Offering a unique reference point on alternative medicine and complementary therapies.

Digestive Health

The Second Brain

The second brain is a phrase that has been mentioned in various books and articles, but what actually is our second brain, what does it do and how can we look after it? Many studies have been conducted over the past few years which have analysed the importance of the second brain and its connection to various chronic illnesses that in the past would have been overlooked. The second brain is actually the gut, which starts at the oesophagus and ends at the anus. The wall of the gut consists of various types of neurons and neurotransmitters that produce up to 95% of all serotonin in the body. These neurotransmitters also produce 50% of all dopamine that is produced in the body. The vagus nerve connects the digestive system to the brain. Serotonin and dopamine are widely regarded as “feel-good” molecules that are involved in the prevention of depression and in the regulation of appetite and sleep. Dopamine is also heavily involved in illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A simple example of the connection between the two brains is how fatty foods can make us feel good, and the digestive reaction to stress such as the feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach. This indicates that the second brain could potentially play a vital role in the prevention and treatment of illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, obesity, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With this connection in mind, how can we look after and nourish our second brain? Studies have found that certain strains of probiotics can result in the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which are necessary for a healthy neuro function. Scientists have also found that these beneficial bacteria change the expression of certain receptors in the brain. This is communicated via the vagus nerve, which is a direct link between the gut and the brain. Preliminary animal research has found that a variety of these friendly bacteria may help to treat a number of mental illnesses such as depression, autism and anxiety. We can help to maintain our digestive health, by eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and avoiding excess sugar, salt, animal fats and processed foods....

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What is Gluten Allergy & Intolerance?

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, oats, rye, barley and oats. You will find gluten in foods such as bread, rolls, cakes, flour, pasta, biscuits, pastries, noodles, pizza, muffins and couscous. These are just a few examples, but you can see that gluten is present in many foods that are consumed in a western diet. We are exposed to a lot of gluten on a daily basis, which may explain why gluten intolerance and allergies are being increasingly diagnosed in the western world. Most people who have gluten intolerance are actually not aware that they have this condition. Before we continue, it is worth noting the difference between an allergy and intolerance. A gluten allergy results in a condition called coeliac disease. If we were to eat a food that we are allergic to, the body immune system reacts in such a way as to protect itself. The immune system produces antibodies (IgE antibody), in response to the allergic food (the allergen). The IgE antibody triggers the release of histamine from mast cells, which are found in the nasal passages, throat, eyes, intestines and other body tissues. This results in the usual allergy symptoms of runny nose, swollen throat and gastrointestinal upset. People who are diagnosed with coeliac disease should avoid gluten. You should also consult a qualified nutritionist or naturopath to help you manage the condition. There are many gluten free foods available in most grocery stores. David Reavely, author of The Big Fat Mystery has a number of practical gluten free food recipes. Gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and can cause inflammation and swelling of the lining. The lining of the small intestine is covered with tiny villi that become damaged by the gluten. These villi are essential for the absorption of nutrients from our diet. This damage can also lead to more foods allergies and leaky gut syndrome. The symptoms of coeliac disease are general indigestion, diarrhoea, loss of weight, abdominal swelling, cramps, and depression. This disease, if left untreated can lead to various health problems such as osteoporosis, nerve damage, kidney disease and diabetes. Most people who have gluten intolerance are actually not aware that they have this condition....

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How Good Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity

