Eat Right to Digest Right

Marion Kirkham is a practising Naturopath who also runs practitioner seminars for BioCare, illustrating the therapeutic uses of their products.
However, Marion believes that supplements can only be of limited use to those whose diets are not supportive of good blood glucose control and whose eating habits damage digestive health.
Obesity, Type II Diabetes, digestive disease and food intolerance come as no surprise in those who are overweight or whose diets are filled with junk foods, but we seem to be seeing an increasing number of patients with excellent diets who also suffer from blood sugar problems and inflammatory disease. Why?

Short Term v. Chronic Stress
Our bodies have long been used to dealing with the ‘fight or flight’ stress - short bursts of high level stress in a relatively calm existence. Release of cortisol to cope with short burst of stress - levels return to normal after the stress passes.

What we are not adapted to is long term or chronic low level stress - the psycho/social stress under which many people now live their lives. This sets up a vicious circle of on going cortisol production (to deal with the stress) which in turn triggers the release of extra insulin, which in turns triggers the release of yet more cortisol. These permanently raised levels of both cortisol and insulin play havoc with normal blood sugar management - far more damaging than the effects of a bad diet.

The pro inflammatory effects of higher than normal cortisol and insulin also set the scene for the onset of inflammatory diseases both in the digestion and elsewhere in the body.

Moreover, excess cortisol inhibits our production of both quality mucus (needed to line the digestive tract from mouth through to anus) and of IgA antibodies. These protect us against micro-organisms and allergens which would normally invade through the body surfaces lined with mucus membranes.

Reducing Stress Levels
Reducing the production of cortisol by reducing general stress levels must therefore be a priority. But how? Well, re-learning how to eat could be a start. We are a population of people who have forgotten how to eat - and if we do not eat properly, all the supplementation in the world will do us little good.

Sitting down to eat regular meals in relaxed circumstances is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Eating in a relaxed way also encourages us to chew our food thoroughly. This allows the digestive process to start efficiently by breaking down the large pieces of food and allowing saliva access to it. The action of chewing also releases a growth factor which helps to maintain the gut mucosa.

Drinking plenty of the right liquids (not coffee and tea) is also vital to keep the mucous membranes properly hydrated and functioning. But little and often is the best way to hydrate - not huge drinks on an occasional basis. And if you do want to drink tea or coffee, you should accompany it with water in the ratio of 3 (water) to 1 (coffee/tea).

It may seem obvious, but not over-eating is also essential for good digestion. We are the first society ever to be in the position of having an endless supply of food, much of it potentially toxic, always on offer. We are no longer able to recognise when we are full. Moreover, poor quality food is short on nutrients and does not ‘satisfy’ so we eat more to try and get that ‘satisfied’ feeling.

Gut Importance
Our gut membrane is the largest surface in the body to come into contact with the outside world. It is a very specialised environment, more highly primed to react than elsewhere in the body and on a permanently high state of alert. It is also the only tissue in the body to get 50% of its nutrition directly from food. Because of its huge turnover of cells the gut needs constant replenishment with repair nutrients. Good gut bacteria are essential to this process - hence the growing importance of probiotics to support a healthy population of gut bacteria.

If your digestion is already under stress the kind of foods you eat are important.
Foods which may further irritate:
• Spicy foods, coffee and alcohol
• Raw foods, carrots in particular and nuts. Unless they are very well chewed they can damage delicate gut walls
• Gluten and wheat bran
• Some herbs/spices - such as aloe vera or turmeric
Foods which may heal:
• Lightly steamed greens - especially good for fatty acid balance
• Lightly cooked vegetables, non starchy if possible to help hydration. Include muciligenous vegetables such as okra.
• Fruit, especially berries, cherries, apricots, avocados
• Regular small amounts of good protein
• Yogurt
• Comfrey, slippery elm, marshmallow, liquorice


Marion’s Supplement Programme
These are some products which I have found very useful in my practice. All are BioCare products except where stated.You can buy BioCare products direct from BioCare on
Tel: 0121 433 3727 or from the NutriCentre 7 Park Crescent, London W1N 3HE
Tel: 020 7426 5122 or from local health food stores.

