Tuesday, August 2, 2011

8 guidelines for guaranteed digestive health, healing and (if desired) weight loss!

A unique aspect of Chinese medicine is its tendency to teach or express natural phenomena in poetic terms. In this article, I will be speaking of one such phenomenon--the formation and utilization of Post-Heaven Qi. As opposed to our genetic predisposition or Pre-heaven Qi, Post-Heaven Qi refers to our ability to extract and use nutrition from the food we eat in order to generate what the Chinese refer to as Qi and Blood. (for a brief discussion on what is meant by the term Qi (pronounced "chee") see the glossary page of my website: www.traditionaljewishmedicine.net. This Post-Heaven Qi is so important, that our inability to generate it, by extracting, transforming and utilizing nutrients from what we eat, I believe is the root of most illnesses civilization.

Though a previous article did address what and how one should eat, this time I want to focus on practical steps we can take to strengthen our organs of digestion, in order to improve our absorption, increase our vitality, sharpen our minds, sensitize our spirituality, regulate our weight, improve our health, and extend our lifespans.

First, let me preface this study by noting a fascinating observation by the Holy Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, OBM. The verse in Deuteronomy 8:2 states that "Man does not live by bread alone, but rather from that which eminate from the mouth of Ha-Shem" The Arizal points out that this verse teaches us that food is more than just nourishment for the body. There are also "sparks of holiness" contained in
food, and when we eat food in the appropriate way, eating with focus and intention and saying a blessing on the food be before eating it, the holiness in that food is unlocked and nourishes the soul. This is crucial to our overall health, because “Man does not live by bread alone." Taking this one step further, I would suggest, as we shall see shortly, that this not only applies to our souls, but our bodies as well!

It should also be noted that biochemically, emotions play an enormous role on our gastro-intestinal health. In the pioneering work by neuro-gastroenterologist, Michael Gershon, MD, "The Second Brain" the author notes that nerve cells in the gut actually act as a second independent brain, and that more serotonin (feel good hormones) and endorphins(powerful natural pain killers) are produced there than anywhere else in the body, including the brain! Furthermore, our two "brains" must work together and cooperate, and if they don't, chaos will prevail in the gut and misery in the head, with symptoms resulting such as heartburn, flatulence, "butterflies", belching, gurgling, bloating, nausea, cramps, diarrhea or constipation.

With these two thoughts in mind, I have passionately and thoughtfully considered how best I can empower my patients to make eating, a spiritual and healing rather than a mechanical and purely animalistic activity for them, and help them reestablish harmony in their digestive tract. I have come up with eight essential therapeutic steps that will change your life. But I warn you, if you cheat, you only cheat yourself and you will regret the consequences of your actions, so consider yourself warned! By the same token, If you follow these guidelines carefully, and really take them seriously, I GUARANTEE YOU, if you need to lose weight, you will lose at least 2 lbs. per week, and if you are suffering from any of the various unbearable and sometimes life threatening auto-immune and digestive disorders that are so prevalent, such as "leaky-gut" syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colitis, diverticular disease or even stomach, intestinal or pancreatic cancer, that your condition will improve and even heal, IY"H. So here they are:

1. AVOID EATING ANY COLD FOODS OR DRINKS. The Chinese recognize that the Spleen (in Chinese medicine the main organ that governs the process of extracting Qi from food we eat and transforming and transporting it. It should also be noted that this is different than the anatomical spleen that Western Biomedicine speaks of) thrives in an environment which is warm and dry, and it damaged by that which is cold and damp. Therefore, avoiding cold foods and drinks helps promote metabolism and digestive strength, and limits the accumulation of dampness and phlegm, which the Chinese equate with fat.

2. AVOID EAT ANY SOLID FOOD AFTER 7:00 PM. At night when we sleep, our blood needs to nourish our brains, and regenerate in our livers. Specifically, the Chinese recognize that more than any other time, between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 am the Liver regenerates the Blood. So being asleep during those hours is essential for strong Blood and good Liver health. Furthermore, the later in the day we eat, the weaker our digestive power becomes, requiring our blood to aid in the digestive function, and so instead of going to the brain it goes to the stomach. But whereas solid food requires extra energy to be broken down and digested, liquid food such as smoothies (see more about this later on), soup, tea or water with lemon, presents little or no problem, if ingested with moderation.