A new study has discovered that good bacteria can play an important role to prevent obesity and type -2 diabetes. These findings suggest that foods that stimulate the production of bacteria in the digestive system could help to facilitate faster weight loss than eating less and exercising more. The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the levels of bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila were much lower in mice who were obese and with type-2 diabetes. Feeding these mice oligofructose prebiotics increased the growth of good bacteria and re-balanced levels back to normal levels. This stimulated metabolism in the mice which caused weight loss. Other benefits were a reduction in inflammation and a reduction in insulin resistance. Prebiotics should not be confused with probiotics. Prebiotics do not replace bad bacteria in the gut, but they serve as food for friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidus. Prebiotics help the probiotics to multiply which leads to a healthier digestive system and immune system. Prebiotics are found in many foods such as banana’s, chicory, onions, leeks, asparagus and artichokes. The researchers suggest that the bacteria, Akkermansiamuciniphila, could play an important role in reducing inflammation, weight loss and maintaining blood sugar balance. Professor Patrice Cani, of the Catholic University of Leuvenin Belgium, said: ‘This study demonstrated the abundance of A. muciniphila decreased in obese and type 2 diabetic mice. ‘In summary this study provides substantial insight into the intricate mechanisms of A. muciniphila regulation of the cross-talk between the host and gut microbiota. ‘These results also provide a rationale for the development of a treatment that uses this human mucus coloniser for the prevention or treatment of obesity and its associated metabolic...

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Homeopathy for Gastritis

Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The usual causes of this condition are anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Steroid medications such as prednisolone and iron supplements can also lead to gastritis. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, stress and a bad diet can also lead to this condition. So is there any treatments in homeopathy for gastritis? Homeopathic remedies can help to reduce the symptoms of gastritis and help the stomach lining to heal. The following homeopathic remedies can be taken every 30mins for up to 10 doses. These remedies should be taken in the 30c potency. These remedies can be taken safely by the whole family. If the symptoms persist after this time, please consult a qualified homeopath.  Chronic gastritis may require medical referral, as it may be a sign an underlying illness. Nux Vomica can be taken for gastritis symptoms that are caused by over work, excessive alcohol consumption or overeating rich and spicy foods. This remedy is very effective if the symptoms are worse after eating and in the morning. The patient may be very irritable and crave stimulants and alcohol. The patient may also have heartburn, bloating and gas. This homeopathic remedy is also indicated if the patient has constipation and severe nausea and vomiting. Lycopodium is for people who feel “slow and sluggish”. This remedy is for people who have a big appetite, but feel full and bloated after eating. The patient will have to loosen tight clothing to be more comfortable. They also usually suffer with flatulence and belching. Carbo Veg is for patients who feel bloated and full after eating. They will feel better after belching, but digestion is generally slow. The patient will crave fresh air, and not want to be stuck indoors. The symptoms are worse for eating fats, cabbage, coffee and milk. The patient may also complain of cramping pains. Anacardium is indicated for indigestion which comes on a few hours after eating. The patient may also have a foul taste in the mouth and the stomach can seem blocked up. This remedy is also for stomach pains that are better for eating. The symptoms are better after vomiting and worse from exposure to drafts...

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Health Benefits of Bromelain

Health Benefits of Bromelain

Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory enzyme that is found in pineapples. This natural enzyme has been used for centuries in Central and South America to treat indigestion and reduce inflammation. It is found in the juice and stems of pineapples. This enzyme helps to break down proteins, which in turn helps to digest proteins. This is why eating pineapples can help to digest a protein rich meal. Research has found that bromelain is not fully broken down in the digestive tract. This means that this enzyme can work throughout the body. Bromelain has many health benefits and is frequently prescribed by doctors throughout many parts of Europe.   Health Benefits Digestive Aid. Bromelain can help in breaking down proteins, which can help the digestive process. This enzyme is usually a component of Digestive Enzymes that are produced by many nutritional companies. Bromelain, along with lipase, amylase and papian helps to break down food into nutrients that the body can use for energy and other health processes. A lack of these enzymes can lead to undigested food passing through to the large intestine which causes fermentation. This leads to undesirable and often embarrassing effects of bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea.   Anti-inflammatory. This natural enzyme can help to reduce inflammation following an injury, post surgery or from arthritis. Bromelain has been found to be as effective as many conventional ant-inflammatory medications in various small clinical trials. Although the test groups have been relatively small, the results are encouraging, and deserve a larger testing platform. Bromelain has been found to be effective in reducing the pain and swelling from sports injuries.  Some studies have found this enzyme to speed up healing time after surgery and injuries.   Sinusitis. Studies have shown that Bromelain may help in reducing sinus pain, congestion and improve breathing. The German Commission E (a guide for the safe prescribing herbal of herbs) approves the use of Bromelain for the treatment of sinusitis and nasal swelling following ear, nose and throat surgery.   Asthma / Bronchitis. Bromelain has been found to be effective in the reducing the symptoms of asthma and chronic bronchitis. This enzyme has been found to reduce the thickness of mucus, which can be helpful in...

