Friday, October 31, 2014
The human body requires iron to perform many vital physiological functions. For instance, iron is the key component of hemoglobin that allows red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, and it plays a key role in cell growth and differentiation. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80% of the people in the world may be iron deficient. Premenopausal women, particularly those who exercise regularly, face a great risk of iron deficiency, or even anemia. Athletic, active males are also at high risk for iron deficiency. Low levels of iron can leave you feeling physically tired and weak, impair mental function, and weaken the immune system. Having too much iron in the body, on the other hand, can poison certain organs and even cause death. Maintaining the optimal balance of iron within the body is therefore essential to one’s health.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Almost everyone will experience heartburn at some point in their lives. Did you know more than 40% of Americans have heartburn pain at least one time each month, and that 5 – 7 % of the entire world population has heartburn or acid reflux on a frequent basis? Ouch!
Heartburn feels like you have too much acid in your stomach. You may feel too full for too long, and you may experience bloating, burping and other related symptoms of indigestion. When it’s really bad, people sometimes mistake the symptoms for a heart attack. The tricky thing about heartburn and reflux is that while it’s true that acid is the problem, it’s the opposite of what we think. We have heartburn because we don’t have enough acid.
Well, consider that when you swallow, food goes down your esophagus to your stomach. There’s a little flap that separates the two, but if that little flap isn’t working right, acid can back up, causing that burning feeling even when we have low stomach acid. So that burning feeling is a symptom, not the cause, of the problem. Several things can cause that little flap to weaken and malfunction, things like having too much caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar or processed foods. In addition there could be bacterial overgrowth (Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria associated with ulcers and even cancer), a hernia, or even a side-effect of a medication. (Be sure to read the potential side-effect of medications you’re taking or check with your pharmacist to see if your medications could be causing your heartburn.)
Stomach acid is hydrochloric acid (HCl), and it is a beautiful thing. It’s incredibly powerful - in fact it would burn right through your skin if you could touch it. Its role is critical to our health and wellbeing, not just because of digestion but because it’s one of our bodies’ primary defense systems. When we eat yummy food, sometimes bad bugs come along for the ride. Remember salmonella and E. coli? These bugs can cause disease if we don’t have enough acid to kill them off. When stomach acid is low we can’t possibly digest our food properly, we’re unable to fully absorb vitamins B12 and iron, and we’re at greater risk of food poisoning.
Our bodies produce less stomach acid as we age; it’s just a normal part of the aging process. But other factors can decrease the flow too. Two major factors are the chronic emotional stress of anxiety or depression and the physical stress of chronic illness. If you’re suffering with stress and you’re over the age of 40, you’ve got a double whammy when it comes to stomach acid. I’m going to share a few of my favorite tips for dealing with heartburn pain and for increasing stomach acid.To ease the pain of heartburn or reflux, try the following:
- Baking soda neutralizes the acid in your stomach and should be used only occasionally. Even though it makes you feel better it keeps you from digesting properly - not a good thing. Dissolve one teaspoon in eight ounces of room-temperature water and drink.
- Aloe juice naturally helps to reduce inflammation. Drinking up to ½ cup before meals may ease your symptoms. Note: aloe juice may have a laxative effect.
- Ginger root tea is an ancient remedy for stomach troubles. It can block acid andsuppress H pylori. Peel and slice about one inch of fresh ginger. Add to two cups of hot water and let steep for about half an hour. Discard ginger root and drink the tea about 20 minutes before your meal.
- Chamomile tea before bedtime can help soothe inflammation and help you get to sleep.
- Slippery elm coats and soothes, and has antioxidants that can help with inflammatory bowel conditions. It’s available in several forms. You can make a tea with two cups boiling water over two tablespoons powdered slippery elm bark, steep for 3 – 5 minutes and drink three times a day. You can purchase capsules or lozenges at your health food store. The lozenges are helpful for sore throats too.
To increase stomach acid:
- Relax before you eat. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, express gratitude for the food you are about to eat. Avoid eating when angry or upset, nothing interferes with digestion more than that.
- Chew your food thoroughly. This one step can make all the difference in your digestion. Chew until food is liquid in consistency; while you’re chewing your body is ramping up acid production.
- Eat small amounts of fermented vegetables daily. Naturally fermented (cultured) vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi also contain probiotics that will help to get your body back into balance. Just a tablespoon or two twice a day will help. Be sure to buy products that include vegetables and salt only, no vinegar. Mix your veggies into a salad or use as condiments at mealtime.
- Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) can easily improve the acid content of your stomach. If this is new for you, start with ½ teaspoon in a glass of water 20-30 minutes before your meal. Gradually increase the amount until you’re taking one tablespoon in a glass of water. To improve the taste, squeeze in a little lemon or lime juice.
- Avoid drinking too much liquid with and right before meals. We all know we should drink lots of water, and we should. But when we drink it within the 20 minutes before a meal, or we drink a full glass with a meal, we’re diluting our own stomach acid! If you’re a big water drinker like me, this can be a hard habit to break. But try keeping your liquid to three – four ounces during a meal and see how much better you feel. Do your best to wait 30 – 60 minutes after a meal to resume drinking water, or enjoy small sips if you can’t wait.
To prevent recurrence of heartburn:
- Switch to whole foods: limit processed foods!
- Eat moderately, stopping when you are satisfied rather than full.
- Finish eating three hours before bed. No late night snacks to interfere with your good night’s sleep.
- Take probiotics daily, whether in food or in supplement form.
- Identify and avoid trigger foods. An elimination-type clean eating plan can be a perfect tool to help you identify the foods that trigger heartburn in your body. Now you know how simple it can be to reduce and avoid heartburn pain, which of these steps will you take?
~Thanks to Toni Crabtree
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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