so many of us, caretakers of animals, have digestive
troubles of our own, this is offered for your
edification and aid...
Unfortunately, most of what’s wrong with us is related to our dietary habits – not just what we ingest but when and how. This is compounded by various drugs we take to quiet the symptoms of digestive or other distress. The great news is that we can control our habits. Some possible bad news is that we might not want to! Further good news, though, is that there are ways other than drugs to counteract some of our dietary foibles.
And we had better look at the facts – because most M.D.s are drug- and surgery-oriented and simply don’t concern themselves with the basic physiology (as opposed to anatomy) of the digestive system.
As we’ll see, digestive enzymes and that much-maligned stomach acid play a heroic role in keeping our bodies truly "well-fed"… especially since our own habits are often contradictory to our digestive welfare and health in general.
"Digestive enzymes break down food particles for storage in the liver or muscles. This stored energy is later converted by other [metabolic] enzymes for use by the body when necessary." (2) If food nutrients aren’t assimilated via digestion, what results is a lack of vital energy. …And since "enzymes also utilize the nutrients ingested by the body to construct new muscle tissue, nerve cells, bone, skin, and glandular tissue" (3), problems in these areas seemingly unrelated to digestion can develop over time. "Extreme fatigue may be caused by an inability to digest proteins and fats, which cause the blood cells to clump together and not circulate like they should. When the blood is clumped it can not carry as much oxygen and can result in fatigue and slow and muddled thinking. The white blood cells [an important component of the immune system] have a difficult time moving around and getting where they need to be when they’re caught in the sluggish, clumped blood as well." (4)
"The importance of … stomach acid cannot be overemphasized, since if it is present in ample amounts, food is digested easily, acid-fast bacteria are destroyed, the stomach empties in normal time, and the bowels function regularly. … Hydrochloric acid is also essential for the systemic assimilation of calcium and other minerals [as well as vitamins]… Insufficient stomach acid results in symptoms of indigestion due to delay in the emptying time of the stomach, indigestion of protein, and non-destruction of acid-forming bacteria. Thus, foods putrefy in the stomach, causing gas, bloating, and discomfort … and lactic acid, a forerunner to cancer, is formed. … Both the bile duct and pancreatic ducts are hampered, causing the liver to become engorged with bile [which should be being released for use in digesting acid foods and assimilating fat-soluble vitamins]. The malfunctioning pancreas becomes hard and tender, unable to supply important digestive juices to the small intestine, hindering the latter’s digestion and assimilation of food." (5)
It all starts in the mouth…
Of course, first there’s the food and drink we take in, and its nutritional value and relative digestibility (more on that later). Once it’s in, the teeth chew our food – which begins a process of a pulverizing breakdown that continues on down the digestive tract. Salivary glands – triggered by stimulation of the tongue’s taste buds – produce the initial digestive juices (in which is ptyalin, a type of amylase, or starch-digesting enzyme – that begins a process of chemical breakdown that continues on).
On to the esophagus…
After the mouth, of course, the food/drink moves through the esophagus into the stomach. The barrier between the two is a muscular sphincter, or valve, in the diaphragm, the layer of muscle separating the abdominal and chest cavities. This ring of muscle opens and closes in response to food and drink "coming down the pipe".
Now we’re at the stomach…
We’ve all felt the muscular action of the stomach (and are aware of its stretching and shrinking, depending on how much is in it). One of its jobs is to continue the grinding of food into smaller particles via its musculature. Its gastric glands also secrete the crucial hydrochloric acid (HCl) and two important digestive enzymes that work with it, pepsin and rennin, which break down proteins and milk respectively. …So the contraction of the stomach walls also serves to mix the gastric juices into the food.