3. EAT UNTIL YOU ARE HALF FULL AND THEN STOP! Longevity experts now are confirming what our sages have known for millenia, (eg. see the Rambam Hilchos De'os chapter 4), that even more important than what we eat, is how much we eat! That means that one should never eat until he is full, for by doing so, most likely, food will not be fully digested, undigested food will rot and toxically accumulate in the gut. Furthermore, as we age, and as stress continues to take its toll on our bodily functions, we produce ever-increasingly less and less Hydrochloric acid, some people producing none at all, a condition known as achlorhydria. Again, as I mentioned, without hydrochloric acid, we are unable to digest protein, and can't extract nutrients such as minerals and some vitamins from the food we eat. Eating smaller portions, therefore does three things: 1. It gives our bodies a greater chance of digesting and absorbing what we eat, and 2. We feel better and 3. We lose weight. Now it should be noted that even though the Rambam says that one should eat until 3/4 full and then stop, here I am taking a stricter stand than the Rambam because of the enormous stresses that we daily face. And even if, therefore, one has difficulty gaining weight, they should still eat no more than until they are 3/4 full, to give the body a chance to absorb and utilize rather than toxify the body. Speaking of stress, we must recognize that emotions can play an enormous role in our ability to either benefit or actually be harmed by the food that we eat, which leads me to the next 2 recommendations:

4. NEVER EAT WHILE EMOTIONALLY STRESSED IN ANY WAY, WHETHER IT BE ANGER, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, PANIC, WORRY, FEAR, SHOCK, GIDDINESS, NERVOUSNESS, TENSION, EXCITEMENT, OR ANY OTHER EMOTION. Biochemically, the hypothalamus transmits a series of strong signals through the spinal column to nerve centers throughout the body. In the throat, large amounts of thyrotropic hormone (TRH) are released. Near the kidneys, a flood of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is produced as the adrenal glands are called into action. These hormones then trigger a series of programmed responses throughout the body. The blood vessels in the skin and the digestive system undergo a rapid constriction to direct the blood to the muscles in the arms and legs (hence, the term "pale with fright"). This prepares the body for the "fight or flight" response. Simultaneously, the spleen (here we are referring to the anatomical Spleen as opposed to the Chinese functional Spleen that we spoke of earlier) contracts and releases white immune cells and platelets into the bloodstream to protect and respond to any anticipated injuries caused by these emotions. The liver also releases a glucagon to feed the extreme demand for sugar (quick energy) made by the aroused emotions. The saliva in the mouth dries up, the nostrils expand to take in more oxygen, the eyes dilate to take in more visual stimuli and abdominal gas moves downward and forces stool or urine to be excreted, lightening the body and preparing it for fight or flight. This is the emotional aspect of "Sur me'ra" (turning away from evil). But we also need to consider that second part of the verse--"asey tov" (do good). This brings us to...

5. NEVER MULTITASK WHILE EATING! Digesting is not an easy function, though most of us tend to take it for granted until sometimes it's too late. As mentioned earlier, just as when we say a blessing with purpose and concentration, we affect a release of sparks of holiness that were trapped and unavailable heretofore in the food, so too, as we eat, we should always consciously focus on chewing our food well, and pray that the biochemical nutrition contained within the food should be distributed and absorbed where it is needed in our bodies. This is very difficult to accomplish if we are involved in other activities while eating, no matter how seemingly relaxing they are. For in truth, any other activity engaged in while eating, will stimulate other brain centers, and compromise on the efficiency of our digestive function.

6. DETERMINE REACTIVE OR ALLERGIC FOODS AND AVOID THEM! Food sensitivities are the great pretenders and manifest themselves in many ways, some quite insidiously. Some examples include:

a. Upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as rhinitis, sinusitis, post-nasal drip,
b. susceptibility to colds, and chronic asthma.
c. Dermatitis, rashes and itching.
d. Fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
e. Digestive disorders including ulcers, gas, belching, bloating, abdominal pain and chronic indigestion.
f. Palpitations, racing heart, elevated blood pressure or even chest pain.
g. Infertility.
h. Brain symptoms such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), brain fog, constant sleepiness after eating, headache, fatigue, and even anger, depression or mood changes after eating.
i. Candida albicans (fungal or yeast infections)

Pay attention, and if you DO notice that you have any of these symptoms after eating then try doing the Coca Pulse test. Arthur Coca, MD, discovered that under stress, the heart and the pulse work harder and beat faster. Therefore, if one suspects that a food is causing reactivity, he can confirm it with the following test:

1, Take the patient's pulse for 30 seconds, before eating the suspected food.
2. Twenty minutes after finishing the food, again take the pulse for 30 seconds. If the number of beats increases the second time, there is a high probability that the food is reactive.
3. For the next 72 hours, completely avoid that food completely, to purify the system of it.
4. Three days later, now in a pure cleansed state, again eat the suspected food. If indeed the food is reactive, there will be an immediate and dramatic response to eating it.

