INDIGESTION

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Submitted Aug 22, 2003   Updated Sep 26, 2010
By Ray Fosterrlf@mt-rushmore.net

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is discomfort of any kind after eating.  Usually there is a burning pain in the chest and could mimic a heart attack - this is especially true in women. 

 

What kind of food is good for me to eat?

 

It can  be the coffee that goes with the meal that can cause indigestion.  The best food to eat is unrefined plant foods.  Just making the switch from animal products to plant foods often gets rid of the indigestion symptoms.

Fiber Reduces Cancer Risk

Fiber includes the parts of plant materials that resist digestion by the normal human intestinal system. Just as there are many different types of vitamins, so there are many different types of fiber.

Major food sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and legumes. There is virtually no fiber in meat, milk, eggs, cheese, or any other animal product.

A fiber-rich diet clearly reduces the risk of developing colon cancer. Drs. Howe, Benito, and colleagues analyzed the results of 13 studies that looked at the influence of fiber intake on colon cancer. They found a strong dose-response relationship when they looked at fiber intake: the more fiber eaten, the lower the risk of colon cancer.

When the researchers divided people into five groups based on their level of fiber intake, those with the lowest fiber intakes had the greatest risk of colon cancer. Even those in the next lowest group of fiber consumption still had 21 percent less colon cancer when compared to the poorest fiber eaters. Those in the group with average fiber intake had 31 percent less, those with somewhat above average intake had 37 percent less, and those with the best fiber intake had nearly 50 percent less risk of this major cancer.

The researchers concluded that if the average U.S. citizen would merely increase his or her fiber intake by 70 percent (thus going from a current average of about 18 grams per day to around 30 grams per day), we would decrease our national rate of colon cancer by 31 percent and would save some 50,000 cases of colon cancer annually.

Earlier in this chapter we looked at data from Harvard University’s Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Researchers there studied the relationships of lifestyle to the lesions that precede colon cancer, known as colorectal adenomas. In addition to finding links with alcohol, the Harvard group has documented relationships between these adenomas and both high saturated fat consumption and low fiber intake. Specifically, those with high saturated fat intake had double the risk of these lesions. Men with the poorest fiber intake had almost three times the risk of colorectal adenomas when compared with those consuming fiber liberally. When they identified a group of men eating liberal amounts of saturated fat and little fiber, they discovered that they experienced nearly four times the risk of those on a low saturated fat, high fiber diet.

Why does fiber lower cancer risk? There is a variety of possible reasons. These include:

1. Fiber draws water to itself. Therefore, it may help to dilute any carcinogens that gain access into the intestine.

2. Fiber helps to speed up the passage of colon contents, thus decreasing the time for any potential carcinogens in the stool to damage the lining of the colon.

3. Fiber helps to decrease the production of altered bile acids known as "secondary bile acids." These altered bile acids appear able to cause colon cancer.

Dietary fiber has protective benefits regarding other cancers as well. For example, a high fiber diet has been shown to decrease breast cancer by more than 50 percent. Dr. David Rose of the American Health Foundation believes that the evidence suggests that fiber "may favorably modify the enhanced breast cancer risk associated with the typical American high-fat, low-fiber diet." He suggests that fiber may work through a variety of ways to lower breast cancer risk, but the primary effect is probably through affecting either the activity or the metabolism of estrogen. Associated with plant fibers are plant estrogens ("fiber-associated phytoestrogens") that may lower breast cancer risk. There is also evidence that fiber can interfere with the intestinal re-absorption of estrogen—this would also be expected to lower breast cancer risk.

So fiber is good for me; are there any specific foods that I should eat?

One group of foods that are loaded with cancer-protective factors are the cruciferous vegetables. These members of the cabbage family include brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, turnips, kohlrabi, bok choy, collards, and cabbage. One study showed that those who ate cabbage at least once per week had two-thirds less colon cancer than those who ate it once per month or less.217 Indoles are among the cancer-protective phytochemicals in these plants. These compounds work as blocking agents by increasing colon enzymes that can deactivate carcinogens.

Some Mexican remedies for digestive problems have been used in the past, is it O.K. to use azarcon, a bright orange powder or greta?

These remedies may cause lead poisoning and therefore I recommend that they not be used.

Published in

Journal Watch August 3, 1993

Is soy good for me?

Dr. Mark Messina summarized over 30 different epidemiologic studies on soybeans and cancer in his book, The Simple Soybean And Your Health. He points out that the results suggest that those who consume the most soy foods have the least cancer. These studies suggest that soy decreases cancer risk at many sites including breast, colon, rectum, lung, and stomach.

What about onions and garlic?

A large study from the Netherlands involved over 120,000 men and women. Researchers there made a connection between cancer prevention and the simple onion. The cancer it prevented was stomach cancer. Those eating the most onions (one or more onions every other day) had half the stomach cancer risk of those who never ate onions.

Garlic has been shown to protect against developing cancer; in mice, it is effective in treating cancer. The amount of 50 milligrams of garlic administered in 3 ounces of drinking water to mice with bladder cancer led to significant shrinking of the tumors, while 500 milligrams of garlic not only reduced the cancer size but actually decreased the mortality rate from the cancer. All of this occurred without side effects. The researchers believe that the garlic may have stimulated the mice’s immune systems, helping them to combat the cancer.