Polyzyme forte for more chronic health problems or Spectrumzyme for food intolerances, both broad spectrum digestive enzyme complexes. Also useful:
Mokosan, a fermented whey extract from Bioforce (01294 277344 available in most health food shops or ‘Dig tea’ available from Specialist Herbal Supplies (0870 774 4494)

A combination of FOS* with Magnesium Ascorbate Powder, starting with a half a tablespoon of FOS with half a teaspoon of Magnesium Ascorbate twice a day. Gingerdophilus may also be useful.
*FOS stands for fructooligo- saccharides. This comes in a powder form and is included in all BioCare probiotics. It is the substrate for the good gut bacteria. Eg: it selectively supports the growth of good gut bacteria. It is found in raw fruits and vegetables such as artichoke, chicory, and dandelion.

Immunoguard or White Willow Plus.

Liver Support
Hepaguard forte is the most prescribed supplement in my practice and has been for many years.
If I could only use one supplement, this would be it.

Gut Healing
Slippery elm tea from Specialist Herbal Supplies (0870 774 4494)
taken in between meals and/or Slippery Elm Plus and Enteroplex. Take 15 minutes before meals. These help to calm down inflammation. NAG* capsules taken with Magnesium Ascorbate powder are very good at preventing adverse responses to foods if taken 15 minutes before a meal. Also a good combination for healing a leaky gut.
*NAG is N-Acetyl Glucosamine an amino sugar consisting of amino acids and glucose. Amino sugars are essential components of all body tissues. It is an important substrate in the connective tissues, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Also important component of gut mucosa.
Stomach and Colon Complex is ideal for long-term entrenched problems such as ulceration, diverticulitis, food allergies, etc.
Immunoguard has long been a favourite of mine for its very quick effects on healing the gut and allowing people with very restricted diets to tolerate more foods.

Nutriguard Plus is a good broad spectrum antioxidant which provides vitamins A,C, E and zinc for healthy membranes and Lipoic Acid for liver support.
For very compromised absorption Vitamins A,C and E and the minerals zinc and selenium can be given in the Vitasorb and Nutrisorb liquid forms.
Vitaflavin Plus provides a mixture of high potency plant antioxidants including grapeseed and green tea extracts.

Essential Fatty Acids
Dricelle Omega Plex is excellent to help dampen inflammation.
Lipocell, which provides fish oil with fruits and probiotics to feed the friendly bacteria, is a new product which seems ideal to support gastro-intestinal health.

Immune Modulation
My favourite supplements for this purpose are whey, probiotics, garlic and Echinacea.
The products used most often include Immunoguard which provides whey with Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Bio acidophilus with
8 billion Acidophilus/ Bifidus and Blackmores Echinacea ACE and Zinc which also provides garlic (from the NutriCentre 020 7436 5122)
I am also impressed with results using the new product Floraguard.

Endocrine Support
AD 206 and Vyta-Myn Complex for stress and blood sugar control occasionally used with New Vistas Adrenal Liquessence available from Nutri Centre on 020 7436 5122.
AD (Adrenal) 206 is a product I have used for many years with wonderful results. It is a low dose mix of herbs and nutrients and enzymes which seems to adequately support and nourish the adrenal glands without excessive stimulation.
TH (Thyroid) 207 together with Thyrojuve (available from Nutriscene 01634-262853) can provide useful thyroid support.
I have also found Australian Bush Flower Essences to be very helpful in restoring endocrine balance.
Bush Fucia for hypothalamus, Black-eyed Susan as adrenal support for people who are ‘tired and wired’ and Peach Flowered Tea Tree for hypoglycaemia. Available from the NutriCentre on 020 7436 5122.

You can contact Marion on 0121458 2990 or at


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First Published in 2004

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