Digestion is a complex process that starts with the chewing of food in the mouth and ends with the passing of waste from the rectum. A healthy, efficient digestive
system is essential for both physical and mental well-being, but it can be upset by many factors. Some can be controlled, such as diet and, to a certain extent, emotional stress or allergy, and some cannot, like infection or inherited problems. Dietary discretion—what a person chooses to eat and eating habits have an obvious impact on digestion. Some foods are difficult to digest, and routines such as eating late
may also cause problems. Minor ailments, such as indigestion, lend themselves to homeopathic self-help, especially if combined with dietary controls. Homeopathic
remedies are concerned with improving the condition of the digestive tract, by adjusting the number of beneficial bacteria; reducing irritation caused by some foods;
improving waste elimination; and maintaining other organs involved in the digestive process, such as the liver. Some ailments, such as hemorrhoids, may need constitutional
treatment, especially if they recur.


Indigestion is a blanket term for a number of symptoms that include excessive burping, stomachaches, and heartburn.It may be caused by the defective production or flow of
digestive enzymes, fluids, or hormones, or by something more serious such as a peptic ulcer. Alternatively, it may result simply from eating too much, or eating the kinds of food that the digestive system finds difficult to process. Indigestion tends to worsen with stress and with age.

Practice some form of relaxation or meditation before you eat. Do not rush your food, and relax for at least 30 minutes after eating. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, carbonated drinks, smoking, and eating late at night. Avoid foods that may cause problems, such as
citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, beans, nuts, spices, bread, pork, and rich, fatty foods. Cut down on unrefined carbohydrates.

If you experience serious pain radiating toward the back, with or without vomiting, see a doctor within two hours. If you vomit blood, consult a doctor immediately.


Heartburn is a common form of indigestion consisting of a burning pain in the stomach or the esophagus and the chest. It tends to worsen with age, and may be associated with a hiatus hernia (protrusion of the stomach through the opening in the diaphragm
into the esophagus). It is exacerbated by stress, and by eating certain foods (see Indigestion, above). Eating too quickly, or eating too much,and swallowing air also aggravate the condition. Heartburn is very common during pregnancy, when digestive efficiency is impaired.

Try relaxation or meditation before you eat. Eat calmly, and relax for 30 minutes afterward. Avoid eating late, and do not eat foods that you know upset you. If you smoke, stop. Raise the head of your bed slightly.

If you have serious pain radiating toward the back, see a doctor within two hours. If you vomit blood, consult a doctor immediately.


Hiccups are caused by spasms of the diaphragm that produce a rush of air into the lungs. This causes the vocal cords to snap shut with a click. The spasms are caused by irritation of the diaphragm due to too much air in the stomach, laughing, being tickled, or emotional stress.

Traditional cures include holding the breath, breathing rapidly, breathing into a paper bag, having someone give you a shock,or squirting lemon juice down the back of the throat. Water with a little glucose may help infants.


Nausea, or the feeling of a need to vomit, is not necessarily followed by vomiting, the involuntary expulsion of the contents of the stomach, but the causes of the two are the same. Nausea and vomiting may be symptoms of digestive disorders caused by
eating fatty foods, drinking too much alcohol, food poisoning, or infections such as gastroenteritis. Stress, migraine, or the hormonal changes associated with enstruation or pregnancy may also trigger these conditions. Nausea and vomiting may also indicate more serious ailments, many of which are digestive disorders, such as a peptic ulcer (erosion of areas of the digestive tract by acidic gastric juices) or cancer of the stomach,but some of which are connected to the brain and nervous system. Self-help treatments are not appropriate in these cases.

Drink small amounts of cooled, boiled water frequently and avoid solid foods. If you smoke, stop.

If vomiting persists for more than 48 hours, or is accompanied by fever, see a doctor within two hours. If there is severe abdominal pain or blood in the vomit, seek medical help immediately. If you think you may have vomited prescribed drugs, consult a doctor.


This inflammation of the digestive tract is usually caused by a virus transmitted directly from person to person or via contaminated food and water. Symptoms of gastroenteritis vary in severity but usually pass within 48 hours. At worst, there is nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and exhaustion. Infants and the
elderly are most at risk because of the danger of dehydration.

Rest and drink plenty of fluids, preferably salted, cooled,boiled water (1 tsp salt and 8 tsp sugar to approximately 1 quart/ liter of water), to prevent dehydration. Avoid drinking milk and eating any solid food until the stomach settles. Be meticulous about
personal hygiene.

If symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, or if there is blood in the feces or a fever, see a doctor within two hours. If symptoms are accompanied by severe abdominal pain that lasts for more than an hour, consult a doctor immediately.


Bloating and flatulence—a feeling of fullness in the stomach associated with burping or the passing of air out through the anus may be due to constipation (see page 238) or intestinal dysbios (an overgrowth of bacteria or fungi in the intestine). The condition
may be worse prior to menstruation, and is aggravated by anxiety, food intolerance, or swallowing air.

Avoid eating legumes, onions, cabbage, and nuts, and use cumin, aniseed, or ginger in your cooking.


Diarrhea is the frequent passing of watery or loose stools as a result of the failure of the large intestine to absorb water from undigested material. This may be the result of dietary or digestive problems, such as eating too many prunes or legumes, a lack of vitamin B or folic acid, too much vitamin D, food intolerance, parasites, or gastroenteritis. Diarrhea may indicate a more serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome or be a reaction to certain drugs, anxiety, or stress.

Drink plenty of boiled, cooled water with a little honey in it or ice water to avoid dehydration. Progress to arrowroot, tapioca, semolina, or slippery elm food, then thin soups. A supplement of acidophilus, or eating live yogurt, is advisable if diarrhea follows taking certain drugs such as antibiotics. Avoid analgesics and vitamin E supplements.

If diarrhea continues for more than 48 hours, or if there is blood in the feces, see a doctor within two hours. Recurrent diarrhea may require constitutional homeopathic treatment.


Constipation is the difficult and/or infrequent passing of stools. It is commonly caused by a diet that includes too little fiber, but it can also result from a lack of exercise, stress, poor bowel training, taking certain drugs, and thyroid or liver problems. Chronic constipation may be due to the recurrent use of laxatives or drinking too much coffee or alcohol, and is viewed in homeopathy as a constitutional problem.

Try eating plenty of raw vegetables before resorting to laxatives based on substances such as senna which, over a long period, may irritate the lining of the gut. Increase the amount of exercise you do and amount of fluid you drink.

If a marked change in bowel function is accompanied by a weight loss of more than 1 lb (0.5 kg) in a week, see a doctor within 48 hours. If there is any bleeding from the anus or blood in the stools, see a doctor within 12 hours. If no stools have been passed for several days despite self-help measures, especially if there is pain in the abdomen, see a doctor as soon as possible.


Hemorrhoids, or piles, are swollen veins in the lower rectum and around the anus, often due to constipation, but also associated with hormonal problems, pregnancy, childbirth, the overuse of laxatives, and sitting on hard surfaces.

Try peony ointment or hamamelis suppositories. Include more fiber in your diet to avoid constipation.

If there is bleeding from the anus, do not assume that it is due to piles until other possible causes have been ruled out. If bleeding persists, see a doctor within 12 hours.

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