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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
Birmingham,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Email: info@questvitamins.co.uk
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue 31

Monthly Health Review, April 2003 href="newsletters_archive.php">(View previous newsletterss)

Food Intolerance & Digestive Health

It would seem that the 'simple' solution would be to avoid foods that
offend the Digestive System! However, human behaviour doesn't help. Peer
pressure has a very powerful effect and a meal out with friends can turn
into a gastric nightmare for those who don't want to be seen to be a bit
of a wimp when it comes to hot curry or yet another topping on the pizza.

Firstly, a look at some conditions, then brief suggestions for self-help
and a guide to food supplements or herbs that may be helpful.

Food intolerance is a reaction to a food or ingredient that occurs every
time the substance is eaten. It is not due to a psychological cause or
to Food Poisoning and does not affect the Immune System (1). Broadly speaking,
intolerance to a particular food may be brought about by:

  • The inability of the content to digest a food because the necessary enzyme(s)
    are not being produced, such as lactase deficiency (the inability to
    digest lactose).
  • Various unknown irritants, toxins, or food additives. The condition
    may be associated with foods like green peppers, fried foods or onions.

The resulting gastric problems are often 'treated' without much thought
to the underlying cause. Symptoms of food intolerance include Bloating,
intestinal gas and nausea.

Intolerance to the milk sugar lactose is the most common food intolerance.
It is brought about by the inability of the content to produce the enzyme
lactase. The resulting undigested lactose causes symptoms such as Bloating,
Cramp and Diarrhoea. Supplements of the lactase enzyme may benefit those
with Lactose Intolerance if taken with the milk-containing food/drink.

Fermented dairy products such as live yoghurt may be tolerated in small
amounts because the 'live' bacteria used to produce the food help the
production of lactic acid from lactose. The resulting fall in pH inhibits
the growth of many pathogenic organisms.

The milk of all species has undergone evolutionary change and it is generally
recognised that each species produces milk for its own type. Consequently,
milk has different ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrate (lactose).
Another point worth bearing in mind is that different processes affect
the lactose content of milk - dried skimmed milk has ten times the lactose
as normal milk (2).



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Digestive Complaints

Constipation is defined as the infrequent or
difficult passing of hard, dry faeces. Whilst Constipation is mostly harmless,
occasionally it may be a symptom of an underlying disorder. Regularity
and comfort of bowel action are more important than frequency. To eliminate
the possibility of a serious disorder, any persistent change in the pattern
of bowel movement should be investigated by a doctor, especially a recent
onset of Constipation in adults over 40 (1). Lifestyle tips could include
drinking plenty of water. A guideline would be a glass of water for every
alcoholic drink or cup of tea or coffee and/or providing a total non-alcoholic
intake of 1.5 - 2 litres a day.

Diarrhoea is often a defence mechanism to rid
the content of toxic substances. It may be caused by excessive amounts of
alcohol or other substances that prove irritating to the stomach or intestines,
intolerance to certain foods, poisoning with heavy metals, chemicals found
in cathartics, Hyperactivity of the nervous system or by viral or bacterial
Infections. Diarrhoea produces hypermotility of the bowel and consequently
decreases faecal transit time. Normally, adults are not harmed by Diarrhoea,
but it can be life-threatening to children, the elderly or the debilitated.

Indigestion is a general term used to describe
Heartburn, low stomach acid, intestinal gas or other gastric disturbance.

Heartburn is characterised by a burning sensation
in the centre of the chest. It may travel from the breastbone to the throat
and is caused by spasmodic constrictions of the oesophagus, accompanied
by acid reflux from the stomach that may result in belching or Vomiting.
It does not indicate a heart problem, and is related to nervous tension
or overindulgence in food and drink (1).

Low stomach acidity may have some health consequences.
From a nutrition point of view, many minerals (especially Zinc) and vitamins
need sufficient stomach acid to be absorbed properly. Stomach acid is
necessary to break down protein sufficiently well enough to allow the
pancreatic enzymes to work properly. Protein malabsorption has been associated
with immune-related Stress and food allergies (3).

Peptic Ulcers are characterised by a damaged
area in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum. Stomach Ulcers may
be caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori reducing the ability of
the mucous membrane to resist stomach acid. In the case of duodenal Ulcers,
hydrochloric acid accesses the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract.
The most important issues for self-help are not Smoking and not drinking
tea, coffee and alcohol. 'Small, regular meals' should be the maxim for
food intake (1).



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Homoeopathy
and Digestive Complaints

Homoeopathy can be very helpful with many complaints
of the Digestive System.

For detailed information please refer to the Guide
to Homoeopathics by Dr Angela Jones.



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Possible supplements
for maintaining good digestive health

L. acidophilus may help where Stress is affecting
the digestive process. Supplements containing Lactic Bacteria help maintain
the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract by discourAging the growth
of putrefactive bacteria. This delicate balance may be disturbed in people
suffering Stress (12).