Moving on to the small intestine, which the stomach empties into…
Most nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine, after further churning and enzymatic action (from enzymes both ingested and produced by intestinal glands). Most liquid absorption takes place in the rest of the colon. (33)
"As food is broken down, friendly bacteria are generated in the small intestine." (34) As most of us know, this bacterial flora helps to keep our digestion stable. "All gut flora have specific DNA codes that define their mechanism of action. Individual species inhabit certain sections of the GI tract and target certain sugars, proteins, or fats for digestion." Some also manufacture vitamins; increase the bioavailability of minerals; stimulate the immune system; produce natural antibiotics and antifungals; metabolize hormones, antioxidants, and flavonoids; and reinforce the beneficial mucous barrier of the intestines, "helping to prevent pathogens, toxins, and allergens from entering the rest of the body. In this way, their presence ‘teaches’ the immune system which allergens and toxins are tolerable and which need to be disposed of. … Friendly flora also keep unfriendly bacteria in check by depriving them of nutrients and secreting acids (acetic, lactic, and formic) that create a hostile environment for pathogens." (35)
"Hiatal hernia just about always
accompanies a swollen ileocecal valve. The ileocecal valve
is the valve between the small and large intestines which
permits material to enter the colon from the large
intestine, but prevents material in the colon from moving
back into the small intestine. When this valve becomes
swollen and irritated it cannot close properly. This allows
material from the colon to leak back into the small
intestine. This is analogous your sewer backing up into your
kitchen. This creates gas and indigestion, which puts
pressure on the stomach and presses it tighter against the
The pancreas (which many people associate only with insulin production) also gets into the act…
"The pancreatic juices which empty into the small intestine … contain three essential digestion enzymes: (1) trypsin, which breaks down protein into amino acids; (2) amylase, which acts on carbohydrates, changing compound sugars to simple sugar; and (3) lipase, which reduces fats to fatty acids." (37)
And as for the large intestine…
Once food reaches the large intestine, it is supposed to be fully digested, the nutrients derived from it – and here more liquid is removed from the "compost" and concentrated feces are formed.
"Proteins should be eaten first; the hydrochloric acid can then work on them immediately upon ingestion. Fruits cause an alkaline substance to be excreted which inhibits protein digestion." (43) (Interesting – and perhaps this alkalinizing effect is at least one reason why many people swear by the old folk remedy of eating a piece of fresh apple every night to control symptoms of acid reflux?)
Here we get into a need for understanding the difference between stomach acid, acid foods, and systemic acidity versus alkalinity…
Acidity vs. alkalinity:
"High acidity has been associated with gout and other painful [inflammatory] conditions. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are minerals that push the body's pH to the more basic, or alkaline. So foods high in these minerals are recommended, such as dark, leafy greens, nuts, fruits, and vegetables like celery." (44) "Joint pain and gout can be a result of undigested proteins, fats, and minerals which form uric acid crystals that ‘get caught’ in the joints." (45)
"Unlike [the] stomach, [the] esophagus does not have cellular protection against … [stomach] acids. But nature has provided additional protection to [the] esophagus by providing human beings with an alkaline (opposite of acid) saliva and an acid-neutralizing bi-carbonate secretion flowing in to [the] esophagus. These neutralizers make any spillover of acid from [the] stomach to [the] esophagus harmless. …Acidic foods [such as tomatoes] neutralize the alkaline saliva and the bi-carbonate secretions in the esophagus. This makes [the] esophagus more vulnerable to any stomach acid washback." (46) (But it doesn’t create the problem!)
