Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Feasting First-Aid

When it comes to the holidays, many people forget about moderation and overindulge in food and drink. They want to have their cake and eat it too, often with a celebratory blend of gusto and abandon. But if you have food sensitivities you need to be vigilant about not overeating, and especially to avoid overeating those foods that don’t “sit well” in your belly.

Some of my patients are on fairly strict diets to starve Candida, or to deprive cancer of its favorite food - sugar, or to avoid overly processed food when they already have a fatty liver. Other people get brain fog, rashes or joint pain when they eat the wrong foods. That’s no fun when you’re supposed to be enjoying the holidays. Who needs for their IBS to flair up in the middle of a party?

Though every health expert will advise you not to over do it during the holidays, the reality is that you probably will overeat even though you know it’s not good for you. There will be times when you just can’t help yourself. Perhaps you’re with family or friends you haven’t seen in a while, and you know the food is going to be off-the-charts delicious. Or it’s the office party, and someone expects you to eat the treat they brought to share. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not alone.

A word of warning, if you have true food allergies avoid those foods at all costs. Do not use the following method if you have food allergies which may be life threatening.

For the rest of us, prevention is the best medicine. So here’s a new way to prevent yourself from having a reaction to food or drink: Eat charcoal before the first bite of food. No, not the briquettes left over from last summer. Activated Charcoal is available in capsules. Buy it at any health food store. It has been used for years to help people detoxify their bodies similar to swallowing clay or the cholesterol lowering drug, Questran, which effectively binds up many toxins in the gut in addition to lowering your cholesterol. Swallow a few Activated Charcoal before the party starts so the charcoal is in your stomach when the food arrives. Enough charcoal will bind up almost everything you eat. Continue to take a few capsules through out the meal. You will learn how many you need to take. It’s usually 2-3 for a small meal, 6-9 for a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast. When you’re finished follow Step 3 below. Taking the charcoal ahead of eating assures maximum protection from the food.

On the other hand, if you just consumed a food that is causing or will cause a reaction, it is helpful to know how to minimize the effects of the food on your body RIGHT NOW. What follows is a three-step “Holiday-feasting First-Aid” strategy for dealing with an episode of stomach discomfort or other symptoms immediately when you know you’ve eaten something that’s causing a problem.

Step 1. The first step when you eat something that is causing a bad reaction is to stop eating more of it. Start drinking water and reach for an antacid; this will alkalize your body or raise the body’s pH and reduce the symptoms quickly. Avoid aluminum containing antacids like Maalox and Mylanta. Tums or Rolaids may work, but a better option is to use two to four Tri-Salts purchased at health food stores or 1-2 Alka Seltzer Gold. These products contain potassium, magnesium and calcium salts. You should notice a big improvement within 5 minutes. If not, take another dose.

A great alternative to the Tri-Salts or antacids is an old home remedy: baking soda. Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 4 to 8 ounces of water. This also stops immediate reactions to food. Just make sure it’s baking soda and not baking powder! Either this home remedy or the antacid pills (which are easier to take at a downtown luncheon) are effective, but they are only going to give you a brief period of relief lasting minutes to an hour at most. So, locate the charcoal.

Step 2. The next step is to take the Activated Charcoal to bind up the offending food in your belly. The appropriate dosage range is 2-9 Activated Charcoal capsules all at once—take the higher dose if you ate a large volume of food or you’re having a very severe reaction. Charcoal is dumb. It doesn’t know that you’re the one with a wheat sensitivity. It binds up whatever food is in your stomach. The more food you ate, the more charcoal you will need. Also, if you’re planning to take any supplements or medications at that meal, you should wait at least 2 hours before taking them. Activated Charcoal will bind them up along with your food. However, it does not bind up minerals, which leads to the next step.

Step 3. The charcoal supplement should always be followed by Milk of Magnesia since the charcoal by itself will cause significant constipation. A large swig of Milk of Magnesia, taken either with the Activated Charcoal or in the next hour, will speed up the transit of the “charcoaled food” out of your intestinal tract.

Of course, it’s always best to prevent a reaction to food in the first place. But it happens. Sometimes you can’t resist and sometimes you don’t realize that you’ve eaten a food that is bad for you until it’s too late. If you find yourself going overboard or are ambushed by an ingredient that you didn’t realize that you were eating—the above first-aid strategy can be an excellent solution.

Take care of yourself,

Dr. Vaughan

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