L. acidophilus supplements help to redress the balance
of bacteria in the digestive tract - providing the ideal envIronment for
digestion and bowel regularity (12).

In cases of Constipation, sufficient soluble fibre
(such as linseed, oats and dried fruits), together with plenty of fluid
are the most important factors to mention.

Some people experience a feeling of "fullness" that
persists long after a meal is consumed. This may cause disturbed sleep,
Headaches, flatulence or abdominal Pains. A supplement of digestive
enzymes
may be taken through older age or during illness as the digestive
system is less efficient and the amounts of enzymes may become insufficient
(12).

For those who experience difficulty digesting the lactose
in milk and some dairy products, the enzyme lactase may be taken
to digest the milk sugar lactose so that it can be easily absorbed in
the small intestine (12).

A person with an ulcer may find Vitamin A helpful.
It is involved in the health of the mucous membrane that protects the
lining of the stomach and intestine wall from gastric juices and acid.
Vitamin A also promotes healing and levels of Vitamin C are often lower
in people with Ulcers. The 'buffered' form of Vitamin C (Calcium ascorbate)
would be an appropriate supplement (13).

There is some clinical evidence that shows L-glutamine
to be effective in the treatment of peptic Ulcers. It appears to help
the healing process of the gastrointestinal tract (14).

CoQ10 has been shown to be effective against
ailments associated with poor oxygenation including stomach Ulcers (15).



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Herbs and healthy
digestion

Cat's Claw has been used to aid sufferers of
stomach and bowel disorders and may be useful in the treatment of gastric
Ulcers (4). It may also be helpful for those with Gastritis, Haemorrhoids
and diverticulitis as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Ginger stimulates the production of gastric
secretions and high intakes may help to stimulate saliva production (5).
A number of anti-ulcer compounds have been isolated from Ginger. As a
result, extracts of Ginger have been effectively used in the treatment
of peptic Ulcers (6). Ginger possesses carminative and antispasmodic properties
and is traditionally taken for nausea, travel sickness, flatulent dyspepsia,
and intestinal colic (7).

Milk Thistle may be used to improve digestion
by promoting the flow of bile from the liver, which then emulsifies dietary
fat (8).

Peppermint may be included in digestive formulas
as it has antispasmodic and carminative effect (9).

The mucilage (gelatinous substance) from slippery
elm bark
may help protect the stomach wall from irritation and reduce
Inflammation (10).

The herb Senna has a laxative action that may
be helpful in the short term but the long-term solution lies with the
diet and lifestyle factors. Regular exercise is important to help maintain
regular bowels! Soluble dietary fibre from fruit, vegetables, beans and
pulses will encourage bowel movements (11).



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General advice
to sufferers of digestive disorders

It may be prudent to advise sufferers of digestive
disorders to avoid irritants such as spicy foods or undercooked, suspect
foods that may contain large amounts of bacteria. Also to avoid Stressful,
anxious situations that may cause acid reflux. Whenever there are severe
Pains or prolonged problems being experienced, always refer the customer
to a medical practitioner.

Which factors contribute to good digestive health?

  • Chewing each mouthful of food thoroughly, allowing the enzymes in
    our saliva to mix with the food.
  • Drinking plenty of water each day (the recommended amount is 1.5 litres
    a day) to help "flush out" the system.
  • Eating a varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Relaxing while we consume our food promotes efficient digestion.

If we can manage all these then our Digestive System
should not cause us to have wind, indigestion, Heartburn or Constipation.


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References

  1. "BMA Complete Family Health Encyclopedia", Ed. Dr. T. Smith. 1996.
    DK.
  2. "Human Nutrition & Dietetics", Garrow, James and Ralph. Churchill
    Livingstone. 2000.
  3. Portals of entry: A review. Ann Allergy Mayron LW. 1984; 39:656.
  4. Herbs for your Health. C.O. Loveland, Interweave Press, 1996.
  5. "Herbal drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals", N Grainger Bissett, Medpharm.
    1994.
  6. British J Phytotherapy, 1997, 4:3:110-120.
  7. "Herbal Medicines", C Newall & L Anderson, 1996.
  8. HealthPlus, 1993 -1997.
  9. The Healing Power of Herbs, M Murray ND. Prima, 1995.
  10. "Herbal Medicines", C Newall & L Anderson, 1996.
  11. "Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals", N Grainger Bissett, Medpharm,
    1994.
  12. Quest Professional Product Manual 1998.
  13. Healing through Nutrition, M R Werbach. Thorsons. 1995.
  14. Nutrition, 1997, 13;7-8:743-747.
  15. "The Miracle Nutrient Coenzyme Q10". DR E G Bliznakov & G Hunt,
    Thorsons, 1988.



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