1 in 10 people suffer from intestinal pain . Naturopathy explains how to improve your digestion More and more of these people are turning to naturopathy to understand the causes of their difficult digestion and, above all, to provide solutions. In order to guide you in your thoughts and research, I will take stock of the different types of digestive problems, decipher the symptoms and offer you natural solutions. You will see that there are indeed many naturopathic solutions for easier digestion.
Before starting, it is important to distinguish two main families of digestive disorders: disorders of upper digestion (stomach) and lower digestion (intestine and colon). Their symptoms differ and therefore the solutions must be adapted.
Upper digestive disorders
In case of difficult upper digestion, the signals are acid reflux, postpartum pain (which follows the meal) and heaviness in the stomach. Good news ! The causes are often very simple: chewing and stress . Your doctor may also have detected a hiatal hernia. In this case, there are naturopathic treatments to complement those of your doctor.
Chewing: fundamental prerequisite for digestion in naturopathy
To understand the role of chewing in digestive disorders, let’s quickly go back to how digestion works.
Digestion begins in the oral cavity. In fact, chewing allows you to cut food into small pieces. Thus, the molecules “burst” and release the vitamins and minerals. But above all, chewing coats food with salivary amylase. This substance pre-digests approximately 40% of carbohydrates . It is important to understand that work that is not done by the teeth, saliva and mouth will not be done later by another organ. This is why chewing is essential for good digestion, and naturopathy attaches great importance to it.
Chewing means chewing each mouthful about 30 times .
The role of the stomach
The stomach is a very acidic environment. Different enzymes are secreted there as well as hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen. To put it simply, let’s remember that these two secretions allow the digestion of proteins. Here is a short summary of the actions carried out:
- The stomach gradually fills in concentric layers, from the periphery to the center.
- Muscle fibers mix the contents of the stomach.
- Gastric juices transform the food bolus into chyme.
- When the pressure in the stomach exceeds the duodenal pressure, the contents of the stomach are evacuated in fractions to the duodenum.
You will notice that the carbohydrates are not changed in the stomach. They wait and begin to ferment.
Good digestion with naturopathy: relax
Stress, nervousness, anxiety or heated discussions activate our sympathetic nervous system . It is the accelerator of our nervous system which allows us to react in the event of danger. To enable a rapid response, it pauses certain phenomena that are not necessary for our immediate survival. Thus, it reduces gastric motility and partially inhibits gastric secretions (with the exception of hydrochloric acid). This is why digestion can no longer take place under optimal conditions.
On the contrary, a relaxed position, good breathing and a pleasant environment promote the parasympathetic nervous system . It is the “brake” of our body. It generally has the opposite role of the sympathetic system. That is to say, it energizes gastric motility and increases secretions.
After chewing, the second naturopathy solution for your digestion is to establish a relaxed environment for meals.
Take care of your diaphragm to digest well
The diaphragm is a powerful and often overlooked muscle. He is enormously impacted by stressful situations. In addition, the lack of deep breathing and our sedentary positions increase diaphragm contractures. However, the diaphragm acts in a sneaky way on our digestion. I’ll explain how.
In everyday life, we often stand with our shoulders tucked in front (computer, desk, household chores). By doing this, our rib cage is closed. Also, our breathing is short and shallow, which causes compression of our diaphragm. Stress further accentuates these effects.
However, a tense diaphragm sometimes presses on the orifice which makes the junction between the digestive tract and the stomach (the cardia). Under the effect of this pressure, the valve opens and allows acidity to rise towards the stomach. This accentuates gastric reflux.
Naturopathy solutions for easier digestion
I strongly advise you to practice breathing exercises several times during the day. They allow us to oxygenate our brain and all the cells of our body, to calm our sympathetic system and also to restart the parasympathetic (the “brake”). Less stress and more relaxation will have a very beneficial effect on your digestion and your general well-being.
I offer you a common structure of breathing exercises. You start by inhaling through your nose (as many seconds as the first number indicated). Then you block your breathing (second number). Finally, you exhale through your mouth (third number) with your lips slightly pursed, seeking to lower the ribs and supporting the perineum.
|Situation||Inspiration – Blocking – Exhalation|
|Waking up anxiously or feeling anxious during the day||6 – 4 – 10|
|To relax during the day||4 – 2 – 6|
|Meditation and development of the “6th sense ”||8 – 4 – 12|
|Before meals||4 – 2 – 6|
|Before sleeping, in bed||6 – 4 – 12|
Plants recommended in naturopathy for upper digestion
In addition to breathing exercises, there are plants that facilitate upper digestion and reduce gastric acidity. Here is a selection.
The Great Gentian or Yellow Gentian is a perennial herbaceous plant reaching 150 cm high. The leaves are opposite, wide (8 to 15 cm), with an entire blade, with 5-7 strong veins, sessile, embracing at the top. The yellow flowers are star-shaped and present from June to August. The fruits are capsules containing numerous seeds.
Yellow gentian is a digestive, gastro-protective tonic that relieves gastric wounds and regulates acidity. However, gentian is contraindicated in cases of gastric or duodenal ulcer, as well as during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Aloe vera is a rosette plant. Its leaves are fleshy, with serrated edges, and can reach 50 cm long. They are made up of large polyhedral cells which contain the “juice”. Aloe vera juice is obtained by crushing the leaves of the plant to collect the sap. This precious juice is rich in active molecules and nutrients.