"A diet that lacks essential vitamins and nutrients and is high in acid-forming foods will show up in acidic urine. This is a good indicator that your body is struggling to maintain an optimal digestive environment… Considering whether a food is acidic or alkaline in the diet can require some mind-bending because it’s easy to think of acids as things that dissolve and corrode. That comes from our common use of the word. But think of the corrosive nature of raw lye (very alkaline), and it’s easy to see that we have to think of the words differently when it comes to pH in the diet. … Some foods that we think of as "acidic" are, in fact, alkaline in the diet. This is because what is being measured is whether the food is acid-forming or alkaline-forming, not where the food itself falls on the pH scale. So, things like lemons and tangerines are alkalizing, even though we think of citrus as sharp and sour, and it does contain several acids. … What’s important is not the pH of the food as it goes into our bodies, but the resultant pH as our digestive systems burn the food, and what sorts of residue the burned-through nutrients leave behind." (47)
"Neutral" (but not necessarily "normal") pH is 7.0, on a scale that measures acidity as below that and alkalinity as above it. "Part of the confusion over body pH arises from the relatively neutral pH balance of our blood, saliva, and urine — what we can easily test for. … In terms of body pH balance, there is no one ‘correct’ reading for the entire body … because different parts of our bodies serve different purposes. Each of those purposes and the related processes requires a different acid/alkaline environment for optimum function. … For instance, healthy human skin has a proper pH of 5.5 (slightly acidic). Saliva, on the other hand, has a pH of around 6.5-7.4 (teetering on either side of neutral). Similarly, when the body is in good working order, human blood reveals a pH of about 7.3-7.4 (slightly alkaline). Other parts of a healthy, well-functioning body will show still different pH readings. …
"Amylase, responsible for breaking down starch, works in a fairly neutral environment, so when the pH falls below 6.5 it is no longer active. As food makes its way from your mouth to your stomach, the pH along the passageway begins to fall. Your stomach pH can range from 1.5 to 7.0, depending on the stage of digestion it’s in. Pepsin, the enzyme responsible for protein breakdown, needs an acidic environment and therefore gets released into the stomach when pH is low [i.e., acidity is high]." (48)
"A pH above 4 starts to inhibit the digestive enzymes, thereby inhibiting the breakdown of food. When food is not broken down properly it causes low grade chronic inflammation, thereby further worsening the nutritional problem of absorption of nutrients. … The decrease of acid and digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract decreases the body's ability to absorb vital nutrients from the food we eat. The body pulls the nutrients it needs from the skeletal system to support other organs. This process leads to nutrient deficient conditions such as osteoporosis, herniated or bulging discs, etc." (49)
"The stomach pH continues to fall, and at about 2.0, fat collects into globules and the ‘bolus’ of food makes its way to the small intestine. Your small intestine is where most of the nutrients in your food get absorbed, and where the pH increases from 2.0 to 6.5 as the food passes from the stomach to the small and large intestines. … Protein — particularly in the form of red meats — requires huge amounts of alkaline minerals for complete digestive processing. When the system goes looking for this alkalinity needed to offset the acids, it looks first to the foods in the digestive system. This is where the good greens and essential vitamins and minerals come in. If it fails to find alkaline nourishment there, one of the first places it goes searching is to the calcium (as well as magnesium, phosphorus and potassium) stored in our bones." (50)
The importance of bile:
Bile (of which cholesterol is a necessary component) is secreted by the liver, stored and concentrated in the gall bladder, and from there secreted as needed into the small intestine…
"The role of bile in digestion is to emulsify fats. Emulsification breaks fat into small droplets and increases the surface area available for digestion. This increased surface area exposes the fat molecules so digestive enzymes can get at them. Bile does not breakdown fat or lipid molecules. It is the lipase enzyme, produced in the pancreas, that breaks down fat into glycerol and fatty acids." (51)
"Impairments to the flow of bile can arise from damage to the hepatocytes (e.g., with liver diseases); obstructions in the ducts or gallbladder; and dietary habits [see next paragraph] that might adversely affect emptying of the gallbladder. Among the adverse consequences from any such disruption of bile flow are digestive disorders due to fats being inadequately solubilized and absorbed (symptoms can include nausea, gas, and loose stool), formation and growth of gallstones (with abdominal pain and possible need for surgery), and liver damage (due to stasis of flow in the ducts)." (52)
"Trouble starts when the diet is too high in refined sugar and starches and fats and too low in protein. When too little bile is formed by the liver and when the gall bladder is too ‘lazy’ (due to nutritional deficiencies) to empty its content, the fat can not be readily absorbed. When not absorbed, the fat then unites with calcium and iron from food (stopping these minerals from entering the blood where they can do some good), and forms a hard soap, then hard packed fecal matter and causes constipation. This persistent stealing of essential iron and calcium can bring on iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis (honeycombed bones) or osteomalacia (weak and caving-in bones). Without enough bile, fats, which quickly melt at body temperature, cover the carbohydrates and proteins that is also being digested, making it hard to continue the digestion process. Then bacteria attack this partially digested mess, bringing on gas and discomfort, contributing to a smelly bowel movement and an equally foul breath. Much of the undigested food is usually lost in the stools. Poor elimination associated with gall bladder problems invariably indicates a major loss of vital minerals. Because the lack of bile acids prevents the absorption of vitamin A, D, E, & K, and whatever fat has been broken down, deficiencies are produced. People with insufficient bile flow are usually so deficient in vitamin A that they have difficulty in driving a car at night, sewing, or doing other close work." (53)
Though digestion of fats can be a problem, a fat-free diet can wreak havoc as well: "Without fats, too little bile is formed, and the gall bladder holds its reserve bile. This faulty emptying may be a factor contributing to the formation of gallstones. If a fat-free diet is continued long, the gall bladder eventually shrivels, or atrophies." (54) (This is one of so many illustrations of the wisdom of the adage "moderation in all things"!)
