By Dana Ullman MPH, CCH
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It is sometimes difficult, literally and figuratively, to stomach the gas, heartburn, and indigestion pains. It hurts, it is discomforting, and it is upsetting that our body’s normally magnificent alchemical process of turning food into energy is having problems.
To some of us, these problems are occasional and to others they are all too common. The good news is that you won’t die from it, but the bad news is that sometimes you feel like you are experiencing a slow and painful death.
Although we may want to curse at our digestive tract, the fact of the matter is that our digestive symptoms are actually defenses of the body in its best efforts to defend and heal ourselves. The symptoms that we experience may not always feel like they are healing us, but these symptoms are our body’s efforts to defend ourselves against poisons in our food, against substances to which we may be allergic, against overdosing on too much food or drink, against the stresses that we experience before, during, or after eating, or simply against unknown factors that affect the digestive processes.
There’s an old television commercial from the 1960s in which a person is talking to his stomach. His stomach was expressing concern about the way that the man was treating it and then even asks the man to become more sensitive to its problems. Although most people don’t talk to our stomach, our stomach do talk to us…through various symptoms.
It is sometimes perfectly clear what it is saying (“Stop eating.” “Stop eating certain things.” “Stop eating so late at night.” “Chew your food more thoroughly.” “Eat in an relaxed environment.”), and sometimes (perhaps often), people know what their stomach is saying and simply refuse to listen or learn. At other times, it is difficult to know what our digestive system is saying or why.
What Homeopathy has to Offer
Actually, before considering homeopathic medicines, it makes sense to sit down and have a heart-to-heart (or stomach-to-per son) talk with your digestive system. See what you can learn. Experiment with whatever changes make sense. Observe yourself.
If this doesn’t bring adequate results or if you would like to know if something (perhaps anything) can help strengthen your system so that you can have your cake (or whatever) and eat it too, here’s when you might consider using homeopathic medicines.
First of all, it is important to say that medical care should be sought if you are having serious digestive pain, if vomiting is excessive, if there is evidence of dehydration, if there is a possibility of poisoning or drug use, if the stools or vomited material is bloody or tarlike, or if vomiting occurs during the course of a viral respiratory condition.
Although homeopathic medicines may also be useful in such situations, it is generally best if these potentially more serious conditions be treated by a professional homeopath. Professional homeopathic care should also be sought if homeopathic self-care is not effective in treating a person’s more mild symptoms or when these remedies are effective, but the symptoms continually return.
Commonly, professional homeopathic care will not only relieve the acute symptoms the person is experiencing but will even prevent future similar symptoms. Professional homeopaths prescribe “constitutional remedies” which are highly individualized to the person’s genetic history, personal health history, and totality of physical symptoms and psychological characteristics. These remedies tend to strengthen the overall health of the person.
It is the common experience of professional homeopaths and patients alike that constitutional homeopathic remedies can strengthen a person’s digestive system, cure food allergies, and improve the elimination of foods and toxins.
This is the power of the correctly prescribed homeopathic medicine. People do not necessarily have to avoid those foods to which they may be allergic. Homeopathic remedies can sometimes dramatically change these hypersensitivity syndromes.
Using homeopathic medicine at home for self-treatment may often provide important and necessary relief of digestive com plaints, however, self-treatment for acute ailments generally do not have as significant of a result as constitutional care.
In light of self-treatment with homeopathic medicines, there are two basic strategies to consider. One strategy is to simply go to a health food store or pharmacy and seek out a homeopathic “combination medicine,” that is, a mixture of 2-8 common homeopathic remedies useful in treating a specific condition, such as indigestion and gas, allergies, migraine headaches, etc. Although homeopathic combination remedies work reasonably well, you will generally get better results when you individual ize a single remedy to those of the sick person’s. Some of the remedies listed in this article can be very helpful, though it is sometimes necessary to augment your information on homeopathic medicines with one or more books on homeopathy.
Ultimately, homeopathic medicines offer a safer treatment than conventional drugs in the treatment of indigestion, heart burn, and gas. Distinct from conventional drugs for heartburn which tend to cause rebound symptoms that are often worse than the original symptoms, homeopathic medicines are not known to cause a rebound.
