Common Digestive Disorders
The modern low-fiber diet has wreaked havoc on the digestive systems of millions of people. It is rare to find someone with healthy digestion and smooth elimination. Digestive disorders are so common that most people regard them as a normal part of life.
Tight, narrow lips are a sign that the digestive system has become tight and constricted. This more yang condition is caused by too much animal food and not enough fiber. A lack of whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables is a common cause. If the upper lip is thin and tight, the stomach and solar plexus are tight and blocked. Among modern foods, chicken and cheese frequently cause tightness in this part of the body. This tightness interferes with smooth digestion and may be a sign of hypoglycemia, or chronic low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia arises when the pancreas becomes tight, hard, and blocked, as a result of the repeated consumption of foods such as eggs, chicken, and cheese. In this condition, the pancreas is unable to secrete sufficient glucagon, the hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise.
Tightness in the lower lip is a sign of tightness in the intestines. The cause is similar to the above: repeated consumption of meat, chicken, cheese, and other forms of animal food, and not enough grains, vegetables, and other plant fibers. Tightness and constriction in the large intestine is a common cause of chronic intestinal stagnation and constipation.
Puffy of swollen lips have an opposite, or more yin cause. A swollen upper lip is a sign of possible stomach disorders, including heartburn, overacidity, and ulcers resulting from the repeated consumption of sugar, caffeine, spices, alcohol, soft drinks, refined flour, potatoes and other nightshades, and other yin extremes. When the stomach becomes lose and swollen, the muscular valve, known as the cardiac sphincter, at the opening of the stomach relaxes or operates inefficiently. The sphincter is normally closed when food is in the stomach. The contents of the stomach, including stomach acid, are regurgitated into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and neck after a meal. This symptom, commonly known as heartburn, affects millions of people daily. Heartburn drugs, most notably antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta, or acid blockers such as Zantac and Tagamet, are currently a $5 billion industry in the United States.
A swollen lower lip is a sign of chronic over expansion in the intestines resulting from too many yin extremes in the diet. In this condition, the intestines lose the contracting power of peristalsis. Stagnation occurs and the result is chronic constipation. As we can see, constipation can result from an overly expanded or an overly contracted condition.
When the diet is deficient in whole grains, vegetables, and other foods rich in fiber, a person tends to produce small hard stools. These stools accumulate in the large intestine, and can not be passed without straining. Constant straining at stool raises the blood pressure in the veins, causing them to become permanently dilated, leading to hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Eventually, the outward pressure caused by the accumulation of small hard stools can cause small pockets, called diverticuli, to form in the wall of the colon. About 40 percent of those over age 65 have this condition. When these pockets bleed and become infected, the condition is known as diverticulitis.
Irritable bowel syndrome, sometimes called spastic colon, is also the result of modern eating habits. The intake of sugar, chocolate, honey, milk, ice cream, strong spices, tropical fruits, and refined foods, in combination with yang extremes such as meat, chicken, and cheese, can cause symptoms such as alternating constipation and diarrhea, abdominal pain, mucus discharge, and the passage of small-caliber stools. These symptoms are known collectively as irritable bowel syndrome. This condition is exacerbated by the chronic use of antibiotics, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. These medications kill normal intestinal bacteria and disrupt the healthful ecology of the colon. Up to two thirds of persons using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs suffer from inflammation of the small intestine.
The use of medications, in combination with the modern diet, can also lead to overgrowth of intestinal yeast (candida) and an increase in intestinal permeability, a condition known as “leaky gut syndrome.” Foods such as sugar, soft drinks, tropical fruits, spices, and chocolate accelerate these disorders.
Easing Digestive Distress
The macrobiotic understanding of energy-balance can help us determine the type of home remedies to use when treating common digestive disorders. Diarrhea, for example, represents an overly-yin or expanded condition. Its symptoms can be categorized as follows:
- A watery condition
- Overactive energy
- An overacid condition
An internal remedy with the following energy characteristics would help offset these symptoms:
- Gathering energy
- Solidifying effects
- Stabilizing, soothing, or calming effects
- Alkalizing effects
Based on these criteria, our remedy of choice would be Ume-Sho-Kuzu. Kuzu is a root that grows deep in the earth. It is strongly charged with yang or contracting energy. It is used often as a thickener in macrobiotic cooking, and has contracting or solidifying energy. It helps consolidate the bowel movement and has a quieting effect on an overactive stomach and intestines. Umeboshi neutralizes excess acid. An overly acid condition promotes diarrhea. Moreover, umeboshi has strong antimicrobal power. It can neutralize micro-organisms, including those that cause dysentery.
There is a constant balance in the stomach between the hydrochloric acid secreted by one set of gastric cells and the mucus secreted by another set of cells. Hydrochloric acid is strongly yin; gastric mucus is comparatively yang. When secreted in proper amounts, the mucus in the stomach has a protective effect, preventing gastric acid and enzymes from irritating, ulcerating, or even eating-away the lining of the stomach. Kuzu has a thick, viscous consistency, not unlike that of gastric mucus. It coats the stomach and protects it from excess hydrochloric acid. Umeboshi plum, which is strongly alkaline, neutralizes the harmful effects of excess stomach acid.
As we can see, Ume-Sho-Kuzu is broad-spectrum remedy that benefits the digestive system as a whole. Together with a balanced macrobiotic diet, it can be used to relieve such conditions as stomach ulcers and heartburn. The fiber in kuzu, in combination with the anti-inflammatory effects of umeboshi, are helpful in easing the symptoms of acute diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, because it is more contractive, Ume-Sho-Kuzu can reduce intestinal permeability, thus relieving “leaky gut syndrome.
To prepare this broad-spectrum natural remedy:
- Dilute one heaping teaspoon of kuzu (kudzu) in two to three teaspoons of cold water.
- Add one cup of cold water to the diluted kuzu.
- Place over a medium flame. Stir constantly to prevent lumping, until the liquid becomes translucent. Reduce the flame as low as possible.
- Add the pulp of one-half to one umeboshi plum that has been chopped or ground to a paste.
- Add several drops of shoyu and stir gently. Simmer for two to three minutes and drink hot.
Ume-Sho-Kuzu can sometimes be made with grated ginger. However, ginger is an energy-activator, and for acute conditions involving inflammation, or in cases of active diarrhea, it is best omitted. Ume-Sho-Kuzu can be taken once a day for several days until the condition improves. In addition, it is important to make dietary changes so as to allow the digestive organs to heal and prevent a recurrence of the condition. It is also important to chew well, eating regular meals, and not eat before bedtime. These practices ease chronic distress in the digestive system resulting from modern eating habits.
Copyright © 1996 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved