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Stress and digestion: how they interact and simple ways to make improvements June 24, 2011

In our practice we find long term chronic stress and poor digestion to be the two health conditions at the root of most other problems.  Furthermore, long term chronic stress and poor digestion interact to make each other much worse.

We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that people initially present with are improved when stress and digestion are dealt with first.  We also find that the patient’s remaining symptoms become much easier to alleviate:  we see less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, moods improved, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress and digestion first.

How does stress impair digestion?

Stress initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome—our body energy goes to where it is needed for “fight or flight”: energy goes to the arms, legs, and short term mental functions.  Consequently our energy goes away from digestion, immune system and all of the body’s other “repair and restore” functions.  This has great survival value for short term “ fight or flight” type stresses; however, long term chronic stress is what most of our patients experience—rather than a short term “escape predator” situation, we experience days of unrelenting deadlines or other forms of work, relationship, or financial stresses.  In addition to impairing digestion, long term chronic stress has also been shown to raise blood pressure, stiffen arteries, suppress the immune system, and heighten the risk for conditions as diverse as diabetes and depression.

When stress is reduced, immune system function and digestion are automatically improved.  Good digestion in turn gives us the energy to heal. Also, we feel less stressed when we have more energy. This is why simultaneously reducing stress and improving digestion results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

What can be done about stress?

One of the simplest and most profound ways to reduce stress and improve your health is with the practice of Long Deep Breathing.  I teach almost every patient this very simple technique and those who practice it benefit tremendously.   Long Deep Breathing is a wonderful relaxation technique and counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

Long Deep Breathing is the simplest of all yogic breaths.  Simply inhale and exhale through the nose.  Fill the bottom of the lungs first, then the middle, then the top.  Hold the breath in for a second or two and then exhale:  top first, then middle, and then bottom.  You can do this breath while sitting on the floor, while sitting in a chair, or while lying down.  It is excellent to do before bed to help with sleep difficulties.

When we are stressed our breathing becomes short and shallow.  Likewise, when we are relaxed our breathing is naturally deeper and slower.  By cultivating the practice of Long Deep Breathing, we can induce a more relaxed state in our bodies.  It is when we are in this relaxed state that healing and rejuvenation of the body can take place.

Long Deep Breathing is easy to learn and easy to practice. Benefits come with very small amounts of practice.  Five minutes at a time is usually ample.  Five minutes, three times per day will have wonderful clinical effects.  In addition to a feeling of relaxation, there will be other effects such as lowered blood pressure, better ability to clear body toxins, and increase in energy levels.

Many of our patients have been able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medications simply from this practice of Long Deep Breathing.  If Long Deep Breathing could be packaged in pill form and patented by a pharmaceutical company, you would see it heavily advertised on TV!

There are of course many other stress reduction techniques, many of which we utilize in our practice, but none are as easy to do on your own as Long Deep Breathing.

What can be done to improve digestion?

Reducing stress is one key; eating in a pleasant environment in an unhurried way is another.  Beyond that, digestion can be improved by avoiding highly processed foods and by avoiding foods grown on soils with heavy fertilizer and pesticides use.  These food production practices result in nutritionally deficient foods.  Our bodies have to work harder to draw nutrition from these foods.

In our practice we also frequently recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes:  Digestive enzymes are what our bodies use to break down the foods we eat.  As we get older our bodies produce fewer enzymes; supplementing can result in great improvements to digestion.  In clinical practice, there are many additional steps that can be taken.

I hope that these simple suggestions can help you reduce your stress and improve your digestion.  Your personal health condition may be very complicated, but by starting with the basics great improvements can be made to your health, happiness, and longevity.

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Did you know that very popular heartburn/reflux medications contribute to osteoporosis? October 1, 2010

From an article in Health Daily News on May 25, 2010:  “Blockbuster heartburn medications such as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium will now carry a warning on their labels linking the drugs to a heightened risk for fractures, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced.”

Here’s a link to the rest of the article:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=116609

While these heartburn medications are advertised as harmless, in fact long-term use significantly impairs your ability to metabolize proteins and minerals.  The most obvious result we see in our practice is fatigue.  However, it is now apparent that reduced bone mass is another long-term side effect.   You need your stomach acid to digest your foods!

We have a better way.  Acupuncture along with some of our herbs and enzymes can dramatically improve your digestion and eliminate reflux symptoms.  Plus you will feel more relaxed!

 

Stress, Digestion, and Allergies June 22, 2010

In our practice we find stress and poor digestion to be the two health problems at the root of most others.  We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that people initially present with are improved when stress and digestion are dealt with first.  We also find that the remaining symptoms become much easier to deal with.   We see less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, moods improved, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress and digestion first.

When stress is reduced, immune system function is automatically improved.  Good digestion gives us the energy to heal.  This is why simultaneously reducing stress and improving digestion results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

 Keys to digestion improvements:

  • Reducing long term chronic stress:  Stress initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome—our body energy goes to where it is needed for “fight or flight” : To the arms, legs, and short term mental functions.  Consequently our energy goes away from digestion, immune system and all of the bodies repair and restore functions.   Long term chronic stress substantially impairs our digestion system.
  • Avoiding highly processed foods (the center aisles of a supermarket mostly contain highly processed industrial foods)
  • Avoiding foods grown on soils with heavy fertilizers and pesticides use.  These result in nutritionally deficient foods.  Our bodies have to work harder to draw nutrition from these foods.
  • Supplementing with digestive enzymes:  Digestive enzymes are what our bodies use to break down the foods we eat.  As we get older our bodies produce less of these; supplementing can result in great improvements to digestion.

