Posts Tagged ‘digestion’

What about Ginger?

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Did you know…as one of the oldest spices known in Asia and Europe, ginger has a long history as a seasoning and was once as common as salt and pepper. People would add ginger to everything, including teas and beers leading to modern drinks like ginger ale and ginger beers.

Ginger is one of the world’s favorite spices and has been acclaimed for its medicinal benefits since ancient times. A perennial herb native to southern China, ginger was imported early on to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Europe. Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale).The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Due to its various medicinal benefits, ginger is considered a herbal remedy in many cultures. Over the years, it has been used to reduce inflammation, help with digestion, improve cardiovascular health and even historically to even ward off diseases like the plague.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, ginger is highly regarded as having many diverse healing properties, and is used prominently in treating disorders of the digestive tract. In the Asian medicine tradition, ginger is considered to possess hot or warming attributes. It is also favored as a remedy for digestive conditions ranging from upset stomach to diarrhea to abdominal bloating.

Ginger is still widely used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The gingerols found in ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the production of nitric oxide, which helps relieve joint pain that is associated with arthritis. It also provides substantial pain relief from gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and also decreases swelling and helps with morning stiffness. In a research study published in 2005, investigators found that ginger may reduce inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Ginger is an excellent herb to use for strengthening and healing the respiratory system, as well as for fighting off colds and flu. It removes congestion, soothes sore throats, and relieves headaches and body aches. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants, which have immune-boosting properties. By strengthening the immune system, it protects you against all sorts of infections and diseases.

Although scientific research into the health benefits of ginger is really just beginning, over 2500 years of herbal wisdom, plus some recent scientific studies strongly support the use of ginger as an effective digestion aid. Ginger root has a great reputation for controlling nausea of all types. Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving morning sickness. In a small study of 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for 4 days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a double-blind, comparative test at Brigham Young University, Utah, researchers found ginger root to be more effective in coping with motion sickness than the popular, over-the-counter drug, Dramamine.

Fresh ginger roots can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Ginger is also available in other forms including dried root, capsules, tablets, tea, extracts and tinctures. A simple ginger tea can be made by pouring hot water over one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and allowing it to infuse for 10 minutes before straining. Lemon juice and a little honey can be added to it if desired.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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The Role of Digestive Enzymes in Gut Health and Overall Health

Proper digestion is one of the body’s most important physiological functions in maintaining overall health. The digestive system transforms food into energy for the body’s use by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller, simpler, and more usable forms. Without this transformation, digestion and assimilation of nutrients is difficult if not impossible.

Digestive enzymes are extremely important in everyone’s diet, since they are responsible for the proper breakdown of major food groups, and eventually the absorption of vital nutrients through the intestinal wall. Fresh fruits such as pineapple and papaya are particularly rich in these enzymes. Pineapples provide the body with bromelain which helps in the digestion of proteins, and papayas contain papain, another enzyme involved in breaking down proteins.

Every day the pancreas secretes about 1.5 litres of pancreatic juice in the small intestine. This juice contains digestive enzymes which are essential for the proper digestion and absorption of food. These digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas include lipases which help in the digestion of fats, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which help in the digestion of starch molecules.

While healthy foods provide the foundation for optimal health and vitality, even the healthiest foods are of little use if they are not properly digested. When the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes, the essential nutrients from food are not properly digested and absorbed leading to nutrient deficiencies and symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort. For instance, insufficient amounts of lipase (responsible to break down fats) may cause diarrhea, fatty/floating stools or fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. Incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates can exhibit as gas, bloating, diarrhea and cramps. Other problems with incomplete digestion of food include the development of food allergies. In simple terms, an allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system to certain substances which are foreign to our bodies. These substances are called allergens. Incomplete/partially digested protein particles may be considered by the body as allergens and thus can trigger some type of immune response. This is one of the reasons why supplementation with digestive enzymes can reduce and improve the allergy symptoms in patients with food sensitivities. Digestive enzymes can help with food allergies by improving digestion. Digestive enzymes taken with meals will supplement the body’s digestive enzymes to ensure a more complete breakdown of the foods.

If the body cannot extract all the nutrients from food, the overall health is at risk, and this can result in a wide range of diseases. That is why proper digestion is so important for the proper functioning of the body, and digestive enzymes become vital for overall health.

Celiac Disease and Naturopathic Treatment Support

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to reaction to consumption of gluten. Because of this damage, absorption becomes compromised. Gluten is the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye. There are many different signs and symptoms of varying intensities associated with celiac disease. These include fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, weight loss, diarrhea, delayed growth, skin rash, depression and more. Many of these signs and symptoms can also be seen in other disorders, which can make celiac disease go undiagnosed in many cases including some cases of unexplained infertility. There are tests that can be done to diagnose this condition. In fact, in Italy where celiac disease is common, all children under 6 are screened for this condition as early detection is vital.

How common is celiac disease?

According to Celiac Association of Canada, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by celiac disease.

How is celiac disease diagnosed?

Blood tests such as anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody, anti-endomysial antibody, IgA and IgG anti-gliadin antibody are some of the tests that are recommended.

The definitive diagnosis is a biopsy of the small bowel. It is only after a definitive diagnosis through this procedure has been made, that a strict gluten-free diet is initiated.

What are some possible complications associated with celiac disease?

Osteoporosis, anemia, neurological problems, depression, greater  likelihood of miscarriage, difficulty with fertility, stunted growth in children and lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance has to do with inability to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase is needed for digestion of dairy. Since in celiac, the lining of the small intestine is damaged, the brush border enzymes which include lactases are reduced, hence some celiac patients experience lactose intolerance.

Most of these complications are resolved or improve over time once celiac disease has been diagnosed, a strict gluten-free diet is followed, the body is replenished with the needed nutrients, the gut has healed and malabsorption has been resolved.

What are the treatments?

The treatment is following a strict gluten-free diet. This means reading ingredient labels and eliminating any foods/products that contain gluten, even trace amounts of gluten.

Being on a good naturopathic nutritional plan is paramount in celiac disease for three main reasons.

Reason One

Often in an attempt to avoid gluten, many patients resort to one or two alternatives to gluten such as rice or potato. Eating the same foods repeatedly has a couple of downfalls. One is that variety in diet is needed in order for us to get the different nutrients required by our bodies. The other problem is that eating the same foods repeatedly can trigger food sensitivities to those foods in the long run so you could end up for example with a sensitivity to rice if that has become your food staple.

Reason Two

This has to do with absorption. There are some foods that are more easily digestible hence making their absorption easier. There are also specific foods that are healing to the gut and help repair some of the damage in the intestines. Healing of the gut is essential component of a treatment approach to celiac disease. The gut must be healed in order for the absorption issues to be resolved. As long malabsorption (poor absorption) persists, there will be problems on a systemic level because essential nutrients are not being extracted from the foods eaten and as a result the organs are not being properly nourished.

Reason Three

The body needs to be replenished with the proper nutrients, this is both through diet, supplements and/or intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy. In my practice, I frequently use intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy for my celiac patients. Since this therapy gets the nutrients directly into the blood circulation (not having to go through the digestive system), I know for sure the nutrients are being taken up by the different body systems. This therapy also allows me to introduce higher doses of nutrients into the body that would otherwise not be possible orally. The result is that patients get quickly replenished with important nutrients, positively impacting their energy, mood and overall wellbeing.

If you suspect you may have celiac disease especially if you have a family member that has this condition, don’t delay, see your healthcare provider and get the appropriate tests for a proper diagnosis.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.