The Changing Our Lifestyle

Though many people have a high standard of living today, the price is a hurried life that takes its toll on our bodies. Studies show we actually have less leisure time than we did just twenty years ago. Because our bodies and our minds work together, the stresses we feel in either one affects the other.

This synergy can help calm us down or stress us out. The mind-body connection plays an important role in digestive wellness. Stress plays a large role in ulcerative colitis, skin conditions, and autoimmune problems. In fact, nearly all health problems are due to stress: physical, emotional, or environmental.

Commonly used drugs also play a role in the development of many digestive illnesses. Seventy million prescriptions for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are written each year. The cost this contributes to the development of gastric ulcers is estimated to be more than $100 million a year.

Aspirin is especially hard on the stomach lining and overuse can contribute to the development of ulcers. NSAIDs—such as Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, and dozens of others—are somewhat gentler on the stomach lining but more irritating to the intestinal lining.

They cause damage to the lining by blocking prostaglandins, small chemical messengers that stimulate repair. They are a direct cause of leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities, and inflammatory problems, such as arthritis and eczema.


Antibiotics kill not only disease-causing bacteria, but healthy ones as well. Healthful bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, attach to the intestinal lining so that no parasites or disease-producing organisms can get a foothold. Antibiotics kill these friendly bacteria, allowing pathogenic microbes, viruses, and fungi to take hold.

Antibiotics also disrupt the natural symbiosis of the gut and can cause gross imbalance of the natural flora, leading to chronic and systemic illness. According to consumer drug advocate S. M. Wolfe, “After congressional hearings and numerous academic studies on this issue, it has become the general consensus that 40 to 60 percent of all antibiotics in this country are misprescribed.”

Pollution and Environmental Toxins

We live in a toxic environment. Air quality is questionable, and water, our most precious resource, is becoming polluted. Although various localities are cleaning up their natural resources, the global balance is on average deteriorating. Our soils are becoming contaminated.

Vast numbers of grazing livestock are destroying many habitats and causing erosion. World population has exploded, demanding material needs that are stripping the planet. Many physicians believe that the underlying cause of digestive illness is a combination of poor nutrition and exposure to toxic substances.

Daily, we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals: secondhand smoke, chlorine and fluoride from water, air pollution, cosmetics, toiletries, household cleaning supplies, medications, and workplace toxins. Healthy people can handle them fairly well, but when the liver gets overloaded, it fails to adequately protect us.

Many holistic therapies integrate detoxification programs, which enhance the liver’s ability to carry us through this chemical minefield. When our livers are not functioning optimally, our digestion doesn’t work optimally, which leads to increased work for the already overtaxed liver, which leads to more digestive problems, and on and on.

Most people are unaware of how closely their health problems are related to their lifestyle. We are overfed and undernourished. Poor food choices, use of alcohol and cigarettes, a sedentary lifestyle, and chronic stress shorten our lives and contribute to degenerative illness as well as how we feel daily.

People are born with reserves of nutrients in their organs, but a lifetime of low-nutrient foods will deplete those reserves, weakening the body’s ability to heal. We like to think of ourselves living robustly, rooting and tooting until we die, but the truth is most of us limp along, accepting poor health and declining quality of life for our last twenty years as though it were normal and customary.

Many have come to accept digestive illness as an integral part of life. But we can change the way we feel by making changes in our way of life. It’s time to focus on health rather than convenience and develop better habits. Instead of asking, “Does it look and taste good?” we should ask, “Is this food healthful, will it contribute to my biochemical balance and help me feel better, and will it taste good?”

We need to exercise regularly and think positive thoughts. We need to relax by ourselves and with friends. We need to create balance in our lives. Digestive problems offer an opportunity to change. You can see this as a curse or a blessing.

Write down everything you eat and drink in a diary and keep track of how your body feels. If you have diarrhea or pain after you eat or feel like a million bucks, write it down. See if you can correlate specific foods to the way your digestive system works. Keep track of where you were, who you were with, and your moods. Digestive problems are often related to how comfortable or uncomfortable we feel in a situation.

Examining Your Food Diary

  1. Do you eat breakfast every day? Breakfast provides the fuel we need to get our bodies going for the day. It literally means “break the fast.”
  2. Is your indigestion better or worse at specific times of the day? This can be a clue to indigestion. Maybe it’s something you ate, how fast or how much you ate, or where you ate.
  3. Do you eat when you aren’t really hungry? If so, examine the reasons, and try to find other outlets for your energies.
  4. How often do you eat? Most people feel best when they eat three meals daily plus nutritious snacks. This meal plan keeps blood sugar levels even and facilitates digestion.
  5. Do certain foods or beverages provoke symptoms? Eliminate suspicious foods for a week and note any differences in how you feel.
  6. Are you relaxing at mealtimes? Eating more slowly aids digestion.
  7. Do you get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day? A serving is a piece of fruit, a half cup of most vegetables, or a cup of lettuce.
  8. What percentage of your foods and beverages are highsugar, high-fat, low-fiber, or highly processed? Replace these with fresh, wholesome foods.
  9. Do you consume enough high-fiber foods? We find fiber in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
  10. Do you drink enough—six to eight cups—water, herb teas, and juices? Soft drinks and coffee don’t count!

Take a few minutes to see what areas of your diet may be contributing to your health issues. Make a goal to work on one area at a time and implement small, achievable improvements to your lifestyle.