Awaking the Mind in the Gut
You don't have to be in pain! You don't have to be held hostage by an angry, unpredictable stomach. You don't have to pop a Pepcid before every meal, take a Tagamet to "eat like a kid again,"endure endless Maalox moments, or devour a roll or two of Tums every day. You don't have to be addicted to antacids. And despite what the endless stream of antacid and laxative ads say, you don't have to pump your body full of drugs to coax your gastrointestinal system to do what it's supposed to do.
The solution is simple: Follow my four-step program for treating chronic stomach distress, and you can heal your gut and regain your health.
I have treated thousands of patients suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) ailments, ranging from peptic ulcers and heartburn to chronic abdominal cramps, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel syndrome, and many other conditions. I know from my practice that my dramatically different approach to the treatment of gut problems can bring health and vitality to the tens of millions of people who suffer in silence or receive misguided treatment at the hands of well-meaning physicians.
In this book I will tell you about safe and natural ways to restore normal gut function without medication, by using nutritional supplements, a bio-ecological diet, and a new lifestyle plan. You will see how easy it is to live symptom-free without harsh drugs or extraordinary medical interventions. Most important, the benefits of my program extend far beyond the gut. A healthy gut is the key to maintaining a healthy body. By following my program you will significantly reduce your risk of developing serious illnesses down the road such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. You will also see improvement in other seemingly unrelated problems. And you will feel better than you have in years.
At the core of my program is the belief that before you can heal your gut problems, you must learn to "think with your gut." I will show you that there is a mind in the gut and that we must understand it in order to feel better and regain health. I will show you how to use this powerful insight to cure your gut problems quickly and effectively. I will give you the actual tools you need to understand what your gut is telling you, and modify your lifestyle accordingly and effectively.
An Epidemic of GI Problems
A decade of practice has taught me that most GI problems are the result of mindless eating, an unhealthy lifestyle, and years of ignoring the mind in the gut. Despite the fact that most gut problems are easily preventable, gut disease has recently reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Consider the following statistics:
•62 million Americans--”up to half of all adults”--suffer from chronic GI disorders.
•Americans lose a total of 229 million days of work annually because of GI problems, at a cost of $14.5 billion a year.
•Severe indigestion accounts for 8 million visits to the doctor and 1 million visits to the emergency room each year. Second to the common cold, GI problems are the most common reason why people seek medical attention.
•American adults spend an average of five hundred dollars per person annually on laxatives.
•Americans are "addicted" to antacids and acid blockers. We spend $6.8 billion annually in prescription and over-the-counter products to relieve indigestion. In 1999, Prilosec, a powerful acid-suppressing drug, surpassed Prozac and Premarin as the top-selling prescription medication in the United States!
But gut problems are not only exacting a steep toll in terms of medical expenses and lost productivity...they are robbing people of their lives:
•Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., killing more people each year than breast cancer.
•The rate of new cases of esophageal cancer (associated with GERD) is increasing faster than any other cancer.
Why are we experiencing a virtual epidemic of gastrointestinal disease? And why, in spite of the pills we are taking, are we still not getting better? I believe that our approach to treatment has been wrong because the gut is the most misunderstood organ of the body. In my practice, I take a radically different approach that treats gut problems at their core.
How My Approach Is Different
Compared to traditional Western medical practitioners, I take a different view of the human body and of the gut in particular. Before I tell you about my program, let me tell you a bit about me. I am the founder of the Kellman Center for Progressive Medicine in New York City, where I and a team of other physicians have created our own special blend of medicine, com- bining the best therapies of both conventional and alternative medicine with a hefty dose of spiritual renewal. I don't believe that true health can be achieved simply by mindlessly swallowing pills purchased at the health food store or eating the perfect diet or even spending endless hours at the gym. In my opinion, the healing process also entails adapting a new consciousness or worldview. Lack of personal meaning, isolation, and a poverty of spirit is a significant cause of disease. That is why at the Kellman Center, we feel that healing the psyche is ultimately the foundation of physical healing.