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Tips to Avoid Norovirus

The number of cases of the winter vomiting bug has reportedly affected over 800,000 people in the UK this year. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that this represents an increase of 83% from 2011. Because of these outbreaks, many people are looking for ways to avoid norovirus Many hospitals have had outbreaks and have closed off wards to prevent further outbreak. The medical industry has openly said that there are no medicines to treat the condition as it a virus. Washing your hand before eating or using the alcohol gels is a good way of maintaining good hygiene.  The HPA advice that if you fall sick, then you should stay at home and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. There are however ways to stimulate your immune system and help to lower your risk of being affected. Nutritional and natural supplements can help to support your immune system and make your more resistant to viruses. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are beneficial bacteria that are normally present in the digestive tract. They defend the body against viruses and infections that we are constantly exposed to. Probiotics support the immune system by lining the intestinal wall with beneficial bacteria, which prevents the absorption of harmful bacteria and viruses into the body. These beneficial bacteria “crowd out” the bad bacteria and help to maintain a healthy immune system. As the digestive tract plays a major role in boosting the immune system, it is very important to maintain a healthy balance of probiotics in the gut. Other helpful supplements that can help your immune system are Vitamin D, Vitamin C and B vitamins. These can be taken throughout the winter months to help you fit and active during the busy festive period. Herbal remedies such as Turmeric, Echinacea, Olive Leaf Extract, Oregano Oil, Tea Tree Oil and Goldenseal can help to stimulate and maintain a healthy immune system. Manuka Honey can also boost your immune system and help to prevent viruses spreading. Other ways of having the best chance of staying free of the Norovirus is cutting back on alcohol and junk food, and not getting too stressed out. Stress leads to a release of hormones...

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Crohn’s Disease and Homeopathy

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of the bowel. It usually affects the lowest part of the small intestine, but this disease can affect other parts of the digestive tract. The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding and weight loss, tiredness and anaemia. This disease affects approximately 60,000 people in the UK. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 15 and 25. Crohn’s disease is difficult to diagnose and is often mistaken for other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and even eating disorders. Weight loss is one of the main symptoms of Crohn’s disease and occurs because the inflamed intestine cannot absorb nutrients, and because sufferers will eat less to avoid symptoms such as pain, diarrhoea and cramps. The lack of nutrients has the knock on effect of causing a lack of general energy and can result in illnesses such as osteoporosis due to a lack of calcium and magnesium in the diet. Diet is very important in the management of Crohn’s disease. Certain foods can cause flare-ups, whereas others can help to reduce the symptoms. Foods that have found to trigger symptoms include wheat,dairy, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and citrus fruits. Foods containing yeast have been found to spark flare-ups. Omega 3 oils, found in oily fish, flaxseeds and nuts such as walnuts and almonds, have an anti-inflammatory action. These foods will help to reduce inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. The following foods tips can also help to control symptoms of this disease: Aloe Vera juice.  This has a calming action on the digestive tract. A dose of 20mls twice a day of a good quality brand will reduce digestive inflammation. Papaya is an excellent digestive aid. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and carbonated drinks. These foods can trigger attacks. Glutamine is an amino acid that helps to repair the gut lining. Glutamine can be taken to heal the gut wall and make the intestines less permeable. This amino acid has also been shown to speed up the healing of digestive ulcers. Probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidusare helpful at reducing food intolerances. Stress can aggravate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, so it is important to de-stress as much as possible. This can be achieved...

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Natural Supplements for Constipation

Following on from the article Natural Treatments for Constipation, there are a number of natural supplements that can be taken to support the digestive system and treat constipation. These supplements generally work by softening and adding bulk to the bowel motions. You should notice the benefits within a few days. All of these natural supplements should be accompanied by drinking plenty of water. Before taking any of these natural supplements for constipation, please consult your GP if: The symptoms of constipation persist for two weeks or longer after increasing fibre and water intake. You have weight loss associated with the constipation. You have abdominal pain. You notice blood in your stool. You have recently started taking a medication that may cause constipation. You notice a sudden change in your bowel habits. Psyllium Husk. This is the main supplement for treating constipation. Psyllium are portions of the seeds of the plant Plantago Ovata. This plant originates from Asia, but is now grown in Europe and North America. This natural remedy has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayuvedic medicine to treat constipation. Psyllium, a gel forming fibre, is a source of soothing mucilages for the digestive tract. This natural supplement works by absorbing a huge amount of bulk in water to form a gelatinous mass. This resulting bulk passes along the walls of the bowel stimulating a contraction followed by an emptying. This supplement is one of the gentlest laxatives and is safe for long term use. Psyllium can also help to lower cholesterol and glucose levels by preventing these substances from being absorbed. This natural supplement should be taken on a regular basis to reduce cholesterol levels. Psyllium can also be taken as part of a detoxing programme, to help flush out toxins. Psyllium should be taken with plenty of water. The general dose is 1-3 tablespoons of powder a day, dissolved in water or juice. This supplement should be taken as soon as possible after dissolving in water or juice. When taking Psyllium, it is very important to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Flax seed oil is a rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acids that help to provide lubrication for...

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Natural Treatment of Constipation

Constipation is defined as a difficulty in passing stools or the infrequent passing of dry and hard stools. This condition can occur at any age, and most people will suffer with it from time to time. Constipation occurs as a result of food moving slowly through the digestive tract. Bowel habits vary widely in most people. It can vary from a bowel motion a few times a day to a few days a week. Natural treatment of constiaption can really help with the uncomfortableness that it causes. There are many possible causes of constipation:          Lack of fibre in the diet.          Insufficient fluids in diet leading to dehydration.          Lack of regular exercise.          Stress          Underactive Thyroid (if you suspect this, refer to your GP for a blood test)          Over consumption of junk food          Medication (e.g. painkillers, iron supplements, blood pressure medicines) As you can see, the causes of constipation range from diet, lack of exercise, through to emotional well-being. This condition is quite common amongst the elderly population. This is partly due to the slowing down of their digestive system, and more commonly on the painkillers that they are prescribed. It is quite shocking to see the number of elderly people who are prescribed codeine based painkillers. The main side-effect of these medicines is constipation. Most of these people are prescribed laxatives on a daily basis, which results in the large intestine and bowels becoming “lazy”. Diet is the most important factor in preventing and treating constipation. By increasing the amount of fibre and fluids you will greatly reduce your chances of developing this condition and speed up your recovery. Fibre is found in many foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It is important not to overcook the vegetables, as lightly cooked or raw vegetables will add more fibre to your diet. Wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, pulses, lentils and whole grain breakfast cereals are a good source of high fibre foods. Fibre adds “bulk” and helps to soften the bowel motions. This helps to stimulate bowel contractions. Adding extra fibre to your diet also helps to lower cholesterol levels. Prune juice and dried prunes are an excellent source of fibre and...

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Natural Remedies for Flatulence

Flatulence also known as wind is an embarrassing problem that can sometimes be extremely uncomfortable. This condition occurs when there is an excessive build up of gas in the stomach and intestine.  This gas is caused by bacteria and yeasts that are found in the gastrointestinal tract. Candida is a yeast that is often responsible for flatulence. This yeast thrives on unhealthy foods such as sugar. There are lots of natural remedies for flatulence that are easily available. Flatulence is a natural biological process that affects everyone (although men are affected more that women). Foul smelling flatulence is an indication that the digestive process is sluggish. This is often the case with people who have constipation. A good way of preventing this is to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and increase your intake of water. Increasing your intake of fibre will also help to keep your digestive system healthy. As the digestive process starts in the mouth, it is very important to chew your food properly. When we swallow anything, we also take in air. This process contributes to the build up of gas. By chewing food slowly, you will minimise the intake of air, and lower your risk of having flatulence. Top Tips to Avoid Flatulence Include probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus in your diet. One or two capsules should be taken after each meal to help replace healthy bacteria. Drinking herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, fennel and ginger after a meal can help to ease digestion and reduce bloating. Low fat live yoghurts help to aid digestion and are also an excellent source of probiotics. Peppermint oil (diluted in some warm water) or taken in a capsule form and help to reduce bloating and flatulence. The homeopathic remedy Lycopodium, is a commonly used remedy to reduce flatulence. This natural remedy should be taken in the 30c potency, twice a day for up to two weeks. Eat five smaller meals a day rather than three larger meals. This will place less of burden on your digestive system. Stress also contributes to sluggish digestion and flatulence. If you are under stress consider relaxation exercises, EFT (emotional freedom technique) or natural remedies. Note any foods that make you...

