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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alternative remedies for Stomach Complaints

October seems to be a month of change.  In my part of the world, the leaves are turning, the weather is definitely changing, and even the wind seems to switch to a new direction. School and work patterns seem to get more settled into a winter pattern having made the transition from summer during the month of September. There has been some kind of shift it seems.

This type of change also seems to bring with it, a cycle of coughs, colds, flu-like, and stomach symptoms.  While these ailments are always "around", October seems to bring some increased incidence and we do start to move into what is, in North America, called "flu season". In fact talk of flu vaccines, and flu clinics are making the rounds of the media, posters and doctors offices again.

Among the ailments that seem to sometimes accompany this season, are the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This is commonly called a "stomach flu".  Technically that term is really not correct. Influenza or flu, is due to a virus and causes respiratory symptoms: runny nose, cough, fever, aching joints etc.  Nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal complaints are not due to the influenza virus but instead are linked to bacterial invasions. Of course, if you're vomiting, feeling nauseated or experiencing diarrhea, it really doesn't matter much to you whether it's because of a virus or a bacteria I don't think.  You just want it to be over.

Bacteria causes a bit of a different reaction in the body than a virus does, and your body attempts to  "get rid of it".  So the up side to the vomiting and diarrhea is that your body is trying to naturally eliminate the offensive foreigner. That's why over the counter products that help to eliminate vomiting and diarrhea are not always recommended.  These  formulations can suppress the symptoms, but in doing so, keep the bacteria in your intestinal tract, allowing  it to multiply and "set up camp" which may be worse for you in the long run. The best medicine would probably be to just "ride it out". Stay home, be sick, and get it over with.  Sometimes that is both practical and helpful.  Sometimes- not so much. Most times, there is probably a balance somewhere in the middle that suggests some moderate relief of symptoms while your body "does it's thing" to heal itself.

There are a lot of alternative treatments that can help with stomach issues. As with any remedy you really need to take a personal approach when sorting out what will work for you. Some typical remedies to try however include Swedish Bitters, Colloidal Silver and the  homeopathic remedies of Arsenicum, Bryonia or Gelsemium.

Swedish bitters is a plant based concoction that contains numerous herbs preserved in alcohol.  You can put a teaspoon of this in a cup of hot water for a soothing tea that will both replace necessary fluids and help soothe your symptoms.

Colloidal Silver is also an alternative that can be taken orally to help combat a bacterial invasion. Colloidal Silver acts as a natural antibiotic when taken this way.  If someone in your family has a stomach illness, you might consider using colloidal silver to clean the bathroom or sick room surfaces so that others in the family don't pick up the bacteria and end up the same way. Both Swedish Bitters and Colloidal silver can be taken as a preventative measure when those around you are sick.

Homeopathic remedies can be very effective against bacterial onslaught and gently encourage your body to work with the invasion to maintain health. There are any number of remedies that can help with the specific symptoms of a stomach upset, but three of my personal favorites are Arsenicum, Bryonia and Gelsemium.

Arsenicum is a homeopathic preparation created from the element arsenic. This element has historically been a favorite in murder plots because it is odorless and colorless and very easily found in certain soil/rock formations. In certainly areas of the country traces of it can be a problem in well water systems.  The symptoms that are a match for the titrated homeopathic preparation are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headache- all signs of the poisoning as well. People that respond well to Arsenicum are often affected by a change in weather- particularly to cold and damp weather. They are often pale, weak and anxious in appearance and may feel exhausted. Arsenicum types are very restless and although they are exhausted and feel the need to lie down, they will toss and turn and get out of bed because of the pain. Aresenicum is a direct match to food poisoning and for this reason alone should be considered part of your first aid kit.

Bryonia is also a good remedy to have around for cases of stomach upset. People that respond well to Bryonia also may find symptoms occur with changes in weather, although their complaints are more likely to occur when the weather goes from cold to warm. They may also get sick when suddenly chilled though, such as might occur when swimming in very cold water on a hot day, or when going from sudden heat to air conditioning. Severe stomach pains and cramping are indications for Bryonia. Bryonia types don't want to move- at all!  They become "bear like" and just want to be left alone without moving.  You may need to encourage a Bryonia type to drink fluids because the slightest movement makes them feel worse and they won't want to get up or move even if thirsty. 

Gelsemium is a typical remedy to consider for "true" flu-like symptoms of the viral type.  It may however, also be helpful for stomach and gastrointestinal complaints. It is also a remedy to consider if you become sick when you find yourself spending time in overheated houses, or after getting chilled in mild damp weather. Gelsemium is a good match for the aching bones type complaints in a person who feels very sluggish, dull and depressed. Gelsemium symptoms usually come on gradually, perhaps after cold and flu symptoms have persisted.

Conventional medicine labels this time of year as "flu season" and has some well grounded scientific reasons for why virus may tend to spread quickly and be more abundant during this season.  In alternative therapies, the connection between illness and seasonal factors has long been accepted, if not necessarily "scientifically studied".  It just seems natural that sometimes our bodies need to take some time to adjust to different environmental changes that occur with the seasons.

During the change from one season to the next, there may be some Bach Flowers that can help you maintain your balance, shift slowly, and therefore not overwhelm your immune system.  Walnut may be indicated to afford you protection from change.

Beech may also be helpful if you just aren't feeling very tolerant of the changing season!  It can also help with intolerance of foods that can cause stomach issues. If you are surrounded by sick people and not feeling very tolerant of their complaints or condition, Beech may be helpful as well.  It can soothe that irritation. And if you are feeling this way towards those around you, it may be pertinent to know that arsenic isn't a good "murder medicine" after all, because it can't be destroyed by heat and therefore shows up on autopsy even after cremation!!

There are some things we just can't change. So far at least, that includes weather patterns. Perhaps we should accept the fact that our bodies may need some time to settle into the adjustment and adapt. Our best tools might be to carve out some extra sleep, pay attention to a diet that feels good for you, get out in the fresh air so that your body can adjust to  the "real" environment versus a temperature controlled thermostat.  

There are changes occurring. Be gentle with yourself!

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