7. CONNECT WITH YOUR STOMACH AND HELP IT HEAL. In CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release we learn and speak about energy cysts. These are places where our body is unable to release physical and emotional traumas that have occurred, and so encapsulates them. These energy cysts can manifest as "hard places" which can be palpably felt and are often found in the abdominal cavity. Because of the disconnect that occurs between the brain and the gut that we spoke of above, these hard places clearly interfere with our digestive function, and it behooves us, to help ourselves by releasing them one at a time. You may actually find that after releasing an energy cyst, another one will suddenly appear in the same place! In reality, this is not the same energy cyst, but rather a different one on a deeper layer. Try to think of the rings of a tree trunk, and just as each ring represents a different layer of growth, so too, as we release each layer, we come closer to putting ourselves in balance. Here's how you can effect a release: Place your two hands on your abdominal cavity and gently find a place which seems harder than surrounding tissue. Place your two hands on it, close your eyes, smile, and slowly inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. You should start to feel a gentle pulsating or percolating sensation that almost feels like a heartbeat (but it's not!). This pulsating sensation is a phenomenon called a "therapeutic pulse", and is the body's way of slowly and gently releasing deep pent-up tension or trauma. Once you feel the therapeutic pulse, I want you to address your abdomen and say, "I'm sorry that I caused you pain." Then continue with your eyes closed to smile and breathe deeply and slowly until the pulsating stops. It should take about 10 minutes, after which the abdomen will be soft.

8. DRINK GREEN SMOOTHIES. Around 2 months ago, a patient of mine recommended that I read "Green For Life" by Victoria Boutenko--and it has revolutionized my practice and my life! Chimpanzees, the author points out are genetically 99.3% identical to human beings, and once they reach their full adult size, they essentially don't age--that is, until the last 2-3 months before they die! We, on the other hand, age rapidly from age 30 on. The key difference, she concluded was their diet, which essentially consists of fruits and green leaves. Green leafy vegetables and leaves are the highest food source of chlorophyll, which molecularly is almost identical to hemoglobin, and hemoglobin is the iron rich protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. The problem though is how to access the chlorophyll in the greens, for to prevent them from wilting, the wise Creator made leaves with a tough and stringy fiber called cellulose. For Chimpanzees, this presents no problem because their teeth are much sharper than ours, they eat their food slowly (do you know anyone who REALLY eats slow?) and the Hydrochloric acid in their stomachs have not been compromised by stress. Considering this, the author came up with the GREEN SMOOTHY, which, as I said, I have been drinking daily 3-8oz cups daily for the last 2 months. The results for myself, my wife and my patients have been remarkable, and here are some of them: 1. my mustache and the roots of my beard are turning brown, as impossible as that sounds (come by and check it out if you don't believe me!). 2. I am getting by on 1 hour less sleep per night, and not paying the price. 3. I feel more energetic and am definitely thinking clearer. 4. I have less gas and belching. 5. My skin is definitely moister and softer. 5. I believe that my vision is sharper and my eyes are definitely less red. 6. We are definitely seeing a significant change in my wife's neurological condition (I don't want to comment more than that, but thus far I am VERY encouraged!) 7. Patients that needed to lose weight have lost about 2 lbs per week, and those that needed to gain weight noticed that they have gained about 1 lb per week. I essentially consider each green smoothy as a blood transfusion! Now here is the recipe that I have been using: take 2 bananas, 1 pear, two cups of water, and two cups (16 oz) of green leafy vegetables (packed down) and blend them to a creamy consistency. I would recommend getting a Vitamix and even though it's expensive, it's a very good investment. We purchased ours 25 years ago and it's still going strong. But even a decent blender should suffice (though I don't know how long it would last under the daily burden). One other benefit: Believe it or not, they're delicious and refreshing. Which green should you use: Here's a sample list to use as a starting point: romaine lettuce, parsley, cilantro, celery leaves, carrot tops, beet tops, spinach, arugula, kale, chard, collards, bok choy, mizuna, mustard greens and mint leaves. I would definitely rotate the greens, to vary the taste and maximize absorption. Which brings me to another important issue--digestion and absorption: In Boutenko's book, she brings down two other important benefits to consider: 1. the green smoothies serve to alkalinize the blood, make it less conducive to degenerative disease and 2. As mentioned above, and as validated by the Roseburg study discussed in the book, a majority of people with digestive problems, rather than having too much acid, are actually severely lacking the stomach acid needed to break down protein and absorb vitamins and nutrients in foods. The Roseburg study proved that a diet consisting of a quart of green smoothie daily dramatically increased the production of hydrochloric acid, and the resulting better absorption of nutrients. (I, BTW, take supplemental Betaine Hydrochloride with each smoothy to further support digestive function.

Anyway, that's it! Like I said, if you are not feeling good and your digestion and absorption are compromised, I guarantee you that you will see a dramatic improvement to your health by following these eight recommendations.

As always, I welcome your comments and gladly will provide support should you contact me!

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