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Home > Digestive Blues
by Dave Foreman
All that special food throughout the holiday season can cause even the healthiest eaters to overindulge, often resulting in heartburn, reflux, indigestion and bloating. Perhaps you are eating too much protein, or combining the wrong foods. Your solutions could be as simple as a few natural supplements. First, let's define what may be going on in your body. Indigestion can mean either gas and bloating, or upset stomach. Heartburn, on the other hand, is usually a burning feeling that is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus and causing pain and discomfort.
Overeating can turn even those with a "cast iron" stomach into miserable people. Before we get into the supplements that may assist in your relief, we need to cover a few other issues that may contribute to your condition. First of all, try to maintain a balanced diet - carbohydrates, protein and fat. Avoid drugs that may exacerbate your condition, like aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Avoiding alcohol and caffeine at gatherings may be difficult for many, but this may be all you need to do. Lastly, try to decrease stress. This may be the most difficult thing to do during this season, but decreasing stress will have a huge impact on your digestive health. All of these ideas are easier said than done, but are nevertheless, helpful reminders. Now for the natural alternatives...,p> For assisting the body in being able to break down the foods you have just consumed, I recommend using a digestive enzyme. Combination products that contain protease (which digests proteins), amylase (digests starches), lipase (digests fats) and even lactase (breaks down lactose) are the best. There are many excellent combination products on the market and it is best to consult with your full service health food store for a high potency product. I recommend that you take your digestive enzyme supplement right before or during your meal. If in an hour or so you are still feeling too full or bloated, repeating the dose can be helpful. Standardized artichoke leaf extract is another supplement that can be used regularly to help reduce the issues with indigestion (Phytomedicine 2002 Dec;9(8):694-9). This supplement helps improve bile production and support your body's natural digestive process.
For those who need more immediate relief, Mother Nature offers a few other alternatives. Something as simple as peppermint can provide you immediate relief from issues with gas, cramping and indigestion (Nutritional Herbology 1998 p137-138). Why do you think that most restaurants have mints at the counter when you leave? They don't want you to remember how bad you felt after overeating at their establishment. I find that a cup of Ginger tea (or capsules) is great for relieving the discomfort of your digestive woes as well. Ginger has many digestive support properties such as decreasing inflammation, assisting with nausea, relieving gas and supporting digestion (Adv Ther 1998 Jan-Feb;15(1): 25-44). The final supplement to provide immediate relief would be DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). DGL is great for immediate relief of heartburn and indigestion.
The bottom line in addressing indigestion is usually lifestyle. Avoid the things that contribute to this condition and you
should be fine. But, for those cases
when overindulgence is not avoidable,
you now have a few things to add to
your "herbal" medicine cabinet.