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GI InflammationCould this all to common form of “heat” be compromising your health?  In a recent interview with Dr. Karen Ball and Tiffany Pollard, LAc and owner of Eating for Evolution (EFE), they weave together naturopathic and Chinese medicine perspectives, explaining what gastrointestinal inflammation is, why it’s important to know about, what causes it, general signs and symptoms, and what we can do to heal and maintain healthy digestive tracts… and of course, what GI talk would be complete without diving into the all important topic of “poop?!”  Below are a few of the key points that emerged from  their discussion.  Visit the EFE library to access the full interview.

Gastrointestinal Inflammation

What is it? Inflammation is a natural response from our bodies in an attempt to protect or heal the body. It causes the chemistry of the inflamed area to change, altering the tissues and the electromagnetic energy in that area as well.

Inflammation from the perspective of Chinese Medicine is looked at as a heat process; very active and hot. If there is long-term inflammation the body shuts down somewhat, and isolates the damage so that it doesn’t spread. This can lead to “coldness” or deficiency. So depending on how long the inflammation has been present the symptoms and treatments will differ; ranging from symptoms of heat to deficient or cold.

What causes it?  There are many things that can cause GI Inflammation. A common culprit is not enough HCL in stomach. HCL is what kills the hazardous bacteria on foods and helps break down food. Other causes of GI inflammation include infection, overgrowth of bacteria, parasites, food sensitivities, stress, poor lifestyle and eating habits, and heavy metals/toxins.

General signs of inflammation can include:
 • Irregular bowel movements
• Gas
• Bloating
• Burping
• Stomach or intestinal pain
• Constipation and/or lose stool
• Pain when pushing on the belly

Why is it important to know about GI Inflammation? It’s pretty much impossible to be healthy and vital (over time) if digestion isn’t working.

In Chinese Medicine the digestive system is said to be ruled by three main functions/elements and organs of the body. The Earth element includes the stomach and the spleen/pancreas. Here the food is warmed and melted down (stomach) then “essence” is transformed and distributed (spleen/pancreas). The Fire element includes the Small Intestine, which is where our nutrients are absorbed, and is said to link with the Heart or Spirit. The Small Intestine literally feeds the Heart/Spirit with nutrients and information from the outside world. Lastly is the Metal element, which involves the Large Intestine (LI). The LI has to do with taking in and letting go. In our culture there is a serious underestimation of the importance of letting go of the crap! Which leads us to our next section…..

Poop talk! 
What is healthy poop? Many people don’t know they have signs of GI inflammation because they assume that what they experience in terms of digestion is normal. This is particularly true when it comes to poop, because not only are we prone to assume we’re “normal,” but this is a topic that most many people avoid bringing up. Poop gives very important information about the state of the body.

So, what’s normal anyways?  Having a bowel movement 1-3 times a day, with a brown, not too dark or chalky white, color. Be aware that some foods can temporarily alter the color. Bowel movements should move easily without effort and not a lot of gas. They should be formed and tube-shaped, not skinny, in round balls and not overly stinky or sticky.

What causes GI Inflammation:

• Foods your body can’t handle Eating food without enough digestive enzymes or HCL to help break it down
• Infection
• Excess metals/toxins/chemicals built up in the body
• Emotions

What do we do about it?
• Partnering with a well-trained practitioner can help you get to the underlying problem quickly and safely.
• Meditative, prayer and exercise can help you to manage everyday stressors and emotions, proving to benefit many digestive imbalances.
• Know the do’s and don’ts of eating: Do… Eat in a calm environment, thoroughly chewing your food and pay attention to how your body is responding to what you’re feeding it. Don’t worry, stress, work, or consume too much liquid while eating. The digestive fluids need to be concentrated so it is a good practice to not drink with meals, but rather before and after.
• Simplify your meals. Pay attention to the foods that cause you pain and then take responsibility for that information.

Some foods that promote healthy GI functioning are alkaline foods such as fruits, veggies, sea veggies, millet, amaranth, quinoa and olive oil. These foods should constitute between 70-80% of your meals. Fiber, foods that have pre-biotics (such as chicory), and foods that have probiotics (such as yogurt and home-made cultured veggies) all support GI health.

Foods that promote GI inflammation include animal products, refined foods, sugars, wheat and other grains not mentioned above, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, some fats, coffee and chocolate.

Copyright Eating for Evolution 2009

Dr. Karen Ball is a a licensed Naturopath and owner of Naturally Well 
Tiffany Pollard is a licensed Acupuncturist and creator of Eating for Evolution and Synergy Wellness Center

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