Tell me about Selenium.

Selenium is a trace mineral found in whole grains, such as wheat grown in North and South Dakota in selenium-rich soil. A diet high in selenium (approximately 200 to 400 micrograms a day) decreases the risk of lung, colon, and prostate cancer. But another word of caution for supplement users: too much selenium is toxic and causes hair and nail loss, bad breath, or other symptoms.

Much of what we have heard today is actually cancer prevention, how does this translate into good digestion?

My perspective is that the digestive tract works better on the short term and on the long term when we treat it properly. Things that have been shown by studies over the long term to damage the bowel might be expected to lead to the bowel's not working as well on the short term. We are looking at short and long term bowel health.

 

Improper digestion.

What is digestion?

The processing of food by the body.

 

How is this accomplished?

Food enters the mouth and is ground by the teeth into smaller pieces and mixed with saliva, the saliva contains an enzyme called salivary amylase that starts the digestion.

The food then enters the stomach. One of the processes that occurs in the stomach is acidification with hydrochloric acid. This probably provides a protection to infection entering through the digestive tract. Much of the actual digestion occurs in the small intestine. This is a long tube containing the duodenum-the first part, the jejunum-the second part, and the ileum-the third and final part of the small intestine. Bile, which is stored in the gall bladder, helps with mixing of fatty food. Enzymes chew the larger molecules into smaller molecules that can be absorbed into the blood.

In the next part of the intestinal tract, the large intestine, water is absorbed.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest, not from the heart, but from the esophagus. The acid content of the stomach, when in contact with the more sensitive esophagus causes pain. The stomach is designed to handle contact with this acid, but if the contents of the stomach move backward through the narrow top of the stomach, then these contents can contactthe esophagus.

 

What causes the stomach contents to move backward like this?

Certain foods may allow the upper valve (the cardiac sphincter) to relax. Things like alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, and even citrus may play a role in this.

Importantly, gravity is one of the great protectors for keeping acid away from the esophagus. By walking after eating, the stomach is able to empty without much acid contact in the esophagus. This probably does not work quite as well when sitting; but if a person lies down after eating, the acid can quite easily slip up into the esophagus and cause damage.

So, it is very important not to eat for several hours before going to bed. In fact, many individuals who use antacids or other pills-even prescription pills-might find that these are not necessary after eliminating late-night eating.

As our listeners might imagine, it is common and probably normal for a little bit of the acid to back up or reflux upward; but when strong acid is allowed prolonged exposure to the esophagus, damage is likely to occur.

Another helpful method for preventing this reflux tendency is to avoid drinking fluids with meals. Having a meal that is thinner in consistency will allow it to more easily reflux upward past the cardiac sphincter. Water may be drunk freely between meals, but during the meal itself; solid food is the better choice.

Are there problems with acid reflux?

Yes, swallowing difficulties may develop over time. This is probably in part due to scarring that may occur from the acid damage. Also changes can take place in the esophagus that may even predispose to esophageal cancer. Also, since the acid can keep going upward, it may enter the airway. Inside of the airway, the acid may be very irritating and may be a factor in asthma in some people. Bacterial pneumonia may even occur at times if the bacteria from the mouth are part of the contents that reflux and then enter the airway.

 

Can I make too much acid in my stomach?

Yes, while normal digestion benefits from some acid production; too much acid can be damaging. This may be produced in response to stress of the body. Learning how to relax and regular exercise may allow the stomach acid production to rest better when it is time for the stomach to rest.

Are ulcers related to too much acid?

Yes, prolonged stress may damage the lining of the stomach or the lining of the first part of the small intestine-the duodenum-where the stomach empties. Other factors may also play a role. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDS are very commonly used for pain control. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are some of the common ones. These agents may allow ulcers to form more easily.

 

Aren't ulcers caused by infection?

Helicobacter pylori is an organism that has gained fame in its association with some ulcers. And antibiotic treatment does seem to play a big role in reducing the recurrence of ulcers within one year. But like many diseases, ulcer disease is probably from multiple causes.

 

Are there any problems that occur after the duodenum?

Yes, problems can occur later in the intestine if food is not digested properly. When undigested food reaches the large intestine, it may feed bacteria that produce gas and cause colon discomfort. If the digestion occurs properly in the small intestine, then this problem is minimized. One very common sugar that is often not properly digested in the small intestine in adults is milk sugar or lactose. Not having the enzyme, lactase that digests this sugar is called a lactase deficiency. Symptoms might include abdominal cramping, gas, and diarrhea after a meal with significant dairy product content. Similar symptoms can occur if artificial sweeteners or fats are taken in large amounts. They may keep water in the colon that would usually be absorbed leading to diarrhea.

I like to look at good digestion as a result of a big picture of digestive tract health. When we eat foods that harm the digestive tract, we might expect not only to have trouble on the long-term with things like colon cancer. But on the short-term we might find abdominal pain, heartburn, fatigue, and other things that result from a diet that irritates our digestive tract.