Aloe vera is often recommended in naturopathy for digestion. In fact, aloe vera juice reduces the production of acid in the stomach and has an anti-inflammatory action. It thus limits the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.
Some restrictions however. Aloe vera has a laxative action. It is therefore contraindicated in cases of functional inflammatory colopathies, during menstruation, in cases of varicose veins, hemorrhoids and kidney infections.
Do not use in children under 12 years old. Do not use for more than 15 days in a row. Be careful for people allergic to the Liliaceae family (garlic, chives, onion, asparagus, etc.) of which aloe vera is a part.
Other plants such as caraway, ginger and lemon balm also have favorable effects on upper digestion.
Lower digestive disorders
Lower digestion mainly concerns the intestine and the colon. These intestinal pains can manifest themselves as a bloated stomach, stomach aches, and flatulence. These ailments are sometimes temporary in nature, but can also become permanent. Know how to listen to your body and take its alerts seriously. Indeed, stress, poor chewing (as mentioned in the first part), a deterioration of the intestinal flora (taking medications, poor diet, etc.) can lead to irritable bowel syndrome. We will try to understand how and why.
How the intestine works
The lining of the intestine is made up of cells called enterocytes. These cells are in constant renewal (every 36 hours). They are pressed against each other, like a fence. In addition, the cells are covered in mucus which provides protection. This mucus contains our intestinal flora composed of saprophytic bacteria (the “good” bacteria) and also pathogenic bacteria.
These two types of bacteria are essential for the balance of our intestinal flora. They normally live in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, it happens that various inflammations cause an alteration of this mucus. However, in the absence of this protection, the intestinal wall deteriorates. The enterocytes move apart and allow unwanted molecules into the bloodstream.
When the intestinal flora goes wrong
If this phenomenon is exceptional, we may have a little stomach ache but nothing very significant. However, when this phenomenon becomes recurrent, significant inflammation sets in. In fact, irritations space out the enterocytes. Large molecules then pass through the wall and create intestinal pain. These molecules are recognized by the body as “non-self”. They lead to general inflammation and dysbiosis , that is to say an imbalance of the intestinal flora.
Over time, the lining of the intestine no longer fulfills its role. Pathogenic bacteria take hold and the saprophytic intestinal flora is reduced. Saprophytic bacteria are bacteria, microscopic fungi or protozoa (made up of a single cell). When they are no longer sufficient in the face of pathogenic bacteria, there is anarchy within our intestinal flora. This leads to numerous disorders, both digestive but also neuronal and emotional. In fact, 95% of neurotransmitters are synthesized in the intestine!
Naturopathy solutions for lower digestion
As with digestive problems associated with upper digestion, the first easy thing to correct is chewing.
At the same time, I advise you to pay attention to the quality and number of stools. In fact, this subject is rarely discussed in digestion problems, except in naturopathy consultations. We should have a bowel movement at least once a day. The stools must be molded, non-odorous, homogeneous. Dry, unstructured, lumpy, diarrheal, non-daily stools reflect poor digestion. This is why it is important to correct the diet or take supplements over a given period of time.
You can do a food assessment . This assessment will perhaps highlight deficiencies and incompatibilities. However, you should not decide alone to eradicate a food group from your diet. Abdominal pain does not necessarily mean irritable bowel syndrome. Regenerating your microbiota and reestablishing brain/intestine connections are essential before any other action.
One of the frequently encountered concerns is constipation. Before taking any supplement, it is important to check hydration. In addition, daily consumption of vegetables provides essential fiber . Then, practicing regular physical activity is important for transit.
I often advise acting on the liver. Indeed, our liver is very often overloaded. A little detox will improve your intestinal transit. You can use large classic detox plants such as artichoke or milk thistle.
Rosemary against constipation
Rosemary is a very complete and easy to use plant. It has a fairly broad spectrum:
- it contributes to digestive comfort
- it supports liver functions
- it strengthens the body’s resistance
- it helps fight colds
- it is antibacterial
- it has an anti-oxidant action which fights against the formation of free radicals
You can use rosemary in the form of capsules, herbal tea or liquid extract. Avoid taking it in the evening in sensitive subjects. I also advise against its use during pregnancy.
Brewer’s yeast against liquid stools
Brewer’s yeast is too often ignored even though its use is very effective. It contributes to the balance of the intestinal flora and helps reduce excessively liquid stools. It also acts on the skin, fights against chronic forms of acne, fights dry and dull skin. Additionally, brewer’s yeast helps improve brittle nails and hair.
As a naturopath, I advise you to buy fresh brewer’s yeast in capsules and take one to two capsules three times a day in a glass of water for 2 weeks.
Conclusions to improve your digestion with naturopathy
Digestive disorders can have multiple origins which are not always easy to identify. However, the good news is that we can often implement easy actions ourselves. Taking the time to chew is essential. If you don’t have time to have a long meal at midday, for example, it is better to eat only one dish and then have a snack in the afternoon.
Then, our second lever of action is stress management. Breathing exercises are quick to apply on a daily basis and can easily become a good habit. In addition, a balanced diet helps maintain a rich intestinal flora.
In addition to the plants that I have recommended in this article, there are of course many solutions to implement. They must be well adapted to each person to take into account their pathologies and problems. In these cases, a naturopathy consultation allows us to provide an effective and personalized response to your situation.
This article is for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied upon to make any decisions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is entirely at your own risk and responsibility