but it’s important to understand which foods trigger your symptoms and make appropriate changes.
Look at your diet and begin removing foods that irritate your digestive tract. Also, consider adding in foods that promote digestive health such as probiotics and those high in natural digestive enzymes.
Once you find a balance, maintain this diet to reduce your symptoms.
Whole Body Health
Here at Red Leaf Wellness, we believe in taking an integrative approach to ensuring your overall health and well-being.
When it comes to digestive issues, our team is dedicated to finding treatments that work for you and alleviates your symptoms and discomfort.
Get in touch with us today for more information.