So, are you saying that cancer-causing food might often be the same food that is causing us to have day-to-day digestive difficulties?

 

Yes, we are designed not only with a wonderful body, but we also have a wonderful warning system in the body. When we do not take care of a part of the body properly, we often have the gfit from our Creator of warning symptoms so that we may take corrective action.

 

Is there a problem with eating meat, as long as it is well cooked?

Nitrosamines are one very important example of a damaging compound in food. Again I wish to refer to Proof Positive by Neil Nedley M.D.

Studies show that meat in any form increases colon cancer risk, but it can become even more harmful by heating or cooking. Nitrosamines provide one example. These powerful carcinogens are compounds of nitrogen, and have been linked to cancers of the stomach and esophagus. They do not naturally occur in foods but are formed when meats containing nitrite are heated. Any form of heating such as during food cooking, processing, or preservation favors the combination of nitrite with other compounds to produce the carcinogenic nitrosamines. Nitrosamine formation can also occur during digestion of foods containing nitrite. Nitrite has historically been used as a preservative and coloring agent in fish and in red meats such as sausage, frankfurters, and bacon. Significant quantities of nitrosamines have been found in all of these products.

Meat Cooking Methods and Colorectal Cancer

Independent risk factors for cancers of the colon and rectum:

1. Total meat intake

2. Frequent use of brown gravy

3. Preference for heavily browned meat surface: the greatest risk of colon and rectal cancer occurred when meat was fried with a heavily browned surface. Brown gravy made from meat would have some of the same carcinogens as the hottest portions of the meat surfaces.

What happens to meat during the cooking process that increases cancer risk? One group of chemicals that are of particular concern is called the heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These compounds are potent procarcinogens that are typically formed by the cooking of flesh foods. There have been at least 20 different HCAs identified in our diet, and they all cause colon and breast cancer in rodent tests. The scary thing is that, compared to rodents, humans have a greater potential to convert HCAs into frank carcinogens.

A recent review article found that 80 percent of the cancer risk from HCAs in the American diet came from eating meat and fish. Other important sources are pork and fowl. The identification of these cancer-causing substances in fish and fowl, which have lower fat content than red meat, is illuminating. Some research indicates that fish and fowl also increase cancer risk and one of the likely reasons is due to the presence of these HCAs.

Pollutants that have accumulated in fish tissues are probably another significant reason why fish can increase human cancer risk.

Charcoal-Broiled Meat is Dangerous

A potent meat-related carcinogen, called benzopyrene, is related to cooking. Benzopyrene is one of 4000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke. In studies using rodents as well as human cells in culture, benzopyrene demonstrates carcinogenic activity affecting many tissues, such as the liver, stomach, colon, intestine, esophagus, lungs, and breast. Charcoal-broiled meat produces this substance in large quantities on the surface of the meat. About two pounds of steak produces an amount of benzopyrene on the meat surface equivalent to that found in 600 cigarettes. Thus, nonsmokers can be exposed to a huge dose of one of cigarette’s powerful carcinogens by simply eating grilled meats. And in general, the higher the fat content of the meat, the greater will be the benzopyrene concentration in the charcoal-grilled product.

 

 

Is there any harm to my digestive system from coffee?

Coffee increases heartburn risk by decreasing the seal of the upper stomach valve-the cardiac sphincter. Fatal colon cancer has also been linked to coffee consumption. Those consuming two or more cups of coffee per day increased their risk of death from colon cancer by 70 percent when compared to those that consumed less than one cup a day. The study also revealed a dose-response relationship; that is, the more coffee consumed the higher the risk.

 

 

Is it better to give my digestive tract a little work several times per day (small meals) or to give it a lot of work fewer times per day (big meals)?

Meal frequency has been identified as a risk factor for colon cancer. A number of studies in different parts of the world demonstrate that eating meals more frequently leads to an increased risk of colon cancer. Dr. La Vecchia and colleagues in Milan Italy have published on this subject. Their group found that the risk of both colon and rectal cancer could be nearly doubled by eating more frequently (1.9 risk of both rectal and colon cancer for 4 or more meals per day compare to 2 or more):

Colon Cancer and Meal Frequency.

Meals per Day

Risk of Rectal Cancer

Risk of Colon Cancer

2 or less

1.0

1.0

3

1.7

1.4

4 or more

1.9

1.9

What is the connection between meal frequency and colon cancer risk? A number of researchers including La Vecchia feel that it has to do with meals stimulating gall bladder emptying and the release of bile. Bile can then be converted into cancer-causing compounds, and more frequent bile release would be expected to increase the exposure time of the lining of the colon to these toxic bile acid products.

 McBurney and colleagues have provided an alternate explanation. They believe that meal frequency is particularly a problem for those on a high fat, high protein, low fiber diet. Such eating habits alter the small intestinal contents and result in rapidly fermentable material being dumped into the colon at irregular intervals. This material leads to a surge in the colon’s microbial population that generates products that are toxic to the colon. More frequent meals stimulate more frequent masses of this fermentable material entering the colon (each mass corresponding to a meal), which increases the frequency that the colon lining is exposed to such toxic products.