No wonder digestive health is deteriorating in North America. Our digestion is already off to a bad start before we put anything into our mouth. In our last blog we saw that most people don’t enough time at the cephalic phase of digestion. Fortunately, you are a well-informed traveler, so you can avoid this pitfall by simulating sensory input through mindful eating. Mindful eating is creating a sacred connection to your food. This can be aided by blessing your food. And, while mindful eating is always beneficial, if you have not been involved in the preparation of the food, it is even more important to take a minute to enjoy the aromas that come off of it, the display, the texture and way the food makes you feel. If it fills you with joy, you will digest it better. No that doesn’t just mean taking a picture of your food to post to Facebook or Instagram later. It means connecting with the food! Being conscious and mindful is the first stage of digestion, much as it is in the first stage of any journey.
A great metaphor for the process of digestion is provided by a book on this called The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health. The authors of this book have created a food’s-eye view of digestion, using an analogy of riding the London subway (otherwise known as ‘The Tube’).
The reason this metaphor is so great is that the digestive tract’s main purpose is similar to a subway system in that it has to efficiently “transport food from station to station so it can be broken down into its component parts, absorbed by your body, and eventually transformed into the building blocks that make up your body”.
Also, just like the immense size of any subway system in any large city, our digestive tract is one of the largest systems in our body. End to end; it is approximately 30 ft. (over 9 meters). If you took it out of the body and stood it on its end, the digestive tract would be as tall as a telephone pole.
Just like the intricate timing of a subway, digestion is a complex and highly coordinated effort. Various branches of our nervous system accomplish this coordination. Just like if there is trouble on the track in a subway, the whole system comes to a halt, digestion is significantly hampered by various stresses in both the mind and the physical digestive system itself. Many health conditions arise from stress and lack of digestive coordination. One of the easiest places to see this is acid reflux, or GERD (Gastro esophageal reflux disease). This is where the upper digestive sphincter (the esophageal sphincter) stops working properly. This relaxed sphincter lets foods and enzymes travel up the esophagus – the wrong way. When this happens people suffer from heartburn and stomach problems.
This is one of the most common problems we see – material going up a one-way street, the wrong way. Unlike a subway, our tube is a one-way street, producing biodegradable and recyclable material at the end. One of the major things we do in the clinic is encourage peoples’ digestive tract to direct traffic down its one-way track in the right direction and in a coordinated fashion. We start doing this with a Herbal D-tox.
Many of my patients used the feeling of heartburn or GERD as a sign to do the D-tox again. Often that is all it takes. We suggest doing a D-tox 2 – 4 times a year to keep the digestive system clear and to be ready for the adventurous journey we start in the mouth of our next blog . . .
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For over forty years, Terry Willard, Cl.H., Ph.D., has studied the medicinal properties of plants. He is recognized as one of North America’s leading Clinical Herbalists. He appears regularly in the print and electronic media as an exponent of responsible herbal use. He is the past-president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and in the Canadian Health Food Association’s Hall of Fame. Dr. Willard is the author of twelve books on the subject of Herbs including the pivotal Wild Rose Herbal Series – a series of three textbooks written to educate herbalists. Two of his books, Mind-Body Harmony and Dr. Willard Flower Essence: Emotional Alchemy and Spiritual Evolution, have been particularly popular with the general public.
The Liver As Our Great Alchemist – Part 1
Recreate Your Relationship With Food: Video Interview with Dr. Terry Willard
Recreate your Relationship with Food: Video interview with herbalist Yarrow Willard
Tongue-to-Bum Part 7: The Large Intestine – Microbiome and The Last Watering Hole
Tongue-to-Bum Part 5: Small Intestine – Grand Central Station of Digestion
Tongue-to-Bum Part 4: The Stomach – Gastric Food Processor
Tongue-to-Bum Part 3: The Mouth – Goes Chew, Chew, Chew
Tongue-to-Bum Part 1: You Are Not Only What You Eat
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