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12 Ways to Supercharge Your Digestion

12 Ways to Supercharge Your Digestion

You are what you eat, according to the adage, but I say you are what you eat,  digest, absorb, and assimilate. The building blocks of every cell, tissue,  gland, hormone, organ, organ system are found in foods. If foods are not  adequately broken down into their components like essential fatty acids (from  fats), amino acids (from protein), sugars (from starchy foods), vitamins,  minerals, enzymes (specialized proteins), and phytonutrients, then systems in  the body begin to break down. If you are suffering from almost any health  problem chances are good that your digestion is involved. The flip side is that  if you improve your digestion your health will typically follow. Here are 10  ways to improve your digestion.

1.  Increase the amount of raw foods in your diet. It  may seem counterintuitive but if you chew them well enough, raw fruit,  vegetables, sprouts, and herbs contain the enzymes needed to digest them,  thereby freeing up your body’s energy and improving digestion.

2.  Simplify your meals. Complex meals involving  starches (potatoes, rice, or pasta) and concentrated proteins (meat, poultry, or  fish), topped off with a sweet dessert are a recipe for disaster. Try waiting  for a couple of hours to have dessert and keep the meal focused on either starch  or concentrated proteins along with lots of vegetables.

3.  Using a hot water bottle on your abdomen for about  one hour after eating has been shown to increase hydrochloric acid production.  It’s not difficult to do if you’re sitting down to watch TV anyway.

4.  Ensure you’re getting enough of the nutrients needed by the  body to manufacture hydrochloric acid. That includes several B-complex  vitamins. Research shows that when brewer’s yeast was added to the diet of  animals deficient in the nutrients, stomach acid normalized.

5.  Avoid drinking with meals or drink only enough to  take medications or supplements. Water prematurely increases the pH of the  stomach which neutralizes stomach acid and signals the body to move the food  into the intestines—even if it is insufficiently digested.

6.  Supplement with betaine hydrochloride. Avoid using  this supplement if you are prone to ulcers. Many enzyme supplements also contain  this ingredient.

7.  Take a full-spectrum digestive enzyme to help digest  food. Ideally it should include: lipase (for fats), proteases (for  proteins), lactase (for milk sugar), amylase (for starches), invertase (for  sugars), and cellulase and/or hemicellulase (for fiber).

8.  Avoid eating when you’re feeling severely stressed  or overly emotional as stress hormones can interfere with adequate  digestion.

9.  Taking herbal bitters like common or red centaury  (Centaurium minus or erythraea) or gentian (Gentiana lutea) have traditionally  helped increase stomach acid and improve digestion. They are normally found in  health food stores in liquid form and are taken with meals according to package  directions.

10.  Spices like ginger (Zingiber officinale), black  pepper (Piper nigrum), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum annum) can be added to meals  to aid digestion.

11.  Take a full-spectrum probiotic supplement on an empty  stomach. I usually find first thing in the morning or in the evening  before bed is best. Beneficial bacteria are needed in the intestines to  manufacture essential nutrients like vitamin B12, to keep harmful bacterial and  yeast infections under control, and to ensure proper absorption of nutrients in  your food.  Ideally, look for one that contains a variety of Lactobacilli  (L.) and Bifidobacteria (B.), including:  L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum,  L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, L. salivarius, B. animalis lactis, B. bifidum, B.  breve, B. infantis, and B. longum.

12.  Chew your food well. The stomach can’t do the job  of the teeth so it’s important that food is well chewed by the time it gets to  the stomach.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international  best-selling and 12-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine,  whose works include: Healing  Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body  Detox, The Life Force Diet, The  Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme  Cure.  Check out her natural health resources and subscribe to her free  e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News at  to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook  and Facebook.


7 Pains You Should Never Ignore

7 Pains You Should Never Ignore

Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signals

Usually a headache is just a headache, and heartburn is nothing more than a sign that your last meal didn’t agree with you. Except when they’re not.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right. More often than not, you have some idea of what’s behind it. But when it comes on suddenly, lingers longer than usual, or just seems different, it calls for medical attention—and the sooner, the better. According to our experts, all of the following pain conditions should be considered red flags.

