How to deal with intestinal distress the natural way.

Q: I often have embarrassing and painful digestive distress. One doctor told me to take an antacid, but that only seemed to make things worse. I want to feel better, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you help?

A: Digestive distress can have many causes. The food you eat travels through a complex 30-foot long winding tube. Enzymes are secreted, and small muscles move things along mostly without needing your cooperation. However, there are many simple ways that you can improve your digestive process, which is what turns food and drink into the agents of tissue repair and the ongoing energy for work and play that you enjoy every day.

First Things First: Slow Down

First, never eat in a hurry. If you don’t have time to sit, chew your food properly, and relax while eating, please wait until you can make time. This is a big request, admittedly. However if there’s one take-home message in this column, this is it.

Digestion is a parasympathetic function. That’s the opposite of sympathetic (also known as “fight or flight”). There is no way you can digest properly if you’re having an adrenaline rush. For the enzymes in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine to do their jobs, and for the muscular colon to move waste for elimination, you must be at least be somewhat relaxed. To put it plainly, if you want to feel better, you must make time for slow, peaceful eating.