Specific Homeopathic Medicines
Shakespeare once described infancy as the age of “mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.” Indeed, infants vomit consider ably more frequently than do people later in life. There are good evolutionary and defensive reasons for this hypersensitivity early in life, and there are similar good reasons that people maintain the capacity to experience nausea and vomiting through out their life. The body may be creating these symptoms as defenses, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t help it defend itself. The following homeopathic medicines are substances which cause in overdose the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing. The trick in homeopathy is that exceedingly small and specially prepared doses of these medicines are used, and they aid the body’s defenses in healing itself.
One of the most common homeopathic remedies for treating acute nausea and vomiting is Ipecacuahna, made from an herb ipecac root which is widely known to cause nausea and vomiting if taken in crude doses. It is wonderfully effective in treating the symptoms it is known to cause: constant nausea which is not relieved by vomiting, vomiting with gagging, lack of thirst, a surprisingly clean tongue despite strong feelings of nausea, aggravation of symptoms from warmth, and some relief of symptoms from being in the open air. A headache, cough, or heavy menstruation may accompany the nausea.
It is at first startling to learn that another important remedy for acute nausea and vomiting is Arsenicum (arsenic), though homeopaths use extremely small and nontoxic doses of it. It is particularly valuable in the treatment of nausea and vomit ing as the result of food poisoning. Generally, the person who needs Arsenicum cannot stand the sight or smell of food and has a strong thirst but can tolerate only sips at a time. The person may experience burning pains in the stomach, burning pains in the throat as a result of irritating vomitus, and burning pains in the anus as a result of excoriating diarrhea.
Nux vomica (poison nut) is a remedy for acute nausea and vomiting, especially when these symptoms are the result of over eating, drinking alcohol, or food poisoning, and often accompanied by flatulence, bloating, heartburn, and either diarrhea or constipation. This remedy provides relief from hangovers and also helps deal with digestive complaints that are aggravated by therapeutic or recreational drugs. People who need Nux vomica usually experience the worst symptoms in the morning upon waking. These people wake unrefreshed and are highly irritable. They feel some relief from warmth, warm applications, and warm drinks. Bryonia (wild hops) is a remedy that is known to be effective in treating nausea that is aggravated by motion (the simple act of just getting up or stooping can lead the person to vomit). These people are are also aggravated in a warm room and by heat. Even though their stomach may be sensitive to touch, people who need this remedy are at least partially relieved by lying on their stomach. They may also experience some relief in cool or open air and by resting. These people also have a significant thirst, typically for cold drinks though they may experience some relief from drinking warm fluids. Concurrent with their digestive symptoms, they may experience a headache in the front part of the head.
Podophyllum (may apple) is a valuable remedy when the person experiences diarrhea with nausea and vomiting. The diarrhea is painless, profuse, offensive, and expelled with gushing force. Typically, much gurgling in the abdomen is felt, and prior to having a stool, much gas released with the diarrhea.
Pulsatilla (windflower) is helpful for people who suffer from indigestion after eating rich foods or pork. They have bloating, abdominal distension, and sometimes a headache. They tend to be thirstless. This remedy is more often given to children and women than to men.
Carbo veg (vegetable charcoal) provides relief for people who suffer from great distension and offensive gas from almost any kind of food. They experience some relief from the release of gas and desire carbonated drinks because they seem to help in releasing it, but these people seem to be gas manufacturers, and any relief that they experience is only temporary…until they take Carbo veg.
A leading remedy for acid indigestion is Natrum phos (sodium phosphate), which is both a homeopathic medicine and a cell salt. This remedy is indicated in the typical symptoms of acid indigestion with sour belching, sour tasting vomit, and yellow discolor ation of the tongue. It is also a remedy useful in people who get digestive symptoms after eating fats.
Dose and Potency: It is generally recommended to use the 6th, 12th, or 30th potencies. Use the 30th potency when you are confident with the selection of the remedy; use the 6th potency when you are less certain. In terms of the dosage, take a dose every two to three hours during intense symptoms and every four to six hours during less intense symptoms.
When the correct remedy is taken, symptoms are usually relieved within hours or at least after a night’s rest. If no relieve has occurred after 24 hours, consider another remedy or consider seeking professional homeopathic care.