Sunday, August 17, 2008

Digestive Wellness Part I

Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or worse diarrhea, nobody's talking about it, but just about everyone is experiencing it. If one of these foods is high on your daily consumption list, read on: cookies, ice cream, taco bell, McDonalds hamburgers, tortilla chips, licorice, potato chips, hot dogs, sandwiches, yodell's, orange and other fruit juices, bagels and cream cheese, soft cheese (cream, brie, fresh mozzarella, and other non aged processed varieties) cottage cheese or pinkberry/frozen yogurt treats. So why would these foods cause digestive problems? Let's look at some of the major culprits of some of these foods.

White flour - in cookies, taco bell, hamburgers, hot dogs, tortilla chips (don't have flour - but basically do the same thing upon digestion), licorice, sandwiches, yodell's, bagels...white flour has no fiber. It takes no effort for the body to digest it and it causes our intestines to become lazy and in people who suffer from celiac disease - the gluten in white flour causes a whole host of malabsorption problems. The other wonderful thing that white flour causes in the body is an overgrowth of yeast or Candida. Candidaysis is one of the leading causes of absorptive and digestive related problems as well as in some people brain fog and ADHD symptoms. So what can you do - first thing: replace white flour with whole grains...not whole grain breads, but actual whole grains. If you suffer from Crohn's, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis or any other major digestive problem - stick to gluten free grains like quinoa, millet, wild rice, brown rice teff,or amaranth.

White Sugar - sugar does what white flour does in the body. Its an addictive substance. It leads to candida overgrowth. It makes our digestive tracts lazy and we stop producing as much stomach acid if we eat too much of it. Try to get sweetness from natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey, succanat or stevia. Stevia is the only sweetener that will truly prevent candida, but the other ones can lessen its severity and are better for diabetics. Artificial sweeteners make you hungry. If only diet coke actually made us thin...dairy also leads to candida overgrowth.

Fructose - some people with digestive problems are actually fructose intolerant. Fruit juice and high sugar fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, melon and bananas cause the intestines to spasm and cause gas/problems with elimination. If you are suffering these problems try low sugar fruits in small quantities such as berries, apples or pears. Enjoy them a fruit smoothie with hemp seeds to lower the overall glycemic index and make them easier on your digestion. Cooked fruits also are easier to digest - cooked apples, peaches and pears make a wonderful dessert and are an excellent addition to a green vegetable stir fry.

Dairy - the process of pasteurization has rendered cow's milk products indigestible. Besides the lactose that causes many people intolerance, pasteurized casein is virtually indigestible and nearly half as absorbable as raw casein. Sheep and goat milk are somewhat more easily digestible due to a lower concentration of lactose and protein that is more easily assimilateable. The problem with many goat milks is that they are ultra pasteurized which pose problems. Look for raw dairy or dairy from your farmers market that may have been pasteurized just enough to meet FDA standards - but aren't ultra pasteurized. Also milk from pregnant cows (most of factory farmed milk, even some organic brands) which might not contain artificial hormones still has many many natural hormones in it because the cows are kept pregnant in order to ensure a large amount of milk production throughout the year. This milk may pose dangers to women either trying to get pregnant, control symptoms of PMS and polycystic ovarian syndrome and also those who are prone to women's cancers (all women!) or those who already have had cancer or have precancerous growths.

What can I eat? Try an elimination diet where for two weeks you eat green vegetables, grains, fish and lean animal protein and avoid white flour, sugar, fruit juice, high sugar fruits such as banana, mango and pineapple, acid containing foods such as tomatoes and citrus, dairy products and caffiene.

After a week, slowly add in each of the foods you have been avoiding daily, one at a time and see which ones cause problems for you - you should be able to tell each day because you have cleansed your system. Sometimes a longer cleanse of two to four weeks is necessary.

Its best to avoid these problem foods for a little while or reduce but not eliminate from your diet, slowly you will realize which foods are causing the problems.

I encourage you to post questions and comments on this post and stay tuned for additional posts in this series.

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