Fiber of all kinds (from fruit, vegetables, grains, and meats) stimulates the gallbladder to release bile as well – another reason to ensure that your diet contains ample amounts of it.
And, once again we come around to a lack of hydrochloric acid… "If the stomach is too alkaline, it cannot properly break down food into a state for proper digestion, thus lowering our nutritional absorption, which causes energy levels to drop. In addition, if an alkaline state continues, often bile from the gall bladder is regurgitated into the stomach to activate acid production. Bile is a base, a corrosive to stomach tissue, and could cause an ulcer. Thus you can see the importance of optimal HCl balance." (55) Bile is needed, fulfilling an important function… but bile without hydrochloric acid can create problems (actually, it is the lack of HCl that creates the problems!).
Intake that affects the esophageal sphincter:
"Certain foods cause the esophageal sphincter to relax for an hour or more while they are being digested. Avoid these foods, especially coffee, chocolate, fatty foods, whole milk, peppermint and spearmint." (56) "Fatty foods [also] … slow stomach emptying… Smoking increases acid reflux and dries your saliva. Saliva helps protect your esophagus from stomach acid." (57)
"Tobacco prevents the oesophageal sphincter from working properly, reduces the rate at which the stomach empties and increases stomach acid production." (58)
We see from the above that there might be many solutions to digestive unease. It’s likely that you have anywhere from a couple of habits to many that contribute to it. No doubt some are easier than others to see yourself changing. Let’s look at the possibilities, again starting "at the top"…
How we eat:
We can certainly help ourselves by eating more slowly, chewing more, drinking less with meals (and "chewing" any meal-time liquids), and refraining from going to bed soon after eating. And probably not taking antacids!
Even chewing gum can help to stimulate those initial digestive constituents in your mouth. "Gum chewing can increase saliva quantity by 130%." And here’s a surprise bonus: "Saliva is rich in esophageal protective factors including epidermal growth factor, mucin, proteins, and prostaglandin E2." (59)
Excessive eating (a particularly Western, and widespread, habit) can be stimulated because "incomplete digestion causes a condition of undernourishment and hunger. When incompletely digested food reaches the colon, the colon reacts by slowing down, causing chronic congestion of food in the colon"… leading to distension of the belly as well as constipation. (60) Excessive eating sets up a vicious cycle, too, as too much food intake overwhelms what digestive resources we do have. Ensuring that we have enough hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes to properly digest our food (see below) can be as important as…
What we eat:
In terms of what you ingest, you can probably tell that the Great American Diet leads almost inevitably to digestive distress. Hitting the highlights:
Ay-yi-yi! And these are all the very things to consume if you want to "acidify" your system. (63) A diet consisting of acid-forming, hard-to-digest foods "constantly taps energy just to digest food, leaving little for functional operation or for re-building." (Interestingly, "high-stress foods will increase the pulse rate 16 or more beats over the pre-meal rate", non-toxic foods no more than 10 beats per minute.) (64) And we eat it fast!
