Your digestive system is attuned to your every mood. When we are happy, relaxed, and have a meal, all the digestive juices enzymes work and the food is absorbed in to the body and the waste evacuated. We just take it for granted that this happens on a daily basis.

How does digestion work?

When you eat a meal, the autonomic nervous system modifies the circulatory system so that more blood is sent to the digestive system. The food we eat is first broken down by chewing and by the action of saliva. It then passes down the esophagus and on to the stomach. In the stomach, it mixes with all the digestive enzymes and with bile from the gallbladder. Some of the food, after it has been absorbed in the bloodstream, goes to the liver and anything that is not needed passes on to the large intestine where water and electrolytes (like sodium) are extracted. The remaining waste is then goes to the rectum for excretion.

DigestionOur digestive tract is a hollow tube about twelve yards long lined with a mucous membrane that supplies digestive juices to break down the food. The digestive tract is surrounded by both longitudinal and circular muscles which contract in a wave-like motion to push the food through the digestive tract. This wave-like motion consists of a series of relaxations and contractions by the muscles. A bowl movement should occur at least once every 24 hours.

To have good health, elimination of waste is a vital function of the digestive tract. The intestines must rid the body of metabolic waste produce as well as voiding the residue of food and fluids. When this excretion is impaired, a toxic waste builds up in the system. When we are under stress, the nervous system sends a secretion of hydrochloric acid into the stomach which contributed to the cause of peptic ulcers. Using herbs to relax the nervous system aids the digestion of any food that is taken. Herbs like hops and chamomile work at two levels: they relax an overactive stomach and bowel while at the same time sedating the central nervous system, giving the digestive the ability to work normally.

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is usually caused by eating too quickly, eating irregularly, or eating the wrong foods. This can can cause a feeling of heaviness, dull stomach pain, bloating, and/or heartburn. An infusion of herbs like fennel, mint, dill, chamomile, anise seed, or lemon balm have been shown to help flatulence when taken after a meal.

What are other stomach problems?

Here is a list of some of the other stomach problems people might have:

• Colitis
• Constipation
Crohn's Disease
• Diarrhea
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Nausea/Upset Stomach
• Water Retention/Bloating

Gastritis and peptic ulcers are an inflammation of the stomach lining and ulceration of the stomach. These require medical attention. Slippery elm powder seems to coat the lining of the stomach and protects against acid secretions. This herb is usually taken by mixing the powder with milk or water and taking a few teaspoons when you eat or feel pain.

An infection or irritation of part of the digestive tract usually causes diarrhea. When this occurs, it is wise to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water. Herbs that are known to help stop diarrhea are: agronomy and five-finger grass, with a pinch of ginger and cinnamon powder. For any diarrhea that last more that a day you should at once seek medical help.

Constipation is often the result of poor diet and lack of exercise. Long-term use of laxatives may also cause constipation. This condition can be relieved by regular exercise and abdominal massage and using herbs that increase the muscle tone of the digestive tract. A high-fiber diet is essential. An infusion of licorice, damiana, raspberry leaves, goldenseal, rhubarb root, ginger, and dandelion root also helps to relieve this condition.

As the liver plays a central role in cleansing the body, help regulate its function herbs such as dandelion root, barberry, bold, fringe tree, gentian, and century are good tonics.

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Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach Li Dong - Yuan Translated and Annotated by Bob Flaws
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Balch and Balch
Handbook of Chinese Herbs by Him-che Yeung, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D