The Irritated Stomach

by Agatha Thrash, M.D.

So common is an inflamed and overworked stomach that we rarely see one that is entirely free from irritation. Our society uses 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.

Have you ever considered that handling a meal would be a near-death experience—a chemical threat to life—were it not for our excellent equipment that manages to bring order out of what would otherwise be an overwhelming chemical load? The unpleasantness felt after a rich meal is caused by the dumping of a large quantity of concentrated nutrients into the bloodstream from the digestive tract. One would surely die from the wide swings in concentration of blood chemicals that occur just after such a meal, yet we usually sense this 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, and in potassium retention due to kidney failure.

While the body can minimize the toxic effects of chemical overload, the biochemical injury of the cells from the disordered chemistry taxes the body and eventually results in wearing down the life forces. And even though an adaptation occurs after the severe stress of putting such a biochemical load on the body, it is often inadequate to prevent at least some injury—an expensive price in terms of wear and tear on the body.

Treating a Sour Stomach

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.

Treatment for an irritated stomach is simple: Begin with correcting the lifestyle and remembering that regularity in all things is essential. Treat the stomach to a regular schedule for meals. This will greatly lessen its workload, as it goes to more trouble than a cook to prepare for meals!

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, that—should they be selected as food—should be taken in small quantities.

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 two to eight charcoal tablets or capsules to adsorb the toxic products of previous overload and indigestion. And catnip tea, the old–fashioned remedy used for children with upset stomachs, works like a charm for a painful stomach, too.

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