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Low-Grade Digestive Disorders- The Hidden Obstacle to Healthy Diet

How many of us have tried to adjust our diet and run up against unexpected resistance from our bodies, more than usual homeostatic resistance to change? How many of us have tried to go vegetarian, or follow a high-protein diet, or just eat more vegetables, and had our bodies rebel?

Many people have tried a certain diet which they were assured was completely healthy only to find that it made them miserable. Whether it was a vegetarian diet or Atkins or Paleo, the common problem is that most popular diets simply don’t account for a person’s specific nutritional type.

It’s important to recognise that we all have different nutritional types. Some part of that is related to things like body type, activity level and the diet our ancestors historically ate, and the rest is simple predisposition toward some foods and resistance toward others. Some people, for example, do well with legumes (beans and peas) while others get severe gas. The same goes for cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Some people do well with red meat, others don’t.

But beyond the normal range of nutritional types, there is a range of broader digestive disorders. We tend to think of the really painful and unpleasant digestive disorders that commonly get diagnosed, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome and so on, but many people are encountering lower-grade disorders that they suffer with for years, and may precede more serious problems.

Gluten sensitivities are an increasingly-recognised subset of digestive problems, but not all problems have to do with gluten. Dairy sensitivity is on the rise, given the poor nutritional quality of pasteurised dairy, but other people do well with dairy. Inability to digest raw vegetables and woody fruits is a very common complaint, but again there is no set pattern to it. Some people who get digestive pain from eating raw vegetables are also sensitive to nuts, for example, and others are not. Some people have severe difficulty digesting any sort of fibre, others are sensitive to fibre from particular sources.

It is interesting to note that Chinese Medicine, which has long recognised the problem of gluten, also advises against large quantities of uncooked vegetables as being difficult to digest.

There are many approaches to dealing with these disorders, some more convincing than others. For problems centered in the intestines, the response that seems to work most of the time is a cleanse of some variety, and we have recommended bowel cleanses before. For problems that begin in the stomach or esophagus, there is a great deal of contradictory information out there. Neither the medical establishment nor the alternative health community seems to have a reliable approach to the great variety of problems that we see.

The best advice is to go through the process of eliminating different things from your diet: processed foods, gluten, dairy, meat etc. Reducing processed foods and gluten is generally a good idea, but people have done this and still not solved the problem. Here are a few other things to consider:

-Stress has been shown to be a major factor in digestive disorders. If you can reduce the amount of stress in your life, your digestion may improve. In some cases, the digestive distress may be linked to a specific situation in your life, rather than to all your stressors in general.

-Give your body micronutrients and fibre consistently in whatever form it can absorb, whether that means leafy greens in a blender or finding alternative nutrient sources. Remember, most vitamins and minerals, not to mention protein and carbohydrates, can be found in more than one food group.

-Try adding more fermented foods to your diet to replenish your gut flora. If you have trouble with raw vegetables, the fermented versions may be easier to digest.

-Eliminate substitute foods with proven negative effects, such as soy and artificial sweeteners.

-Try using classical digestive herbs to support your digestive system. Ginger root is the most universal remedy for digestive complaints, but traditional medicine has lots more to offer.

See the video below for a few Ayurvedic tips on digestion:

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger




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