Healing Nature

Be kind to your stomach

For October, I’ve chosen to help out your understanding of your stomach. It’s where everything you put in your mouth lands, it is here that the process of healthy or unhealthy digestion starts. Stomachs are not standard either and how they behave or not is totally individual and has a huge bearing on your food choices if you want to feel comfortable. Age, acidity or alkalinity, taste, sufficiency of enzymes, environment, foods, ethnicity and how well your nervous system is functioning, all have a bearing on your ability to digest and absorb food.

It is in the stomach that the crucial role of maintaining good digestive health and therefore good general health begins. The digestive system plays a central role in the development of a majority of modern diseases. The old saying of “you are what you eat” still rings true, but this could also be better understood by adding that “you are what you absorb and utilize”. Tissues in our bodies endeavour to maintain specific pH or acid/alkaline levels in balance. It is when these deviate from a balanced state that disease can commence and one of the prime sites where that all begins is in the stomach. A combination of ageing and factors like stress and poor diet can upset stomach acid levels and digestive enzymes.

During digestion food moves from a slightly acidic/neutral environment in the mouth to one that can be highly acidic to digest protein in the stomach and back to somewhat alkaline in the small intestine. By not taking care with what you throw at your stomach this balance can easily be upset – if not today – because you think you have a “cast iron stomach” – then somewhere down the track when digestive enzymes diminish through ageing or sheer long term abuse. If stomach Hydrochloric acid diminishes, protein digestion becomes poor, foods putrify beginning in the stomach and leading to gas, bloating, indigestion, bad breath and discomfort all along the digestive tract. Stomach acid health is dependent on Zinc status and, is not only important to digestion but is important to immune health as well. Who do you know who always easily picks up gastro viruses or, comes home with travel diarrhea? It’s likely they have low stomach acid and poor digestive enzymes. Poor digestion profoundly lowers immunity.

Have you ever eaten when upset and ended up with a huge stomach ache even if the meal was something that normally never upsets you? This is because stresses tend to divert energy away from the settled nervous system you need to digest well into a “fight or flight stress response,” which shuts down digestive processes until you’re calm again, so don’t stress and don’t eat when you’re stressed.

A healthy stomach will kill viruses, bacteria, moulds, parasites and other organisms harmful to health. If you’re over 45 also there’s a good chance you could do with some stomach and nutritional help. Then again some of the little ones who just won’t eat properly and have no appetite also have stomachs that aren’t working optimally.

How can you tell? If you’re experiencing and discomfort or appetite change, a visit to see me will certainly give you a good picture of what you can do to help re-establish good digestive and immune health. Herbs and nutritional supplements like digestive enzyme promoters and even stress relief will have your stomach more settled. In the meantime here’s some dietary and lifestyle advice for a healthy gut:-

*Natural digestive enzymes – provided by eating plenty of salads and vegetables

*Good food combining – reduce stomach challenges. Try not to combine grains, pastas, spuds and breads with meats – eg. either have meats, veggies or salads; or rice and veggies at one meal- this is because your stomach acid changes from more alkaline for starches and grains to more acid for meats.

*Be relaxed when you eat. Stress switches off digestion.

*Only eat until you are 80% full –a golden rule to health and longevity. Eat more in the morning than at the end of the day – this gives your body the chance to rest and mend overnight instead of spending energy on digesting.

*Eat at regular times, and especially eat a good breakfast, a healthy lunch and a light healthy dinner. Most overweight people I know skip breakfast, lunch badly and eat huge dinners which is a golden path to obesity because your convincing your body its starving.

*Keep drinks away from eating, ideally 15 minutes before and 45 minutes after meals, this way you don’t dilute precious digestive enzymes and stomach acid.

“The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”

– Dr Bruce Lipton

The Urgency of Healthy Nutrition for Kids

I was horrified to hear from a secondary student at one of our schools that they had a talk about nutrition from visiting dieticians where vegetables where hardly mentioned. I was also horrified to see a current Diabetic help publication with a healthy food pyramid that is quite out of date….cereals and breads at the base of the pyramid is what is behind the obesity epidemic because people took to believing carbs are the go and got stuck into high fat, processed high glycaemic load foods thinking –“yeh good old grains”. They lost their appetite for the real flavours of natural whole foods like lots vegetables and salads, fruit, nuts and protein foods and, bingo we have a problem.

Last century saw a move too far away from natural food and it continues.  With busy lives it is easy too succumb to convenience and lose the art of healthy food preparation. Many people have become conditioned to prefer highly processed fatty sugary foods lacking vital nutrients and with synthetic chemical additives. Children have become prime targets for this through media marketing. Their diets end up very low in foods containing real nutrients that create a good foundation for health. As a Naturopath, I see kids with despairing parents who cannot even get their kids to try fruits and vegies, or any healthy whole food. The kids often have weight issues, behavioural disorders and learning difficulties. They can be suffering malnutrition and food additive onslaught that is affecting their precious future health right now.

