Digestive System

by LaRee Westover & Valaree Sharp

The DIGESTIVE SYSTEM includes the STOMACH, GALLBLADDER, SMALL INTESTINE, LARGE INTESTINE, and LIVER. To begin with, we will start with the digestive system in general and then we will take a look at the individual parts.

General Information

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 getting the whole system working together in harmony.

SALT:

One of the most inportant things you can ever learn about the digestive system is how big of an impact salt has on our health. I hope you pay attention to the next few paragraphs.

Salt is vital to creating hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid is used to break down food and helps us absorb other nutrients.

Salt plays a major role in creating protein in the blood. This makes it inportant to keep blood volume up in the body and prevent anemia.

Salt is also required for the body to retain and move water around. This means that salt is required to keep the body hydrated and prevent constipation. Remember that our bodies or largly made up of water so being dehydrated creates a host of issues and not just in the digestive system. A person without enough salt will pee out the water they drank quicker that a body with enough salt.

Salt like other minerals requires certain things to be available in the body. In the case of salt this means potassium. If the body does not have enough potassium it will dump the salt you eat even if it needs it. Most of us do not get enough potassium in our diets. Potassium is found in every fruit and vegetable. It is so important to be sure you are eating lots of fruits and veggies and putting salt on them. It does not matter how many fruits and vegetables you are eating if your body does not have enough salt it will dump the potassium it desperatly needs because without salt it can't absorb it. Minerals play a very inportant part in keeping us healthy. You can learn more about minerals in my YouTube mineral class.

Interestingly the human body can store 6-8 ounces of salt in the bones. A person with diarrhea or loose stool will use up to 1/3 oz of salt a day. Adrenal Stress causes more mineral loss including salt. We loose more salt in the summer when it is hot, when we sweat or workout, when we cry and when we pee.

Salt Deficiency Emotionaly:
The emotional picture of a person who is salt deficient is very interesting to me. Emotionally a salt deficiency will cause sadness, irritability, depression, anxiety, and even panic attacks.

Salt Deficiency Physically:
Nausea and vomiting, headaches, confusion, loss of energy, drowsiness and fatigue, muscle weakness, spasms and cramps, seizures and finally coma.

DISEASES:

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

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:

acidophilus, enzymes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits - papaya is especially good, nuts, and seeds

GENERAL ESSENTIAL OILS FOR DIGESTIVE:
LeBalance, LeEmerge, LeEZ Traveler, LeGrace, LeInsideOut, LeJulia, LeLiteN, LeQuietEssence, LeRevitalize, LeSafeguard, LeSynopsis, LeZest for Life, basil, caraway, carrot seed, celery seed, litsea cubeba, peppermint, saro

EMOTIONAL ESSENTIAL OILS FOR DIGESTIVE:
LeEternity, LeEZ Traveler, LeGrace, LeJulia, LeKadence, LeMillenia, LeQuietEssence, LeSanctuary, LeSynopsis, LeWeightless, anise, cardamom, chamomile, ginger, turmeric, grapefruit, lavender, orange sweet

GENERAL HERBS FOR DIGESTIVE:
CD (formerly Colon Digestive), alfalfa, cascara sagrada, catnip, cramp bark, elecampane, fennel, marshmallow, papaya, peppermint, plantain, sarsaparilla, slippery elm

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS:

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. 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 are totally "fed up" with something or someone in our lives. We must remember, however, that our perceptions may not be reality. Perhaps our indigestion is the result of our own attitudes and not from someone else's behavior or due to a certain situation the "upsets" us.

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.

VITAMINS-MINERALS-FOODS:

acidophilus, enzymes

ESSENTIAL OILS:
LeEZ Traveler, LeJulia, LeInsideOut, anethi, anise, bergamot, caraway, cardamom, catnip, chamomile Roman, cilantro, clove, dill, fennel, ginger, gingergrass, mandarin, orange sweet, rosemary, rosemary, tarragon

ESSENTIAL OILS FOR GERD:
Gerd is a gastroesophageal reflux disease often known as heartburn. LeBaby me, LeInsideOut, LeJulia, LeMillenia, LeRevitalize, LeSynopsis, cardamom, fenugreek, peppermint

HERBS:
Catnip/Chamomile, COL (formerly Colic), COLA (formerly Colic Adults), catnip, elecampane, fennel, gentian, ginger, turmeric, hops, juniper, marshmallow, oregon grape, osha, papaya, peppermint, plantain, slippery elm, spearmint, blue 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 our lives. 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, however, also contains poisonous substances that have been removed from the blood by the liver. In addition 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, vomiting, acid stomach, gallstones

STRESSORS:

Rapid changes in weight, lack of exercise, high blood cholesterol levels, improper diet, excessive consumption of sugar and animal fats. When the gallbladder is in trouble, it is sometimes more about what you should not eat than what you should eat to help it heal. However, herbs and essential oils can be of great help in healing the gallbladder-as long as it has not yet been removed!

VITAMINS-MINERALS-FOODS:

lecithin, enzymes, vitamins A, B, C, D, and E

ESSENTIAL OILS:
LeEmerge, LeLetting Go, LeRevitalize, LeSynopsis, LeTrust, LeVision, grapefruit, lemon, lime, rose geranium
Apply the listed oils as a compress over the gallbladder area; apply on the feet.

