Digestive System
by LaRee Westover & Sharon Moran
Butterfly Expressions, LLC

 

DIGESTIVE

STOMACH, GALLBLADDER, INTESTINES, COLON, LIVER, AND NUTRIENT ABSORPTION

DISEASES

Anorexia, bad breath, dyspepsia, gallstones, gingivitis, heartburn, hiatal hernia, motion sickness, tooth decay, ulcers, candida, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, diverticulitis, hypoglycemia

STRESSORS

Emotional stress, antacids, antibiotics, tranquilizers, sleep aids, blood pressure medications, Pepto-bismal, Pepcid and Tagamet, aspirin, atropine, (motion sickness medication), anti-depressants

VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS

Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS

acidophilus, enzymes, cascara sagrada, slippery elm bark, plantain, papaya, elecampane, peppermint, fennel, catnip, cramp bark

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS — DIGESTION, IN GENERAL

This is not a topic that can be treated in just a few words. Each part of the digestive system seems to have its own emotional drivers. I highly recommend that you purchase (and read) books on the emotional drivers of various ailments. My favorite of the many that are on the market is Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro. Her descriptions are very specific and she asks some good, insightful questions to help you relate emotions to the issues of your own life.

Two examples of emotions for general digestive difficulties are listed below, along with further comments under specific organs of the digestive system, below. This is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject, only a starting place for your own study and pondering.

INDIGESTION: May be a structural problem or it may be related to stress or to your reaction to what you are being required to take into your life. Sometimes we eat as compensation for stress or because we want to be totally “fed up” with something or someone in our lives. We must remember, however, that our perception may not be reality. Perhaps our indigestion is the result of our own attitudes and not from someone else’s behavior or because of a certain situation.

APPETITE AND FOOD CRAVINGS: Increased appetite may indicate inner insecurity, fear, guilt, or unexpressed needs. Lack of appetite may indicate a withdrawal from participation with others which may occur anytime relationship issues are causing pain. In children, a lack of appetite often accompanies bullying at school or lack of self-confidence.

Stomach

GENERAL COMMENTS

The production of hydrochloric acid (that portion which is produced naturally by the body and is necessary for digestion) begins in the kidneys and comes into the stomach from the blood stream.

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS

acidophilus, enzymes, slippery elm bark, plantain, papaya, elecampane, peppermint, fennel, catnip, gentian, hops, juniper, marshmallow, oregon grape, osha, spearmint, vervain, yarrow

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS

Although stomach ulcers are thought to be caused by a virus, the virus seems to only take hold when there is stress in your life. Worry—literally eating you alive—is the basic emotion. Ulcers can arise when we feel intimidated by others and defenseless against their ideas of who we should be and what we should do with our lives and our resources.

Gallbladder

The gallbladder is the repository of bile, which is an absolutely necessary digestive agent. Bile contains poisonous substances that have been removed from the blood by the liver. Bile also contains cholesterol, bile salts, and other substances. Abnormal concentrations of these substances can result in the formation of gallstones and, eventually, a diseased gallbladder.

SYMPTOMS

Aching muscles, headaches, indigestion, belching, excessive gas, heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, acid stomach, gallstones

STRESSORS

Rapid changes in weight, lack of exercise, high blood cholesterol levels, improper diet, excessive consumption of sugar and animal fats

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS/ VITAMINS

alfalfa, barberry, catnip, cleavers, cramp bark, dandelion, fennel, ginger root, horsetail, parsley, turmeric, wild yam, lecithin, enzymes, vitamins A, B, C, D, and E

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS

Gallbladder congestion, attacks, and stones often indicate a need to relinquish bitterness, spite, malice, or resentment. Stones, in particular, indicate a need to convince yourself that you can request, firmly but gently, that your needs be met without anger or resentment.

Small Intestine

The small intestine is lined with millions of little organs, the villi. The villi collect the individual molecules of the material that has arrived in the small intestines from the stomach. These molecules are then moved into the blood stream where they are taken to the liver. In the liver, the molecules are broken down into individual atoms which are used to form the molecules needed by the cells and tissues of the body.

