Counseling Sheet

The Irritated Stomach

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

So common is an inflamed and overworked stomach that we rarely see one that is entirely free from irritation. We use a large variety of common stomach irritants, including ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, vinegar, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine drinks—to list a few. In addition to foods that contain an irritating chemical, concentrated foods also irritate the stomach in the same way that rock candy irritates the tongue when held in the mouth. Aside from dietary factors, an irregular schedule, anxiety or nervousness at mealtime, overeating, large bites and poor chewing also cause stomach irritation.

An inflamed stomach produces multiple problems. Perhaps one of the most easily felt is that of the unpleasant sensation that often occurs just after a rich meal. This unpleasantness is caused by the dumping of a large quantity of concentrated nutrients into the bloodstream from the digestive tract. One would die from the wide swings in concentration of blood chemicals that occur just after a meal, were it not for the various mechanisms to handle nutrients. Have you ever considered that handling a meal would be a near-death experience—a chemical threat to life—but our excellent equipment manages to bring order out of what would otherwise be an overwhelming chemical load! Yet, we usually sense the threat only as an unpleasant sensation after eating too much sugar, too much fat, too much salt, or too great a quantity of food. Examples of death that may occur from overload of a nutrient to the point of poisoning are seen in diabetics with sugar, in babies with phenylketonuria (PKU) when phenylketones accumulate in the blood, and in potassium retention due to kidney failure.

While the body can minimize the toxic effects of chemical overload, certain injuries are common and lead to accelerated aging. Because of the biochemical injury of the cells from the disordered chemistry, a tax is placed on the body, which eventually results in wearing down the life forces. While an adaptation occurs after the severe stress of putting such a biochemical load on the body, the adaptation is often incomplete to prevent at least some injury, and it is expensive in terms of wear and tear on the body.

Not widely understood is the influence of the stomach on the disposition and the mental faculties. Proverbially, a sour stomach leads to a sour and obstinate disposition. Such a person is indeed difficult to live with, sometimes being sunny and sometimes sour. The person with an irritated stomach often has poor decision-making ability and reduced learning capacity. The tax on the digestive organs draws energy from the nervous system, giving the person less mental energy for perception, discernment, and decision.

The treatment for an irritated stomach is simple. Begin with correcting the lifestyle. Regularity in all things is essential. Treat the stomach to a regular schedule for meals—it will greatly lessen its workload, as it goes to more trouble than a cook to prepare for meals! Then, give your stomach only food that is not highly concentrated. You may freely eat of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but any other food must be used sparingly. Aside from these three classes of foods, there are animal foods (meat, milk, eggs, and cheese), refined foods, and nuts. While some things in each of these categories may be selected as food, they should be taken in small quantities. To learn how to regulate potentially harmful foods the "Prudent Diet" of the American Heart Association may be used, or one may send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below for our "Ideal Diet" and list of foods that may be used as "Main Dishes."

For pain in the irritated stomach, place a heat source directly over the stomach, such as a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or a towel wrung from hot water. If you alternate the heat application with a 30-second ice-cold compress, its effectiveness is enhanced and prolonged.

One may take charcoal tablets or capsules, two to eight tablets to adsorb the toxic products of previous overload and indigestion. An old fashioned remedy used for children with upset stomachs is that of catnip tea. It works like a charm for a painful stomach.

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Uchee Pines Lifestyle Center
30 Uchee Pines Road #75
Seale, Alabama 36875