1. Chest pain

“If patients were to become well versed in what I think of as the subtle language of the heart, many could avoid needless worry and expense,” notes Arthur Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist. “Studies have found that women experience a wider range of heart attack symptoms than men do.” In Agatston’s experience, there are three good indicators that something isn’t right, and they can occur in either gender. They are chest pain that doesn’t go away, varied shortness of breath, and any upper body pain that hasn’t occurred before. If you experience any of these symptoms, he says, you should call your doctor or 911 immediately.

(Leesa recommends keeping aspirin available and getting medical care quickly makes a difference! Her sister’s husband had a heart attack at the early age of 47 this past week and survived due to her doing just that… Her sister and her husband recognized the early warning signs,  gave him an aspirin ASAP and got him to the hospital ASAP!  It saved his life!) 

2. Severe head pain

Chances are, it’s a migraine. But if it isn’t accompanied by other migraine symptoms (such as a visual aura), sudden, severe head pain can signal a brain aneurysm. “A burst aneurysm can cause brain damage within minutes, so you need to call 911 immediately,” advises Elsa-Grace Giardina, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Center for Women’s Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

3. A throbbing tooth

It’s likely that the tooth’s nerve has become damaged, probably because the surrounding pearly white enamel is cracked or rotting away. Unless you get it patched up quickly, bacteria in your mouth can invade the nerve. And you definitely don’t want that breeding colony to spread throughout your body, says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist outside St. Paul, Minnesota. If your tooth is already infected, you’ll require a root canal, in which the tooth’s bacteria-laden pulp is removed and replaced with plastic caulking material.

(Leesa recommends making an informed decision  and recommends reading this article,, and others like it about root canals on

 4. Sharp pain in your side

You may just need some Beano. But if you feel as if you’re being skewered in your right side, and you’re also nauseated and running a fever, you could have appendicitis. For women, another possibility is an ovarian cyst. Typically these fluid-filled sacs are harmless and disappear on their own. But if one twists or ruptures, it can cause terrible pain.

In both cases, you’re looking at emergency surgery. “If you don’t remove an inflamed appendix, it can burst,” says Lin Chang, MD, a gastroenterologist and co-director of the Center for Neurovisceral Sciences and Women’s Health at UCLA. A twisted cyst also needs to be removed right away, as it can block blood flow to the ovary within hours.

5. Abdominal discomfort with gas or bloating

For the past month, you’ve felt gassy and bloated more days than not, and it takes fewer slices of pizza to fill you up than it once did. If the symptoms are new, the worst-case scenario is ovarian cancer. In 2007, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation released the first national consensus on early symptoms of this form of cancer: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating. If you start experiencing them almost daily for more than two or three weeks, consider it a red flag. Schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn to discuss your symptoms.

6. Back pain with tingling toes

If you’ve just helped your cousin move into her new fourth-floor apartment, anti-inflammatories should banish the pain. But if they don’t work, hobble to an orthopedist. “One of your discs (the spongy rings that cushion the bones in your spine) could be pressing on the spinal nerve,” says Letha Griffin, MD, an orthopedist and sports medicine specialist in Atlanta. Without proper attention, you risk permanent nerve damage.

7. Leg pain with swelling

Your calf is extremely tender in one location, noticeably swollen, and red or warm to the touch. You might have deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), commonly known as a blood clot. Resist the urge to massage the area or to try walking off the pain. If the clot breaks free, it can travel through your veins up to your lungs and cut off your oxygen supply. Instead, see your doctor right away. He or she will do a CT scan or ultrasound to check for a DVT. If that’s what you have, you’ll need to take blood thinners—sometimes for up to a year—to dissolve it, says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of women and heart disease for the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Know the symptoms of a stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious disability, according to the American Heart Association. If you or someone close to you is experiencing any of these symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

From The List Maker’s Get-Healthy Guide (Rodale, 2010).

By the Editors of Prevention is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”

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