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Homeopathy for Piles

Homeopathy for Piles

Piles (haemorrhoids) are basically varicose veins of the anus, which can occur internally or externally. They usually occur as a result of constipation. Chronic long term constipation can cause straining which leads to an increased pressure in the veins causing them to break through the anus and protrude externally. There are several recommended treatments in homeopathy for piles which can help reduce the discomfort. They can cause pain and there may also be bleeding. Piles can also be caused by persistent coughing, overuse of laxatives, standing or sitting for long periods, and travelling long distances while seated. All of these situations place extra pressure in rectal veins. One of the best ways of avoiding piles is to avoid having constipation. You can do this by drinking plenty of water (1.5 litres/ day), eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and undertake regular exercise. You should also consume regular fibre to keep your bowels regular. Foods high in fibre include lentils, pulses, vegetables seeds and whole grains. It is also important to eat fried foods only in moderation. If you have bleeding, it may be due to piles, but it may also be a sign of ulcerative colitis or cancer of the colon or rectum. It is therefore very important to get medical treatment if bleeding lasts for more than 12 hours. There are some very effective homeopathic remedies for piles. Long term treatment may require constitutional treatment, which requires consulting a qualified homeopath, but the following remedies can be taken in the short term.  These remedies should be taken three times a day for up to two weeks, in the 30c potency. As with all homeopathic remedies, they are extremely safe and can be taken by the whole family. Hamamelis. This natural homeopathic remedy should be taken for piles which cause painless bleeding and a feeling of weakness. The anus may also feel sore and bruised. Aesculus. This remedy should be taken for piles that are associated with constipation and pain in the lower back and hips. The anus may feel sore, hot, painful and itchy. This remedy should be taken if the stools are hard, dry and pass with difficulty followed by a feeling of prolapse in the rectum....

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Probiotics

Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are beneficial bacteria that are normally present in the digestive tract. Probiotics are naturally found in the body and they have a number of important functions in the body. They are essential for proper digestion, preventing overgrowth of yeast and other harmful bacteria. Probiotics also improve the absorption of vitamins, especially the B vitamins, and minerals into the bloodstream. Probiotics also support the immune system. They do this by lining the intestinal wall with beneficial bacteria, which prevents the absorption of harmful bacteria and viruses into the body. These beneficial bacteria “crowd out” the bad bacteria and help to maintain a healthy immune system. As the digestive tract plays a major role in boosting the immune system, it is very important to maintain a healthy balance of probiotics in the gut. There are several factors that can cause the levels of probiotics decrease: Ageing Stress Medicines such as antibiotics and Non Steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAID’s) such as Ibuprofen, Diclofenac and Aspirin. Travelling abroad Constipation A diet high in meat and fats Smoking and alcohol Antibiotics kill both the “bad” and “good” bacteria, which leads to a decrease in the levels of probiotics in the gut. This is why people who have taken antibiotics experience side effects such as diarrhoea and thrush. It is very important to take a good quality probiotic during and after finishing the course of antibiotics, to replenish all the good bacteria that have been destroyed. Probiotics can be taken to help with several health conditions. These are just a few conditions that can be helped with additional probiotics in the diet: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Constipation & Diarrhoea Bloating Eczema Food Intolerances or allergies Low immune function Thrush Indigestion and heartburn...

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