Yes, you can do a lot of digestive (and other) good for yourself by simply eating way more live foods, lightly-cooked (steamed or baked at low heat to preserve some enzymes) veggies, and a modicum of whole grains, with way less meat and very infrequent fast foods and bready desserts. ("Enzymes are extremely sensitive to heat, … so to obtain enzymes from the diet, one must eat raw foods." (65)) Naturally, going cold into a completely different diet is extremely difficult (and that would probably cause some digestive upset in itself) – but you can ease into dietary changes gradually without too much disturbance to your routines.
Here’s a tip of especial interest to those already dealing with acid reflux: "Since the pressure of abdominal gas can push the stomach upward, it would be advisable to avoid gas forming foods like beans. It would also be wise to watch food combinations carefully and to avoid overeating." (66) The basics of food combining are (67):
(More "fodder" for a substantially raw food diet: Any heating destroys vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids. Boiling also leaches minerals; and frying also hardens the oils and adds to your free-radical overload. It’s said that a 75%-raw food diet is optimal… (68) But obviously any greater amount of raw over heat-damaged food you can achieve will be of that much more benefit!)
Supplementing with more digestive enzymes:
If you’re in digestive distress now, though, you’ll probably want to take supplementary digestive enzymes. The fact is, it would take pounds and pounds of raw food to match just one capsule of a digestive enzyme supplement – so anyone should find benefit from the extras.
There are three categories of digestive enzymes: Amylase (in saliva and in pancreatic and intestinal juices) enzymes break down carbohydrates. (Lactase, for instance – which digests lactose, a sugar from milk – is a form of amylase, since sugar is a carbohydrate.) Protease (in the stomach, pancreatic, and intestinal juices) breaks down proteins. Lipase (in the stomach and in pancreatic juices) breaks down fats (lipids). Be sure to look for a supplement that covers the gamut of enzyme types.
There are a number of other enzymes that might be included in a multi-enzyme capsule as well – or which may be found singly or with only a few other enzymes that target specific physical problems. Cellulase, for instance, digests cellulose-type fiber. Different types of amylase other than lactase digest other specific forms of sugar. Serrapeptase and nattokinase digest fibrin, which collects in arteries and joints, and which composes uterine fibroid tumors. Papain and bromelain (from papaya and pineapple, respectively) are popular protease enzymes used for both digestion and inflammation.
"Digestive enzymes taken with meals assist in digestion and help correct the problems caused by incomplete breakdown of foods. When digestive enzymes are taken between meals, they have an anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting effect. Plant [or fungus] enzymes are preferred because they function in a broader pH range than animal-derived enzymes." (69) (As an example, "Fat in food exposed only to pancreatic lipase … in the intestines is not as well digested as fat that is first worked on in the stomach by food lipase." (70)) …So you might want to choose an enzyme formula whose label states that it works in both acid and alkaline environments.
Then, enzymes "require adequate amounts of other substances, known as coenzymes, to be fully active. Among the most important coenzymes are the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc." (71) If you’re in dire digestive straits, you might do well to supplement with these nutrients too.
It’s also useful to be aware that lentils, peanuts, and soybeans contain an enzyme inhibitor (72), so these might be good to avoid while you’re correcting a severe digestive problem.
When you need extra hydrochloric acid:
Then there’s the hydrochloric acid issue… Most people (especially after age fifty) need more of it.
To check whether your heartburn is from too much or too little HCl, take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice in a little water. If it makes your heartburn go away, you need more HCl, not less. Other digestive deficiencies may also be aided by these liquids. "Vinegar has a low pH, which means that it is highly acidic, similar to your stomach acid. If you add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your meal and your symptoms of indigestion decrease, it is likely that you have low stomach acid." (73))
If you need more, look for a supplement made from beets: "betaine hydrochloride" or "betaine HCl". ("Supplemental HCl is not sold in powder or liquid form because contact with teeth can damage tooth enamel." (74) So don’t chew these tablets to give the digestive process a kick-off!) If you’re anxious about heartburn, you may want to begin to manage the other aspects of your digestion to alleviate acute symptoms before adding in HCl.