SYMPTOMS

The possible symptoms of dysfunction in the small intestine are as many and varied as the nutritional deficiencies that have been produced. They may included bloating, pain, acid reflux, and hiatal hernias. Trouble in the small intestine is often a contributing factor with bone problems, muscles weakness and fatigue, and unhealthy skin.

STRESSORS

Carbonated beverages, chocolate, sugar, a wide variety of drugs

VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS

Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS

barberry, cleavers, gentian, hops, oregon grape, osha, plantain, sage, yarrow

AN UNHEALTHY CHAIN REACTION:

Kidneys become stressed from fear or soda pop or chocolate or whatever and this results in a lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This in turn results in improperly broken down proteins moving into the small intestines. Nutritional deficiencies develop as these proteins clog the small intestine, the pancreas gets into trouble, blood sugar problems such as hypoglycemia follow, acid reflux and hiatal hernias develop, and structural problems in bones and muscles become increasingly more likely due to nutritional deficiencies. The skin of the face and the facial features develop a clogged, unhealthy appearance.

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS

The buildup of proteins which have not been properly broken down can create or, perhaps has been created by, a tendency to focus so completely on a minute detail or two that the whole of the picture becomes lost to view. Sometimes this myopic vision causes us to reject a potentially beneficial experience because a particular detail or person is irritating to us. Often there is such a fear of missing some essential detail that, when the big picture has been lost, important details elude us completely.

Large Intestine

GENERAL COMMENTS

The is no question that diet plays a huge role in bowel function. To achieve and maintain colon health, be sure to choose foods wisely, take time to chew food sufficiently, avoid between meal snacks, and visit the bathroom three times daily—after each meal, to encourage the Olsen Point neural plexus to do its job in the most efficient manner possible.

OLSEN POINT: There is a reservoir in the colon designed to handle the contents of one reasonable meal at a time. As the next meal is ingested signals are sent, and the contents of the colon move along one step and a previous meal presses against a neural plexus called, by some, the Olsen Point. This neural plexus then activates the peristaltic muscles. Snacking between meals can really foul up this process and is a major contributor to constipation. (Snacking between meals also contributes to tooth decay and poor dental hygiene and health.)

SYMPTOMS / DISEASES

Diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, bloating, rectal bleeding, diverticulitis, appendicitis, bad breath, body odor, gas, headaches, hemorrhoids, hernia, insomnia, and malabsorption of nutrients.

LAZY BOWEL SYNDROME: Laxatives can create lazy bowel syndrome as the body becomes dependent on them to perform normal functions. Laxatives create the depletion of minerals such as potassium, which can then lead to heart attacks and a host of other ills.

DIARRHEA: There are many physical reasons for diarrhea. Among them are bacterial or viral infections, food allergies, and food poisoning. If the situation is persistent or is chronically repeating itself in our lives, it may be time to ask ourselves what is affecting us so deeply and why we are allowing it to do so.

LACK OF NUTRIENT ABSORPTION: Some nutrients are absorbed into the blood through the walls of the colon. The nutrients are carried by the bloodstream to the liver, from which they are dispersed throughout the body. Crud along the colon walls drastically reduces the uptake of many nutrients.

CONSTIPATION: Besides poor diet, lack of fluids, and lack of exercise, there are a host of less well-known causes of constipation. Among them are high levels unabsorbed calcium, low levels of thyroid hormones, kidney failure, diabetes, depressions, injuries to the nerves of the spine that control peristalsis, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, infection of the anus.

ENDOTOXINS: It is estimated that at least 80% of common ailments begin in a toxic and constipated colon. Poisons from the colon can stress the heart, lodge in joints, invade muscles, cause fatigue and weakness, create skin problems, irritate the lungs, and drastically overtax the liver.

There are places in the rectal area of the colon where absorption bypasses the liver entirely. This means that bacteria and toxins from a constipated and toxic colon move directly into the bloodstream. This contaminated and dirty blood may even contain cancer cells! These circulating toxins and bacteria are called endotoxins and they are able to reach, very quickly, every organ, system, and cell blood circulation reaches.

