NATURAL MEDICINE: Stifle the Flame, Part Two

By on December 29, 2015

Understanding your digestive system helps you understand how to minimize its flare-ups.


Caption: Addressing the underlying causes of inflammation starts with exploring what’s happening in your gut.

Jackson, WY – Recently I wrote about how inflammation affects your health and how to treat it naturally with food and supplements. Now I’d like to address the causes of inflammation and how to treat the root of the problem.

What are the signs of inflammation? If your face often looks puffy, if you can’t get your rings off, or if you have chronic pain, you may have systemic inflammation. If that inflammation is severe, there are two blood tests to consider: the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

Among my patients, the root of the inflammation problem is usually in the digestive tract.

The basics of digestion are as follows:

Chewed food is broken down into smaller particles and mixed with enzymes. (Mom was right when she said to chew your food 40 times.)

The chewed food, called the “bolus,” moves to the stomach where it combines with acid, pepsin, an intrinsic factor to digest protein, B vitamins and minerals.

As the food moves out into the small intestine, the gallbladder (with the help of the liver) squirts bile into it to aid in the digestion of fats.

Next, while still in the small intestine, the pancreas adds enzymes to digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins. This is where digestion occurs. The food is then absorbed from the small intestine.

The large intestine is where fluid balance is achieved, and fluids are either absorbed or eliminated.

Inflammation occurs when the digestive system does not break down food completely. As a result the small intestine becomes hyper-permeable, and large food particles and/or bacteria and viruses enter the blood stream. The normal response of the body is to see this as an invasion, and the body’s natural reaction to such an invasion is inflammation.

There are tests available to determine if you are suffering from compromised digestion and permeability. Certain labs offer a functional stool analysis that helps determine stomach acid, biliary function, pancreatic enzyme function and absorption. Working on our digestive tracts should be something we think of as regular maintenance — like changing the oil in our cars.

One method of working on the gut is by working on your diet. To do this, consider the following:

• Minimize your intake of saturated fats and increase your intake of omega 3 oils found in fish and grass-fed meat.

• Avoid processed foods such as soda, candy, chips and canned foods with large amounts of salt.

• Eat fruits and vegetables with color. The more color in your food, the more antioxidants in your diet. Make a goal to have half of your plate be vegetables.

• Cook with olive oil and eat raw nuts. The healthiest diet is the Mediterranean diet, which includes a large amount of monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats.

• Use anti-inflammatory seasonings like ginger, garlic, onions and turmeric.

• Eat fiber, it lowers C-reactive protein.

• Drink in moderation.

Two of my go-to healthy meals include:

1) Sole steamed with ginger and scallions and served with brown rice and bok choi.

2) Shrimp with old bay seasoning, broccoli with truffle oil and sea salt, and a baked sweet potato.

Both of these meals will digest easily and help reduce inflammation.

Bon Appétit!

Monique Lai, ND, has been practicing family naturopathic medicine in Jackson for 15 years. She treats everything from gastrointestinal issues to menopause, allergies, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disease and depressed immune systems. For more information visit

About Dr. Monique Lai

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