I am also a passionate believer in patient education. It is not enough to hand patients a prescription--whether for a pharmaceutical drug or a nutritional supplement--and send them on their way. It is critical for patients to understand why they are doing what they are doing and for patients to take an active role. In my experience I have found that well-informed patients who are active in the healing process have better outcomes than those who passively accept whatever their doctors may tell them. If you don't think that being part of the decision-making process makes a real difference in a patient's prognosis, let me tell you about one of my favorite scientific studies involving two groups of seriously ill patients in an intensive care unit. Both groups received identical treatment with one seemingly minor exception: One group was allowed to pick the color of their bedsheets, while those in the other group were forced to use regulation bedsheets. Amazingly, the patients who were allowed to select the color of their sheets remained healthier and lived longer than those who did not! Trust me, this study is not about the importance of decorating, rather it is about the importance of using the proactive human spirit in healing.
Given my style of medical practice, you won't be surprised to learn that in college, along with the usual premed curriculum, I also studied philosophy and world religion. It has helped shape who I am today, and the kind of doctor I have become. I have also been greatly influenced by the Kabbalah, the mystical foundation of Judaism that is now being embraced by people of all walks of life. You don't have to be Jewish or abandon your own faith to appreciate the teachings of the Kabbalah. I can't possibly explain all there is to know about the Kabbalah in this book. I only mention it here because it provided an antidote to the standard medical school education that all too often focuses on biochemistry and numbers and ignores the human spirit. In contrast, the Kabbalah shows us how to access the hidden world of the spirit to create better and fuller lives. Early on in my medical training, I realized that a good doctor must do both. It's not enough to simply do the right diagnostic tests and write the correct prescriptions. A good doctor must look for the deeper causes of disease, whether they are physical or spiritual.
At the Kellman Center, we recognize that gut problems are not related just to GI function--they are also a barometer of overall emotional and physical health. Our goal is to get to the underlying cause of gut problems so that our patients get healthy...and stay healthy.
The underlying principle of progressive medicine is that the human body is smart and has the capacity to heal itself. Thus, the best treatment is one that returns the body to normal function, not one that interferes with normal function. As I tell my patients, the goal of treatment should be to turn on the correct "software" in the gut so that it can do its job, not to rewrite nature's program! (Trust me, the software is there, you just have to know how to access it.) Tha's why I prefer natural remedies that gently steer the body back in the right direction rather than strong drugs that suppress or alter normal body function.
When things go wrong with our bodies, it is not because our bodies are prone to break down. Rather, it is because we are not taking proper care of them. Illnesses such as GERD, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome are a message from the gut that we need to make changes in the way we approach our health and our lives. This message is well worth heeding. A big part of my job is to teach my patients how to decode these messages and return to normal functioning without having to resort to constant medication.
I know that any gastrointestinal problem can be healed at the root. Too many people are put on one drug after another and at best, most of the time, the symptoms are just lessened but not completely healed and people frequently still suffer from the same problems. The drugs are supposed to be cures, but rarely are. Many people have significant side effects from the drugs or just don't feel quite right. Others may see an improvement in their immediate problem but a few months later are confronted with a new one. I want to get you out of this typical "revolving door" medicine. With the fresh, new approach represented in this book, I know I can.
All Systems Are Connected
In recent years the practice of medicine has been divided up into specialties that encourage physicians to focus on one small part of the body. The progressive medicine approach is different: We believe that all body systems are interconnected, and that treating one system without considering its relationship to the other systems is impossible, inefficient, and often counterproductive.
I am not a gastroenterologist, a specialist in gut problems. I am a "generalist," a specialist in internal medicine. Unlike a gut specialist, I do not view the gut as an island unto itself, rather I view it as an important system within a body of systems. Of course, whenever necessary, I refer my patients to gastroenterologists for special tests, like colonoscopy, endoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy. But I still manage their care. GI specialists do not look beyond the gut for answers, and I believe that their shortsightedness can shortchange patients. What on the surface may appear to be a GI problem may actually be related to glitches in other body systems, such as poor thyroid function, a hormonal imbalance, a neurological disorder, or an immune problem. All of these conditions may be triggered or aggravated by stress, trauma, or even a viral infection. Conversely, problems such as heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and mental disorders can be triggered or aggravated by problems originating in the gut, and if you don't treat the gut, you cannot adequately treat the problem. In other words, to get to the right answer, you need to ask the right questions, and that will often require looking beyond the obvious.
The notion that a problem that originated in the gut could have such a profound effect on an organ that is billions of cells away, such as the brain, may seem strange, but as new research is beginning to show, the gut is involved in activities that affect every single cell in the body, from your brain to your heart to your joints.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Gut Reactions by Raphael Kellman, M.D. with Carol Colman. Copyright © 2002 by Raphael Kellman, M.D. and Carol Colman. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.