Digestive Problems

Too much food & drink? Keep these useful hints & homeopathic medicines in mind - by Dr Keith Souter 

General tips

Drink a cup of boiled water in the morning before breakfast. This seems to cleanse the stomach and often works wonders. Eat slowly. One of the main causes of indigestion is unchewed food.
Don’t eat food “piping hot”. Our  stomachs are not meant to have hot foods inside them. A useful thing to  remember is that if it is hot in the mouth it is hot in the stomach.  This includes tea and coffee. Food and drinks that are too hot may  disrupt enzymes and injure the lining of the stomach. So, always wait  for it to cool.
Don’t eat on the hoof. Meals should be  taken at a leisurely pace. If you eat on the move, there is more chance  that digestion will not begin. Instead foods in the stomach and  intestine will start to ferment, producing gases that bloat you.
Avoid eating fruit with the meal.  Tempting though it is, because it seems lighter on the stomach than  puddings, it is not good at the end of a meal. This is because fruit  digests faster than dense proteins, so fermentation and gas accumulation  may occur.
If bloating is a persistent problem,  try simplifying your meals. Instead of having lots of food groups at one  meal try separating them. For exam­ple, proteins need acid enzyme  diges­tive juices, whereas carbohydrates need alkaline enzyme digestive  juices. When you have to break down both types all at once you are not  achieving optimal enzymatic action, so some fermentation and gas  accumulation may occur.
Try taking slightly smaller servings  and think twice about second help­ings. As a good rule of thumb, try to  get into the habit of estimating the quantity you allow yourself using  “nature’s food bowl”. Cup your two hands together as if you were using  them to make a bowl. The quantity of food that would fill that “bowl”  should be your maximum at any meal.
Make sure that you drink enough water. Ideally, hydrate your stomach with a glass of water half an hour before a meal.

Homeopathic medicines

Homeopathy has great proven worth in dealing with many digestive  com­plaints. However, be aware of certain warning symptoms which should  not be ignored. An early medical opinion and diagnosis is important in  the follow­ing situations:sudden severe abdominal pain;
vomiting, especially if accompanied by abdominal distension;
weight loss which is not from deliber­ate dieting;
alteration in the normal bowel habit, either with persistent looseness or constipation; bleeding from the back passage.

Heartburn

This symptom refers to the burning sen­sation that the individual  experiences as acid is squirted into the oesophagus from the stomach. A  sensation is felt rising through the chest up to the back of the throat. Calcarea carbonica is very good at relieving chronic heartburn  in chubby people who get cramps in the stomach, really burning  heartburn and who belch noisily. Often they get a sour taste in their  throats after belching. Milk often disagrees with them and produces  heart­burn and indigestion, whereas for most people milk helps.When heartburn and regurgitation occurs after only small snacks then Lycopodium will probably bring relief. Typically, the heartburn only spreads up as  far as the Adam’s apple, but it tends to last for hours at a time,  despite antacids or milk. The stomach often feels bloated during these  episodes. Pulsatilla is indicated when heart­burn is associated with the  taste of a food taken hours before. Fatty foods, butter and pork seem  to cause these bouts of heartburn, and it is more likely to occur when  they are peeved about something or with someone.  They rarely feel  thirsty.

Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia is a pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the upper part of  the abdromen, usually related to food or meals. It is what most people  refer to as indigestion. It can occur at any age and about a quarter of  the population will experience it at some time. There are many causes of  dyspepsia, and if it is prolonged, a medical opinion should be sought.A band­-like pain in the upper abdomen which comes on when the  per­son is hungry, and which is relieved for two or three hours after  eating, only to recur again, calls out for Anacardium. Indecisiveness is typical with someone in need of this remedy.Dyspepsia associated with nausea, a gnawing pain in the upper abdomen and retching of mucus suggest the rem­edy Argentum nitricum.  These folk are often hurried, full of fears, especially as they  anticipate a meeting or event, and prone to bouts of loose motions. Nux vomica is well known to peo­ple as a remedy of excess, or  overindul­gence. The pains classically come on about two hours after  food. Like Argen­tum nitricum these people are hurried, but they are  less likely to be fearful. Irritability and anger are more in keep­ing  with their temperament.By contrast, sweet, gentle and self­sacrificing people who experience  flat­ulence and dyspepsia after too many starchy or fatty foods may  need Natrum carbonicum. They cannot take milk and very often have multiple food allergies. Phosphorus is extremely useful in people given to ready  vomiting with their dyspepsia. They crave cold drinks, which seem to  help for a short time, only to be vomited ten minutes or so later.

Bloating

Bloating may arise from excess gas in the stomach, small intestines or the colon. Carbo vegetabilis is a useful remedy when the individual feels  chilly, blown up like a drum, and when passing wind both up and down  produces ease. Next is China when the same feeling of bloating is not  relieved by passing wind. People who gain the most from this remedy are  great fantasists. Lastly is Lycopodium.These people are often quite serious types and they classically experience problems in the late afternoon and early evening.

Hangovers

Nux vomica has been mentioned already as a useful medicine for  overindulgence and comes in handy for hangovers. It is particularly  indicated in a person if there is hypersensitivity, impatience,  frus­tration over obstacles and when irrit­ability is obvious to one and  all.

Constipation

This refers to infrequent, difficult and sometimes painful evacuation of  the bowels. In many ways it is a subjective complaint, since normal  opening of the bowels varies from person to person, some people going  normally only once or twice a week, and others going nor­mally three or  four times a day. Sus­tained alteration of the bowel habit needs a  medical opinion. Alumina is an excellent remedy for very severe constipation in  elderly peo­ple when the desire to open the bowels seems to have been  lost. The individ­ual may sit and strain and even feel impelled to use  fingers to try to expel hard, knotty motions. Petite, shy individuals who produce large hard motions when they do open their bowels may be helped by Baryta carbonica.Bryonia is helpful for people who get constipated when they  travel and who experience a burning sensation when they open their  bowels in this con­stipated state. Calcarea carbonica is useful in chubby people who  paradoxically quite like the sensation of being constipated. They may  lose the desire to open their bowels, but suffer no ill effects from it.For children who get quite distressed when they strain to open their bowels, Silica is useful. Straining almost always produces a stinging sensation in the back passage.

Diarrhoea

Acute episodes of diarrhoea can leave the individual feeling quite  drained and weak, as the result of electrolyte loss. Replacement of  fluids and electrolytes is the mainstay of treatment, but the following  remedies can nip an attack in the bud.Arsenicum album is extremely use­ful in very neat, anxious,  restless people. The diarrhoea produces a burning sen­sation around the  anus, which may become quite red and inflamed. The motions are usually  watery and offensive. For cases which start in the early morning or just after midnight China is useful. The motions are watery with undigested residues present. Sulphur is useful for people who are forced out of bed every  morning, often at 5 or 6am, by a sudden desire to open the bowels. The  motions are loose and extremely offensive.Podophyllum also helps the sudden urge to open the bowels, especially  when the diarrhoea is almost explosive. There is usually a lot of  gurgling in the abdomen before the urge comes.


Keith Souter is a part time doctor, medical writer & novelist.