Another way to gradually build up HCl in your body is to take apple cider vinegar with raw honey (and, over the long haul, eat lots of raw vegetables). Raw cider vinegar is enzyme-laden as well. Some people like to sip water with a small dollop of cider vinegar stirred into it (or add it to fruit juice). Apple cider vinegar can also occasionally be used in baths and enemas. (75)
Another easy-access stimulator of HCl production is vitamin B1 (which is usually lacking in the typical American diet). Interestingly, a diet lacking in B1 has been shown to quickly make people forgetful, irritable, and depressed; and, later, constipated, noise-sensitive, anemic, prone to headaches and insomnia, and with diminished heart and lung capacity - ! (76) (This sounds like so many people we know, doesn’t it? Hmm…)
Other HCl-boosters, commonly available, are said to be: taking a full-spectrum B vitamin supplement, taking digestive bitters daily, eating bitter salad greens, drinking German chamomile tea just before or after a meal, and sipping lemon juice in water throughout the day.
Protein, which (with fat) takes a great deal of energy to digest, is broken down by HCl in the stomach. So here’s a tip on when to eat your fruity/salady meal components: "Proteins should be eaten first; the hydrochloric acid can then work on them immediately upon ingestion. Fruits cause an alkaline substance to be excreted which inhibits protein digestion." (77)
Adding more bile:
And if you suspect that you have too little bile available? (which is certainly going to be the case if you’ve had your gallbladder removed!; and which may be evident in an oily slickness to the feces)… You can take an ox bile supplement (it might be a component of an enzyme supplement) to take its place. Or you might wish to consider an herbal alternative: "Artichoke leaf helps to improve bile production and decrease stone formation. Take 250 to 500 mg of standardized extract two or three times daily." (78)
The liquid we ingest:
What you drink, too, is important, as we’ve seen… and we all need plenty of good, clean water (except during meals!). Water is critical for all functions of the body. "The body is composed of about 70 percent water, and water is required for many of its essential functions. Water is utilized as a solvent and also provides the means to transport nutrients, hormones, and other vital supplies. It's used to produce hydroelectric energy, especially in the brain. It's essential for maintaining cell structure. Water is also necessary to enable proteins and enzymes to function more efficiently. Chronic dehydration can lead to a loss or decease in all these functions and may ultimately result in disease or can worsen an existing condition." (79) "Water maintains proper muscle tone by giving muscles their ability to contract by preventing dehydration." (80) …And digestion relies on muscular peristalsis in the esophagus, the stomach, and the colon (not to mention in the tongue!).
All those other drinks we like? – you certainly cannot replace water with them. Most of them are actually diuretics (stimulating urination), which leads to dehydration, not hydration. Drink water, not any old liquid! (81)
If we look specifically at just the digestive tract, the significance of water is seen to be enough to get us drinking…
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of drinking pure water about half an hour prior to a meal, and a couple of hours afterward (assuming your stomach is emptying properly – or when it has emptied).
If you do truly have too much hydrochloric acid, you might get some relief by boiling your water. It’s thought that the gaseous chlorine from chlorinated water causes over-production of HCl – and water filters of all types remove only solids, not gases. (84)
Then, "…the recent innovation of making water alkaline with a water ionizer [is] one of the best methods of alkalinizing the body. … These water ionizers also make the water become wetter and a potent anti-oxidant – greater than fresh wheat grass juice – and you can't become allergic to the water." (85)
Probiotics, digestive aids, and soothers:
While you’re getting your dietary intake into better alignment with your body’s needs, there are some other things you can ingest that will soothe and fortify your digestive system…
You can take probiotics (the beneficial bacteria of the intestine, like acidophilus) to help colonize the colon. If you don’t wish to take an encapsulated probiotic supplement, look for yoghurt with "live cultures" and eat a small amount once or twice a day.
