Digestive health issues have become more prevalent among adults in recent years — 62 million Americans are diagnosed with a digestive disorder each year, and gut-related conditions account for around 3 million hospitalizations. Dr. Diana Joy Ostroff, the naturopathic doctor at The Center for Natural Healing Hawai’i for 33 years, has seen this this staggering trend in up to 90 percent of her patients.
Many doctors attribute the rise in digestive issues to stress, rushed meals, and a Western diet loaded with fats, sugars, and processed foods. As a result, common ailments like acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea are increasing, as are more severe diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and Crohn’s disease.
People spend an estimated $136 billion each year to treat their digestive health issues, although most over-the-counter and conventionally prescribed treatments don’t address the causes of the problem. Moreover, many medications create side effects thus preventing the body from healing completely. To best treat digestive issues, it’s essential to understand digestion and gut health.
Understanding digestion and gut health
The digestive process goes beyond the stomach; it begins in the mouth as soon as food touches the tongue, which is where many common digestive issues start. Most people chew only 10 percent of their food, triggering the brain to release only enough enzymes to digest that amount of food. The other 90 percent rots and releases organic acids that lead to heartburn, gas, and bloating.
Next, the partially digested food — now called chyme — enters the stomach but with a much higher acidity level. The high acid content prevents the pancreas and gall bladder from releasing enzymes, so the chyme doesn’t neutralize, resulting in irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and Crohn’s disease. As a result, the body can’t fully digest the fats and proteins and therefore doesn’t get the essential nutrients it needs, leading to weight gain and declining health.
People turn to their doctors, who typically prescribe treatments for the symptoms, not the cause. On the other hand, holistic healing methods look at the body as a whole and use its innate healing abilities to treat many ailments, including those associated with digestive health.
Easy ways to treat digestive issues
How to improve gut health is a common query with a surprisingly easy answer. Dr. Ostroff offers 12 basic recommendations:
1. Don’t overeat.
2. Eat the best foods for gut health, including fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber.
3. Eat in a relaxed setting and chew food slowly and thoroughly.
4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugars, and tobacco, which stimulate appetite.
5. Choose lean proteins like fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
6. Stay hydrated — drink at least two liters of water daily.
7. Eat yogurt containing live probiotics or take good quality probiotics every day.
8. Drink herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, ginger with lemon, fennel, and dandelion.
9. Drinking warm water with lemon juice each morning can help digestion.
10. Eat more bitter foods to produce more saliva and enzymes.
11. Get support from your naturopathic doctor in balancing your gut microbiome, resolving excessive parasitic, bacterial and fungal conditions within the gastrointestinal system.
12. Use spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric powder, fennel, and asafetida to aid digestion.
Digestive health issues may continue to rise, but naturopathic treatments such as those practiced by Dr. Ostroff at The Center for Natural Healing Hawai’i can create long lasting improvement in the body’s ability to heal naturally and holistically from the inside out.