The herb sarsaparilla binds with these endotoxins. Once bound with the molecules of the sarsaparilla, the endotoxins can be safely excreted from the body. I like to take red clover herb from time to time just to keep a handle on any possible circulating cancer cells.

STRESSORS

Lack of water, lack of fiber and bulk in the diet, laxatives, antacids, antibiotics, anti-depressants, a diet high in refined sugars, carbohydrates, and animal proteins

VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS

Acidophilus, enzymes, whole grains, vegetables, lots of fruits — with a particular emphasis on papaya, nuts, and seeds

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS

catnip, fennel, cascara sagrada, barberry, slippery elm bark, cramp bark, sarsaparilla, marshmallow, peppermint

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS

There is no question that diet plays a huge role in bowel function but there are a variety of emotions that have an impact here, also.

Constipation is often the result of not letting go of old ideas or behavior patterns that no longer serve us well. Perhaps it is old angers and resentments which we are holding on to.

Diarrhea, the opposite of constipation, has exactly the opposite emotional pattern. Diarrhea, when not caused by a bacteria or a virus, may be an indication that we are too quick to reject new ideas or ways of doing things. Perhaps, we lack objectivity, about both people and ideas, and we tend to make snap judgements and then become defensive if criticized.

Deeply stressful emotions such as anxiety or fear may also contribute to chronic diarrhea. If we suffer from chronic diarrhea or from periodic bouts of debilitating diarrhea, we might benefit from asking ourselves what emotion(s) is it that we are unable to “assimilate” or, perhaps, what emotion or situation we are trying to rid ourselves of completely.

Problems with bowel function may also be linked to feelings of powerlessness, lack of control, or feeling that we have no real say in decisions that affect our lives. We may alternate between constipation and diarrhea as we alternate between going along with other people’s opinions and stubbornly demanding to do it our way, or at least the way it has always been done.

One of Deb Shapiro’s insightful questions for problems in this area is, “What is needed for you to develop a greater trust in the unknown?”

Just as the intestines are responsible for the absorption of nutrients, they are also responsible for the assimilation of the details of your personal reality. It is in the intestinal tract, large and small, that we all process our “stuff”.

Liver

The liver performs over 500 functions:

  • One very important function of the liver is the production of the enzymes needed for digestion. Supplementing enzymes may be helpful but it is a “Band-Aid” approach at best. The problem must be corrected in the liver, where it began. There is such an interplay between the various organs and systems of the body. For example, the small intestine is responsible for the uptake and distribution of the minerals needed by the liver.
  • The liver secretes bile which breaks down fats and is necessary for the absorption of vitamins and the uptake of calcium. The liver stores nutrients until there is a need for them.
  • The liver draws off and stores toxins until they can be eliminated from the body.
  • Proper liver function promotes peristalsis. If you are constipated, consider a mild liver cleanse. Constipation, in turn, causes serious stress on the liver. This can become a vicious cycle.
  • Liver malfunction is a known cause of hypothyroidism.
  • The liver is important in the regulation of blood sugar (discussed below).
  • The liver breaks down hormones, such as adrenalin, when the need by the body for them is past. In other words, the liver helps the body return to normal following a period of high stress.
  • The liver is a “manufacturing site” for the components that will be made into new blood cells.

The liver is affected by excesses of any kind, whether it is addictive substances such as alcohol or just more than you can deal with physically, emotionally, or psychologically. The result of liver imbalance or toxicity is also excess. Liver emotions are typically excesses of rage or extremely intense emotions that are being covered up or mollified by other addictive behaviors.

Sometimes, because of social conventions or religious convictions, a person may have learned to control the outward expression of the anger or rage. Instead they will be intolerant of those who do not control their anger. They have come to value self-control above all other virtues. The predominant emotions then become sadness and bitterness as rage is internalized.

SYMPTOMS

Fatigue, loss of appetite, waking (1-3 am), light colored stools

ENZYMES

The lack of any enzyme needed for digestion begins in a toxic liver. The liver, in turn, controls the balance of bacteria in the small intestine.

CANCER

Cancer has a difficult time living very long, or even developing, in a body if the liver is functioning in an efficient and healthy manner.

VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS

High potassium foods aid the liver. Kelp, dulce, molasses, rice, wheat bran, raisins, and bananas all contain large quantities of potassium.

HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS

Rosemary, calendula, dandelion, yellow dock root, burdock, raw beet root, molasses

LIVER STRESSORS

All drugs and pollutants damage and overstress the liver because of its function as the collection place for toxins and drugs. It is important to keep the liver clean because aging blood cells are sent to the liver where they are broken down into the base components of cellular rebuilding. The “junk” is passed on for excretion and the viable components are recycled, becoming part of the structure of new cells. It is possible, even common in our world of chemicals and pollutants, for new cells to be born already contaminated or crippled if our livers are toxic.

Other causes of problems in the liver: 1) cumulative environmental poisons, 2) overeating, 3) high carbohydrate/fat diet, 4) drugs, 5) candida overgrowth, 6) contraception, 7) caffeine

As you can see, the digestive system is a very intricate and complex system. So much of our health depends upon nutrition – not just what we eat, but how what we eat is digested and absorbed (or not absorbed as the case may be). Since the digestive system includes so many individual organs it is a good idea to understand these organs separately and then work on putting the whole system together. I find it is also helpful to work backwards, from the absorption of nutrients up to the stomach. That way you can hopefully affect what is happening the whole way through.

Let’s take for example, heart burn and acid reflux. The initial idea of having too much stomach acid coming up into the esophagus is very often met with reducing the acidity of the stomach acid so that when the reflux occurs, the “burning” does not seem so bad. However, when the acidity of the stomach acid is lowered, a domino effect occurs throughout the rest of the digestive system. The stomach does not empty appropriately and when it does, the contents are not accepted into the small intestine correctly. As this inappropriately digested food tries to move through the system, the nutrient content is not available to be absorbed effectively. It can also cause a sluggish digestive system, backing up and creating more stomach pressure. More stomach pressure will cause more reflux and the cycle continues. With the same scenario of symptoms, working backwards might go something like this. To relieve the effects of a sluggish colon plenty of water and fiber are a must. To be sure that the intestinal flora is balanced, take a super probiotic supplement for a good month or two to make sure that the colon has an ample supply of the good kind of bacteria to be able to function optimally. With the colon working and moving food along efficiently, the stomach will be able to empty into the small intestine in a more timely fashion. If the stomach acid is not buffered, the contents will be effectively digested enough to be accepted by the small intestine for further digestion and absorption. If the stomach is not full and stretched beyond its capacity it is likely that the pressure will be too great for the cardiac valve. Without the excessive pressure, the reflux does not occur and thus the heartburn is eliminated.

Due to the many different organs included in the digestive system and their specific roles in the body, there are a lot of oils and herbs which have an ability to impact this system. I have listed some of the major ones here, but please study the specific organ you are concerned about to learn all the various ways to impact that part of the digestive system.

Oils which have an affinity for the digestive system include: LeBabyMe, LeBalance,LeEternity, LeEZTraveler, LeGrace, LeHoliday Spirit, LeInsideOut, LeJulia, LeKadence, LeLetting Go, LeLife Force, LeLiteN, LeMelaPlus, LeMillenia, LeQuietEssence, LeRevitalize, LeSafeguard, LeSunburst, LeSynopsis, LeTrust, LeVision, LeWarmDown, LeWeightLess, calamus, anethi, basil, bergamot, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, carrot seed, celery seed, chamomile German and Roman, coriander, dill, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, litsea cubeba, mandarin, marjoram, Melissa, orange sweet, patchouli, peppermint, rose geranium, saro, spearmint, turmeric

Herbs which have an affinity for the digestive system include: CD, COL, COLA, catnip/chamomile, GI, NAUS, acidophilus, alfalfa, barberry, burdock, cascara sagrada, catnip, cramp bark, dandelion, elecampane, fennel, gentian, ginger root, hops, horsetail, juniper, marshmallow, Oregon grape, osha, papaya, peppermint, plantain, raw beet root, rosemary, sage, sarsaparilla, slippery elm bark, spearmint, turmeric, vervain, wild yam, yarrow, yellow dock root


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