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Serving up stomachaches

One of my clients recently started having chronic stomach irritation, which was something she had not experienced in the ten years I had known her. We went through the usual questions about changes in diet, etc., and could not come up with any reason for the sudden onset of the trouble...until she started telling me about her new job. To switch things up (again-this was no stranger to fresh starts and career exploration) she had decided to work with a friend in a local restaurant as a server. She loved the job and was doing quite well financially, so a tight, high stomach caused by stress was not the problem. What was different was that her digestive function was being triggered for hours every single day.

Most of you have worked somewhere when lunch or dinner time comes around. As soon as you smell the first person's food coming out of the microwave (hopefully you are not using it for your meal...) your stomach begins to growl and you feel hungry even though your break isn't for ages. That's the normal process. The smell of food triggers the brain to turn on the production of digestive enzymes in the stomach and pancreas, and saliva flow increases in preparation for the first stage of carbohydrate breakdown. As a server, she was being subjected to that stimulation nonstop during work hours! She commented that some of her fellow servers were frustrated by the weight they gained while working in spite of the miles they walked every day carrying heavy trays, but their appetites were disproportionally increased even if they were not eating at the restaurant. All this may help explain why so many fast-food workers are heavier than peers in other jobs. Also explains why we order (and can eat!) so much more at a restaurant than we might at home, why the fresh bread is brought to the table right away, and why supermarkets put fragrances into the air to mimic the smell of baking goods if they don't actually bake on site. The more digestion is stimulated the more we spend!

I would not tell someone to quit their job to solve the problem; an awareness of what is going on is sometimes enough to moderate the urges, To overcome the excessive stomach noise and burn I suggested doing what Native American scouts did, which was to keep a pinch of slippery elm under the tongue to give the stomach something to work on. It's a complete protein that supports mucous membranes so soothes and coats the esophagus and stomach lining, and helps maintain stable energy so you are less likely to crave sugar and refined carbohydrates. (Slippery elm was also used to feed frontier infants if breast milk was not available, and is often suggested as support for people who have been told they have IBS.)

This situation should help make clear why I suggest that most supplements are best taken with meals. The more digestive activity is stimulated the better the breakdown and assimilation of the nutrients in your meal-or your capsule-will be. Spend a few minutes just breathing in the aroma of your food before you start chewing; if you are rushing out the door with a smoothie add some cinnamon (which also helps regulate blood sugar) and ginger (which increases stomach function so you'll actually get something out of your protein powder); include some aromatic herbs in whatever you cook, or sauté some onions or garlic even if you aren't going to eat them!

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