HERBS:
GI (formerly Gallstone Indigestion), alfalfa, barberry, catnip, cleavers, cramp bark, dandelion, fennel, ginger, turmeric, horsetail, parsley, turmeric, wild yam

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS:

Gallbladder congestion, attacks, and stones often indicate a need for us 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 and do so 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 food 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 may have been produced by malfunctions of various kinds. Symptoms may includ bloating, pain, acid reflux, and hiatal hernias. Trouble in the small intestine is often a contributing factor in 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

ESSENTIAL OILS:
LeAmbition, LeEZ Traveler, LeInner Peace, LeInsideOut, LeJulia, LeLetting Go, LeWeightless, anethi, anthopogon, coriander, ginger, turmeric, melissa, peppermint

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

AN UNHEALTHY CHAIN REACTION:

Kidneys become stressed from fear, carbonated beverages, chocolate or whatever else 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. As a result, 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. On the other hand, there may be 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, we must choose foods wisely, take time to chew food sufficiently and avoid between meal snacks. It is important to visit the bathroom three times daily—after each meal. This encourages the Olsen Point neural plexus in the large intestine 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 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, intestinal gas, headaches, hemorrhoids, hernia, insomnia, and malabsorption of nutrients.

LAZY BOWEL SYNDROME:

Laxatives can contribute to and even create lazy bowel syndrome as the body becomes dependent on them in order 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 of unabsorbed calcium, low levels of thyroid hormones, kidney distress, diabetes, depression, injuries to the nerves of the spine that control peristalsis, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and 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 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 as a potential hedge against 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, animal proteins, and snacking between meals.

VITAMINS-MINERALS-FOODS:

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

ESSENTIAL OILS:
LeInsideOut, LeJulia, LeSafeGuard, LeSynopsis, basil, carrot seed, patchouli, vetiver

HERBS:
BC (formerly Bowel Cleanser, CAC (formerly ?), CD (formerly Colon Digestive), barberry, cascara sagrada, catnip, cramp bark, fennel, marshmallow, peppermint, sarsaparilla, slippery elm

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 to determined to hold onto.

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 judgments and then become defensive if criticized for them.

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 is the largest organ of the body and weighs, in an adult, between 3 and 4 pounds. It is such an important organ that we could live only a day or two if the liver were to shut down completely.

Hepatic portal circulation brings every drop of blood that leaves the intestines directly into the liver. This blood is rich in nutrients from the food we eat. It is also full of toxins, metabolic waste products, and bacteria that has escaped through the intestinal walls. One third of the total lymph in the body is found in the liver! As a result, the liver has many functions and performs a great deal of work every day and all night long.

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. 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 also 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, creates serious stress on the liver. This can become a vicious and unending cycle.

Liver malfunction is a known cause of hypothyroidism.

The liver is important in the regulation of blood sugar.

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 have collected there from broken-down old blood cells that will be made into new blood cells.

LIVER AND METABOLISM:

The liver plays several vital roles in metabolism. It helps to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Lets take a look at how it does this.

Proteins: The liver creates acceptable and necessary proteins from the multitude of “foreign” proteins that we ingest. It does this by breaking the proteins down and literally reassembling them into forms that our various systems can make use of.

Carbohydrates: The liver turns this food source either into glucose or into glycogen. Glucose circulates in the blood and is used to fill the immediate energy needs of the body. Glycogen is stored in the liver until it is needed. When the blood is short of glucose, the liver converts the glycogen back into glucose and makes it available to our cells.

Fats: The liver also manufactures the amino acid, carnitine. Carnitine is essential if the cells of the body are going to break down fat—rather than just store it away. If the liver becomes compromised and carnitine is not produced in sufficient quantities, fat begins to accumulate in the cells. Fat accumulates first in the cells of the liver itself, resulting in a serious condition called “fatty liver”.

Since the liver receives the nutrient rich blood directly from the intestines, it is able to take care of its nutrient needs first. Liver cells remove amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose from the blood and either processes them immediately or stores them for later use.

EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS:

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" of various kinds. 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 anger or rage. Instead they will be intolerant of those who do not control their own anger. They have come to value self-control above all other virtues. The predominant emotions then become sadness and bitterness as rage at other people or at certain situations 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.

ESSENTIAL OILS GENERAL:
LeAcknowledge, LeAngel, LeEmerge, LeEZ Traveler, LeLetting Go, LeLiteN, LeLivN, LeRevitalize, LeSafeguard, LeSynopsis, angelica, carrot seed, celery seed, goldenrod, grapefruit, helichrysum, lemon, lime, rosemary

ESSENTIAL OILS FOR FATTY LIVER:
LeLivN, ledum

HERBS:
burdock, calendula, dandelion, beet root, rosemary, yellow dock

LIVER STRESSORS:

All drugs, even many prescription ones, and pollutants damage and overstress the liver because of its function as the collection place for such 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-contraceptive drugs, 7-caffeine

Summery

I find it is helpful to work backwards, from the absorption of nutrients in the intestinal tract and then up to issues with the stomach. That way we can hopefully affect what is happening throughout the entire system.

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 because it has not been broken down properly. This 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. Begin by relieving the effects of a sluggish colon by drinking plenty of water. Sufficient fiber is also essential. To be sure that the intestinal flora is balanced, take a super probiotic supplement for a month or two to make sure that the colon has an ample supply of the good kind of bacteria 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 proper and efficient fashion. If the stomach acid is not improperly buffered, the contents will be effectively digested enough to be accepted by the small intestine for further digestion and absorption. If the stomach is too full and stretched beyond its capacity it is likely that the pressure will be too great for the cardia valve. Without the excessive pressure, acid reflux does not occur and, thus, 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 essential oils and herbs which have an ability to impact this system and bring about improvements. Please study the specific organ you are concerned about to learn all the various ways to impact that part of the digestive system for the betterment of overall health.