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Introduction

Three entities sustain human life on this planet. They are air, water and food in that order. The food one eats has to be broken down to yield the much needed energy and the ingredients of nutrition like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Apart from the digestion, assimilation and absorption, the digestive system has to do another important function i.e. elimination of wastes accumulated after completion of the process of digestion.

Digestive process is responsible for converting the food into energy and use/store it for various activities. At the same time it is also quite capable of building up toxins too. A English pioneer, Naturopath Harry Benjamin rightly says, that food in requisite amounts yield useful energy for basic life activities, growth and development. On the contrary organs and their cells cannot make use of nutrients when their concentration exceeds the said limit. This limit is termed as Biological Optimum. For example, most people consider it a healthy trait to eat sumptuously at every meal. In fact it is a wrong practice. On the other hand, leaving the table feeling that the stomach can take some more is the right kind of practice.

When a person lets whims get the better of him and takes that helping and knowing fully well that he does not need it, he is wantonly allowing accumulation of food. This excess food remains undigested and unutilized and slowly clogs the intestine, putrefies to produce acids, causing a steady agony of the intestinal musculature and leads to constipation. And this constipation is responsible for a great number of physiological derangement better known as disease.


This vicious chain of acid formation goes on to leave the system in a perpetually unhealthy state of acidity, which is diametrically opposite to the normal slightly alkaline state of good health. Such constipation eventually renders the nutritive system a troublesome brew pot of acid residues, which is detrimental to good health. But once it is allowed to set in, constipation stays on to become chronic, resulting in accumulation of waste food leading to putrefaction and the inevitable formation of toxins in the blood stream. Meanwhile, the putrefying wastes in the intestines serve as a substrata for pathogens (disease causing micro–organisms) making it a breeding ground for serious forms of fever and acute disorders.

The overlying acidity and the underlying chronic constipation together form a Pandora’s box. The resulting disease depends on the resistance an individual has built up.
So, essentially, it is the food we eat and how much we eat forms the root cause of various ailments generally labeled as digestive disorders. Let us, therefore, now look at each of them in detail.

Colitis

Colitis is inflammation of the Colon and is two types–mucus and ulceration. It can occur both in adults and children. Though the exact cause of this problem is not known, in a typical case of Ulcerative Colitis, lining of ‘Crypts’ are involved (crypts are tubular depression in the colon). The crypts break down and purulent effusion fills them. The mucus membrane is inflamed and swollen and the damage may slowly spread to the deeper layers of the intestine. This effectively reduces the diameter of the large intestine resulting in abnormal constriction. This results in difficulty in evacuation of wastes causing pain and passing of 6–12 times loose stools with blood and mucus. Causes weight loss and in a few cases it may be severe.

Treatment

Soothing diet for 3–6 months at least, consisting of soft cooked vegetables, rice or dal and well ripened fruits like banana and papaya. Tender coconut water is soothing to soft mucosa of the colon. Cooked (boiled or baked) apples aid in healing.

Chronic Amoebiasis

It is a widely prevalent disease brought about by unhygienic habits and insanitary conditions.
Amoebiasis is due to a single–cell organism called entameba hystolitica, which gains entry into the body either through contaminated drinking water or food. After getting entry it lodges itself in the large intestine forming cysts.
Symptoms like dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea, heart burn and occasional loose motions, often accompanied by a feeling of ill health, are quite common. In severe cases, there will be increased frequency of stools with blood and mucus, fever, vomiting etc. If untreated it may lead to amoebic liver and lung abscess.

Treatment


Constipation

Constipation is an altered function of the bowels where the bowels are emptied at a longer interval than normally required with or without any difficulty.

It is a common affliction of modern civilization due to unhealthy lifestyle. The incidence of constipation in the general population is variable. A large number of people pass one or two motions per day and it is considered to be normal. But more than 3 bowel movement a day may be termed abnormal. Majority of the people are quite obsessed with the number and frequency of the bowel action. They often exhibit a sense of concern when either the amount of stool passed is too little or there is a feeling of inadequate evacuation.

Constipation may be due to a number of factors such as inadequate intake of fluids, absence of roughage in the diet, lack of regular exercise, faulty food intake, not attending to nature’s call in time, type etc.

Treatment

Diverticulitis

The intestine possesses several pouches or sac–like structures along its course called Diverticula. When undigested waste matter stagnates in one or several such diverticula, the mucosal lining of the colon suffers inflammation and presents symptoms of acute and Chronic Diverticulitis.

The usual symptoms of Diverticulitis are cramping pain in the left lower abdomen and constipation alternating with diarrhea. There may be irritation of the peritoneum, fever, chills peritonitis and abscess may be the complications.