Let’s recognise that the problem exists. Toxic influences from junk foods affect both the bodies and minds of our precious young ones. Let’s do something – here is a plan for reforming your kids, getting them to love healthy food and giving them a better start.

 Keep offering foods that were initially refused. Prepare and serve them in different ways without comment – it may take months but often works.

  • If you believe your child to be terminally difficult about food they will probably fulfil your negative prophecy. Stay calm, patient and trust.
  • Be the change you want to see in your kids. Demonstrate that it’s normal to enjoy a wide variety of foods, and talk to kids about foods you came to enjoy that you once didn’t like.
  • Do not bring unhealthy foods into the house Kids aren’t the ones buying Coke, coco-pops, pizza shapes and white bread. Adults buy food for kids until they’re older and even then you can influence their breakfast and dinner.
  • Involve your children in menu planning, shopping for food and meal preparation, even better let them grow some food. I can hear you saying, “hang on a minute, its impossible to shop for healthy foods with kids in your ear!”, but kids who participate in all aspects of preparing meals are far more likely to sample the finished product. Kids often baulk at the foods parents want them to eat as a way of asserting control. Involving them helps to relieve any sense of powerlessness over food choices. It also sets up a lifetime family social activity that will pay great dividends in the future – you may even get lucky enough to have a teenage cook who prepares lovely meals once or twice a week when you’re busy.
  • Talk to your kids constantly about your food choices and how and why you make them, explain the benefits of each food you buy. Tell them nicely how unhealthy foods affect people – they will listen when sensible informed information is shared.
  • Make meal times fun – a common mistake is well meaning parents turning meal times into a huge drag by lecturing their children about what they “should” eat and what will happen if they don’t. You know, if you harangue kids they will tune out – so don’t.
  • Never, ever reward kids with food. Never threaten, punish, bribe or reward them to get them to eat the foods that you desire. Reward foods are almost invariably unhealthy and they can set a pattern for lifelong battles with eating disorders. Rewards and punishments psychologically undermine a child’s intrinsic motivation to eat healthy foods. Manipulating your child through bribes or punishments sends him/her the message that manipulation is OK, an acceptable strategy for getting what you want. Don’t be surprised if there is an attempt to manipulate you straight back!

Good luck with this important task parents and remember it often pays to have them hear the truth (if it’s correct) from an external source.

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind”

– Caroline Myss

The Case for Meditation, Stillness, and Mindfulness

In a world where we can feel a victim of the unrelenting routine, pressured by the demands of a complicated 21st century lifestyle, meditation is a way to escape to your own inner sanctuary and become more of a creator on your life path. 

Many believe finding some stillness and reflection and clarity in each day sounds attractive but unachievable. It remains true that looking for the true you, amongst a day filled with activities that are unquestionably at times quite a crazy pressure is the aspiration of many and that illusive thing called calm and peace is a constant search for most.

So, do you:-eat while you scan your emails? Answer the mobile or, shock horror -text while you’re driving? Do you watch the news on TV whilst phoning a friend, and at the same time think of the shopping list for the week? We fool ourselves into thinking this is time efficient to multi task but, then when it comes to finding your keys to drive to work the next morning, your mind has been so busy when you put them down last night that it takes you half an hour to find them. Sound familiar?

We are only human and although it is 99.9% unlikely there is a lion chasing us in the modern world, we create an alien monster of stress if we cannot find sanctuary or escape from the demands of a world that is bombarding us with inner and outer noise. By continuing on this road we usually don’t notice how far out of balance we are until physical symptoms pull us up and make us notice when we are not sleeping, and anxiety and stress related illnesses confront us.

To quote a writer that I was blessed to be exposed to in my early twenties –Herman Hesse –“True stillness is only possible when we find our true self”. Meditation affords the ability to access your true inner self. Meditation, for those who find it a necessary daily practice, know they have found the ideal stress management in today’s ‘too busy’ world. In Meditation we find a place where it is safe to just be you, listen to you, and switch off the pressure. Mostly you only need 15-20 minutes with practice and you know deep meditation is reputedly 4 times more restful than sleep.

Maybe you will need to learn how to switch off the jangle of inner noise to be able to meditate. However, remember that children find it easy and most people get good results in their first experience of meditation. I feel Meditation skills are possibly the best way to remain healthy and calm right now.

“Our thought processes are indissolubly connected with all the processes of nature” 

– Paul Foster Case