 

 What are the usual results of chronically impaired digestion?  

  • Fatigue
  • The creation of food sensitivities and food allergies.

 

 How does impaired digestion lead to the creation of food sensitivities and other immune system dysfunctions?

  • When food is poorly digested in the stomach, incompletely broken down food passes into the intestines.
  • The intestinal walls gradually become inflamed, allowing larger than normal molecules to pass through the intestinal walls into the blood stream.  This is sometimes called “leaky gut” syndrome.
  • The immune system senses these incompletely broken down foods in the blood stream and reacts to them as though they were pathogens.  Gradually allergies to certain foods can be developed.
  • The immune system can become exhausted by having to continually react to foods and may become unable to react to true pathogens, leading to chronic illnesses.  Alternatively, the immune system can become too reactive in general, and begin to attack the bodies own tissues.   This can lead to auto-immune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Remember:  Poor digestion can be successfully treated.  Improving digestion is the first step to clearing allergic sensitivities.  Energy and overall health will also greatly improve once the digestive system is functioning optimally.

 

Allergies June 18, 2010

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an abnormal, adverse physical reaction to an allergen.  The allergens can be either toxins such as automobile exhaust fumes or pesticides, or nontoxins such as pollens or foods.  Allergy sufferers react to small quantities that are harmless to most people.  When exposed to an allergen, allergic individuals develop an excess of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).   These IgE antibodies react with allergens to release histamines and other substances from cell tissues.  These produce the familiar allergy symptoms of watery eyes, runny nose, itching, nausea, hives,  etc…  Allergies can also cause a predisposition to colds and flu by compromising the immune system.

However, not all adverse reactions rise to the level of an IgE allergy reaction detectable by a blood test.  These lesser reactions we call sensitivities. Allergies or sensitivities can be either immediate or delayed.  Allergies/sensitivities  are not a yes or no issue, there is a full spectrum of disorders ranging from mild delayed sensitivities to immediate anaphylactic shock.

What are common symptoms of food sensitivities or food allergies?

  • Congestion
  • Headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diarrhea, constipation or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Acid reflux
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
  • Brain fog
  • Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity, especially in children

The most common food allergies/sensitivities that we encounter in practice are the following:

  • Wheat (usually but not always to the gluten in the wheat)
  • Milk products
  • Peanuts
  • Corn products
  • Soy products
  • Refined sugar (usually not actually an allergy but more of an overdose)

Notes:

  • Wheat is by far the most common food allergy/sensitivity
  • The production of corn and soy is heavily subsidized and corn and soy or their byproducts are found in virtually every processed food.

Many people are sensitive to one or more of these foods and don’t even realize because they consume one or more of these virtually every day.   When these sensitivities are identified and then avoided, most people experience major reductions to their symptoms within two weeks and sometimes within a few days.

Reasons that food sensitivities have become so prevalent today:

  • Stress
  • Environmental toxins
  • Depleted soils
  • Consumption of over refined foods
  • Chronic poor digestion
  • Foods bred for our industrial food system rather than for taste and nutrition
  • Leaky gut syndrome

Food sensitivities or allergies are not necessarily forever! They can be successfully treated.

How we treat food allergies/sensitivities in our practice:

  • First step is always to identify the sensitivities and avoid those foods at least for a while.
  • We treat the body’s energy and re-educate the body’s immune system to respond more appropriately to these non-toxic food substances.  Often we do this in a step-by-step manner, treating each component of the foods:  amino acids, vitamins, minerals, sugars, etc…
  • Stress reduction
  • Digestion enzyme supplementation
  • Assistance with detoxification and repair of damaged body tissues
 

Why Do So Many Patients Exhibit Sensitivities to Wheat? August 23, 2009

Filed under: allergies,food sensitivities,stress — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 2:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

What is it with wheat?  Why are so many of our patients now testing sensitive to wheat and wheat products?  Wheat is by far the most common food sensitivity we encounter when testing patients.  (Other very common food sensitivities are milk/dairy products, soy products, peanuts, and eggs.)  By simply removing wheat products from the diet, we often see great clinical results, particularly with children.

Wheat probably couldn’t always have been so allergy inducing.  Is it the way wheat is grown and processed in this country?   I’ve had patients who were highly sensitive to wheat here, but who were able to go to Europe and eat the European bread while there with no problems.  Was it just because they were less stressed when on vacation and therefore their digestion performed better?  Or is there a difference in the wheat itself?  When I went to India recently, the wheat there tasted much better than anything I remember having here.  Their wheat was grown locally and probably freshly ground (they were harvesting while I was there); their method of preparation used hot steel and fire and this also probably helped counteract the “damp” producing effects of wheat.  (Damp is a Chinese medical term roughly equivalent to congestion.)

I have read that the type of wheat we are mostly eating today is much higher in gluten than what was historically grown—in other words, the wheat has been bred to be much sticker and starchier than what we historically ate.  The highly refined nature of the wheat and the possible presence of genetically modified wheat are not helpful either.

In addition to the way our USA wheat is grown, stored, and processed, there are probably other environmental stressors that we experience here.  Our country has experienced a vast increase in asthma over the past twenty years.  The same cofactors are probably creating the increase in wheat sensitivities that we see today.  Our overall air quality is much better than in many parts of the world, and yet we are seeing an increase in allergies and asthma.  Why is this?

More on this later….