Treatment


Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a condition where there is an increase in the frequency, fluidity (water content) and volume of stool. When the colon is unable to carry out its set job of absorbing water from undigested wastes, there occurs the common complaint of the excessive presence of water in stools and frequent passage of loose stools. The cause is either an impairment in the absorptive capacity of the large intestine or a combined malfunctioning of the absorptive action of the small intestine and other digestive organs.

From principles of Naturopathy, Diarrhea is a naturally induced phenomenon that calls for a rapid expulsion of waste.

Treatment

Duodenitis

As in Gastritis, in Duodenitis also the delicate mucosal lining of the intestine is inflammed. The resultant problems are same as Gastritis, except for the pain which is felt a little to the right and above the navel rather than the stomach itself. If it is ignored it may lead to duodenal ulceration, or if it spreads to the other parts of the intestines if may cause enteritis.


Treatment

Disorders of Small Intestine

As we move down from the stomach, we reach the small intestine which is divided into 3 portions:
  1. Duodenum
  2. Jejunum
  3. Ileum
Partially digested proteins, almost digested carbohydrates and untouched fats on to the intestine from the stomach. Here they are digested completely with the help of intestinal juice, which is a combination of intestinal secretion, bile acids and pancreatic juice. After the digestion, absorption takes place in the ileum, (the last part) through specialized structures called villi. If the absorptive pathway is not all the smooth then several disorders affect the intestines, such as duodenitis, enteric fever, typhoid, malabsorption syndrome (tropical sprue) etc.

Flatulent Dyspepsia

Distension or bloating of the abdomen after food, eructation of gastric fluid and burning sensation in the region of the stomach and chest are all due to Flatulent Dyspepsia. It is not merely a problem in the physiology of digestion but also that affecting the process of food absorption.

The stomach is in fact a temporary storehouse of food, with food in a half digested state consisted of proteins in the process of digestion, untouched fats and almost fully digested carbohydrates. The hydrochloric acid destroys harmful infectious organisms and acts as a protective barrier in the stomach.


Stomach has the capacity to adapt to maximum variations in the food habits of individuals – ranging from all types of sweet, hot, spicy, rich, non–vegetarian, vegetarian foods to beverages like coffee, tea to alcoholic drinks. But if people are unable to digest certain food stuffs such as milk, fish, non–vegetarian and egg it leads to indigestion. Indigestion leads to gas formation accompanied by a feeling of bloating or distention, pain or passing flatus or even both.
Belching, another symptom of gas formation is mainly due to swallowing too much of air while drinking, eating, inappropriate relaxation of the lower esophageal opening resulting in gastro–esophageal reflux.

Treatment

Gastritis

Gastritis causes a range of disorders that affect the very process of good ingestion. Nausea, bloating of stomach, eructation, gas, pain, burning sensation and generalized malaise after the in–take of food. It occurs on account of inflammation of the stomach’s delicate inner mucosal lining. Vomiting of partly digested food and passing of blood tinged or blood in stools sometimes are some of the symptoms of Gastritis.

The causes can range from excessive drug intake to physical and mental stress.


Treatment

Hyperacidity

Excessive consumption of sugar and starch leads to production of fermented acids in the digestive system. The excess acid flush into the blood stream making it hypo–alkaline. Another cause of hyperacidity is missing of a meal between or not taking it at fixed intervals resulting in hyper secretion of acid in the stomach, which burns the soft delicate mucosal lining. At times the acid regurgitates into the esophagus, resulting in burning sensation in the throat region (heart burn). Intake of spicy food, stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol, smoking, tobacco chewing and stress and strains, all directly result in hyper secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

Treatment


The Large Intestine

The large intestine (colon) is responsible for absorbing water from the end products of digestion and eliminating the wastes. A diet with adequate quantity of water is essential to perform this important function by the large intestine. A diet which is low in fibre content does immense harm. At times, instead of drying up the waste food known as “Faeces”, the colon induces frequent passage of stool with large amounts of water resulting in diarrhea. Chronic constipation is actually said to be the root cause of diarrhea. The large intestine being blocked with accumulated “Faeces” triggers the body’s healing mechanism to induce an acute disorder so that the system is cleansed. However, if properly attended to, the symptoms could be taken care of in a day or two, without any complications.

Ulcers

Ulcers are caused by the erosion of inner mucosal lining of the stomach due to excessive secretion of acid. As popularly known to mankind – hurry, worry and curry combination heralds the onset of this affliction.

Apart from hyperacidity many other physical causes such as wrong eating habits, irregular meal spacing, spicy food, stimulants such as tea, coffee, smoking, alcohol, tobacco chewing, stress–physical, emotional and/or psychological result in ulcers. If the erosion of mucus membrane takes place around the stomach it is termed as gastric ulcer and if in duodenum, it is duodenal ulcer.

Ulcers result in burning sensation and gnawing type of pain on empty stomach. It is relieved immediately after ingestion of food or two hours after the intake of food. This typical pain–food–relief is the symptom of Ulcers.

Treatment