Ginger and peppermint are great standby digestive aids. (Ginger is especially good for nausea. You can easily travel with candied ginger to pop into your mouth in a restaurant – or with a small dropper bottle of peppermint extract, adding a few drops to a swig of water at the end of a meal.) Even for a baby with GERD, an extremely diluted herbal tea can help quieten colic. Try "a very dilute tea of ginger, peppermint, and crushed dill seeds (make one cup of tea, then add another cup of water) – a teaspoon during or after eating aids digestion and helps prevent some of the muscle spasms that send the acids back upwards." (86)
For immediate soothing of esophagus, stomach, and/or intestinal tract, use one of the wonderful demulcents: soaked flax or psyllium seeds, or powdered slippery elm bark, mixed in water (add a little fruit juice if you want to disguise their mild flavors). Each gives the added benefit of being excellent fiber for the colon. Then there's aloe vera, which is anti-inflammatory to soothe the whole digestive tract lining. "Three times daily, 20 minutes before meals, swallow 600mg in capsule form…or four tablespoons of extract…or two teaspoons in powder form, mixed in water." (87)
Manipulating the digestive tract into working better:
Then there are some "mechanical" aids that may do wonders for the state of your digestion…
For immediate need if you experience acid indigestion, "lie on your back and draw knees up to chest to relieve abdomen pressure." (88) (And lying on your left side is supposed to be better than on your right.) Many people get great benefit from simply creating an "incline board" to sleep on, by raising the legs at the head of the bed up 4-6" on blocks... relying on gravity to help keep the stomach, and acid, down.
Something you can do for yourself is to work acupressure ("reflexology") points related to digestion. For food assimilation, rub the soft sides of your thumbs. For nausea, press your thumb into the arm area two inches above the crease in your wrist (i.e., into a "slot" between the muscles). (89) Any chart on acupuncture/acupressure points – in the ear, foot, tongue, hand, as well as elsewhere on the body – will give you some other ideas if you look for spots associated with the stomach and intestines, pancreas and gallbladder (and the liver, which is responsible for detoxifying the results of poor digestion).
"Naturopathic and osteopathic physicians are trained in soft tissue manipulation. Hiatal hernias often respond to manipulative therapy." (90) Chiropractic, too, may well help greatly. One doctor has said, "In my practice, all patients presenting a hiatal hernia also present a C3 subluxation, with a stomach disorder perhaps being the only symptom." (91) Acupuncture is also used to tonify and restore the gastrointestinal tract over time. (92)
Some chiropractors, applied
kinesiologists, or massage therapists know how to
manipulate the stomach so as to bring a constant hiatal
hernia back down. First, though, you could try this
self-help technique: "Drink a pint of warm water
first thing in the morning, then stand on your toes and
drop suddenly to your heels several times. The warm water
helps to relax the stomach and diaphragm and puts some
weight in the stomach. By dropping down suddenly, the
weight of the water helps to pull the stomach down. In a
mild case, this might be enough to bring the hernia down.
In a more severe case it may loosen the stomach and make
it easier for someone else to bring it down. It will also
help you to keep the stomach down once mechanical
corrections have been made." (93)
Those found within the text:
1 – Prescription for Nutritional
Healing ("PNH") – Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C. (2000)
Two long and well-researched articles that might be of fascination to those with inclination to delve into important physiological mysteries:
"A missing link to chronic illness, allergies and longevity? Vagus Nerve Imbalance/Hiatal Hernia Syndrome", by physics professor Steve Rochlist – http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0ISW/is_241-242/ai_107201216/ (The author and the author of his main source aver that a huge percentage of the population has VNI/HHS - and that the "repair" is very straightforward.)
"Food Intolerance in Pets and Their People", by John B. Symes, DVM ("Dogtor J") – http://dogtorj.com/main-course/food-intolerance-in-pets-and-their-people/ (The author presents - in this and in a longer work, "The Answer" - far-reaching arguments about the widespread problems with "glue foods" [wheat, soy, milk] and other major dietary allergens that can lead to a host of ailments. NOTE: For animals - as well as for us - diets that simply avoid these foods can have major positive effect on health, often quickly.)