How to Use This Blog

Conventional medicine does not have much to offer an individual with a chronic digestive problem. Doctors can turn off an inflammatory reaction with drugs, repair physical damage, or remove a disease organ. However, there is little they can do to restore normal health. But you can do this for yourself and I can show you how! Even if you cannot attain perfect health, you can at least improve your level of health. It is likely you can reduce the usage of medication and avoid their side effects by following herbal and dietary supplement protocols and lifestyle adjustments I will be publishing weekly on this blog. Genes may predispose you to a digestive disorder, but it is your lifestyle that determines whether you control your digestive disorder or your digestive disorder controls you.

Stress Reduction

In the many years I’ve worked with digestive clients, I have noticed that most people with digestive disorders are poor adapters to stress.  They are more likely to have flare-up of their disease during, after, or in anticipation of a stressful event.  Friends and colleagues may face the same situation but have a different reaction, perhaps a headache, shoulder or neck pain, the cold or the flu, rather than a digestive disorder.  This with chronic problems of the digestive tract tend to hold their tension there.

Even if you have been given a set of genes that make your abdomen seem like a minefield, you can reduce your symptoms with stress reduction exercises and activities.  Digestive problems tend to run in families. If you have a digestive disorder, it is likely that another member of your family has one also, even if it has a different medical name. In my own family, my aunt has Crohn’s disease, my dad has had gastric ulcers. Other family members have problems such as constipation, nervous stomach, or intolerance to fats, which have not required a medical diagnosis.  Therefore, being born with a predisposition toward digestive problems does not mean that you cannot control it, in part with stress reduction.


Essential to changing your digestive health is changing your diet. Some of the suggestions in this blog, such as avoiding milk, are well documented in the medical literature.  Others are based on the experience of practitioners, ranging from traditional herbalists to modern allergy specialists. I have developed a daily digestive diet that will help you identify trigger foods, that is, foods that don’t agree with your system and cause symptoms or flareups.

Once you learn what your trigger foods are, and after a period of elimination, you can usually eat small amounts of the desired foods on an occasional basis. Products that I am sensitive to are beets, raw vegetables, and juices. I like the taste of beets, and can eat small amounts occasionally without suffering diarrhea. I can tolerate salads only when seasoned with black pepper, and when they have minimal amounts of dressing.

Another dietary area of consideration is the underlying temperature of your constitution—hot or cold.This determines which foods you can tolerate and which you must eat with caution. My own constitution is cold, so the warming black pepper counterbalances the cooling effect of the raw vegetables. If the weather is especially cold and damp and my digestive system is not functioning optimally, I only eat cooked vegetables. I’ve found that most vegetable and fruit juices do not agree with my system. Above all, I have found through years of practice that the best diet for me is the one I was raised on, namely meat, fish, soup, vegetables, fresh fruit, and some sort of starch.  However, for someone with a hot constitution it may be more appropriate to eat more cooling fruit and raw vegetables, less meat. Ultimately, through trial and error you must identify which foods are problematic for you.  The effort will be well worth it.

Acceptance and Reconciliation

For myself, a change of attitude was as important as a change of diet.  Digestive symptoms are part of the body’s warning system. Just like a burglar alarm that makes loud noises when there is an unwanted intruder, your body gives you a signal when you have introduced something that is unwanted and continues giving you warning signals until you stop. Instead of countering the symptoms, take them as guides in your detective work to discover what is bothering you. In this blog I offer several exercises to determine possible causes of your digestive symptoms.

For a long time I lamented the fact that I couldn’t eat certain foods and drink alcohol. Now, I have not only accepted these limitations, but I see their good aspects. For example, by reducing my alcohol intake I am protecting my liver and digestive system. After quitting regular drinking for thirty days, I realized that some of my headaches and digestive problems were due to alcohol. Clearly, I didn’t need it. I may still choose to drink or eat foods I am sensitive to, but now I know how to moderate their effects with herbs and other dietary supplements.The only food I have had to eliminate completely is popcorn, which invariably wreaks havoc on my system no matter what precautions I take.

The suggestions put forward on this blog are meant to be a complement to, not a substitute for, your medical doctor’s instructions and your own “gut feelings.”  I’ll introduce quick tips you can implement to eliminate or avoid digestive symptoms.

Why I Use Chinese Medicine

The Chinese have a very old culture. They have been using herbal remedies for thousands of years.  The first medical text was written about two thousand years ago and it is still used by students of Chinese medicine. In the U.S., over one million patients use acupuncture and Chinese herbs each year.

In China, the most common treatments for digestive disorders are herbs and nutritional therapy.  Hospital studies have been conducted proving that appropriately administered herbs can even circumvent gastrointestinal surgeries in many cases.

Chinese tradition views digestive patients according to their condition or temperature. Haven’t you met people who run hot, or boil over at the slightest insult? Don’t you know people who are always cold when others are warm? Chinese medicine takes these constitutional factors into account before prescribing herbs or making dietary recommendations. Foods, as well as people, can be similarly classified. For example, chili peppers are warming and ice cream is cooling. According to traditional Chinese medicine, people with digestive disorders should not consume foods or beverages colder than room temperature. This means no iced drinks and iced foods, nor should drinks or food be eaten right out of the refrigerator. Raw foods, such as salad, should be consumed cautiously when the weather is cold, and never during flare-ups. Fried foods should be avoided.

Chinese herbalists even caution us to dress appropriately.  Wearing skimpy clothing can subject one to drafts. This leads to poor circulation, which interferes with digestion and other processes.

As examples of the above principles of Chinese medicine, take the following two individuals: William, a 24 year-old college student and athlete who has Crohn’s disease, gets entirely different herbs than Grace, a frail 85 year-old grandmother who has the same disease. William has what is considered a hot condition. He complains of fevers, bloodshot eyes, and shooting abdominal pain. Grace feels cold and tired all the time and has diarrhea; she is said to have a cold condition. I recommended that William take herbs that had cooling, and pain relieving properties. He was advised to abstain from alcohol and spicy food. I also suggested that he not train so vigorously, to prevent exhaustion. I recommended that he drink peppermint tea (hot or at room temperature), as it has anti-spasmodic properties. Grace was counseled to take warming herbs, as well as to eat and drink everything hot. I also recommended ginger tea, which has warming properties.

Below is a chart for you to assess your basic constitution; dietary and lifestyle suggestions are also included.

Cold Condition

A person with many of the following symptoms is considered to have a cold pattern and should be treated accordingly.  Cold hands and feet (can also be due to liver pattern)

  •  Cold lower back
  •  Low energy
  •  No desire
  •  Fearful
  •  Frequent urination
  •  Feels better in the summer
  •  Rarely sweats
  •  Loose stools (can also be due to heat)
  •  Weak voice
  •  No desire to drink
  •  Clear or white phlegm
  •  Lack of appetite
  •  Clear urine
  •  Dizziness
  •  Edema
  •  Delayed menstruation, pale menstrual blood

Pulse: Sinking, slow
Tongue: Pale or white coating
Intake of dairy products
Intake of salads or uncooked foods
Never use ice
Meats: Beef or chicken soup
Teas: Ginger
Chinese ginseng
Spices: Nutmeg
Garlic (if no sensitivity)
Black pepper
Orange or tangerine peel (in tea or soups)
Lifestyle Tips: Always dress warmly especially in winter
Eat everything hot
Try to get daily exercise to improve your circulation

Hot Condition

A person with many of the following symptoms is considered to have a hot pattern, and should be treated accordingly.

  •  Feels warm all over
  •  Frequently thirsty
  •  Smokes
  •  Feels stress, anxiety
  •  Easily angered
  •  Constipation (can also be due to cold)
  •  Athletic
  •  Feels better in winter
  •  Sweats a lot
  •  Prone to afternoon slump
  •  Dark urine
  •  Loud voice
  •  Dominating, aggressive
  •  Easily upset
  •  Overly emotional
  •  Irritable
  •  Dry cough
  •  Yellow phlegm
  •  Thin
  •  Early and heavy menstruation, bright red blood
  •  Insomnia

Pulse: Rapid
Tongue: Red, or sticky yellow coating
Spicy food, alcohol, coffee
Salads and other raw foods during flare-ups
Avoid fried foods
Take care not to get too hot or exhausted in the spring and summer
Vegetables: Vegetable soups
Cucumber, cooked cabbage, cooked greens
Teas: Peppermint, chamomile, dandelion, chrysanthemum, red raspberry leaf
American ginseng
Spices: Seaweed
Orange or tangerine peel (in tea or soups)
Lifestyle Tips: Try to engage in daily meditation or prayer as well as exercise


I have discussed the most important aspects of digestive healing: stress reduction, avoiding trigger foods and beverages, accepting limitations, and enjoying life. In the following posts, I will provide a multifaceted, natural approach to the identification and treatment of various digestive disorders.

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