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Natural Awakenings NYC & Long Island

Breaking it Down - Understanding Digestive Problems

by Tess Rivers

Dr. David Pollack, of Pollack Wellness Institute, in Commack, sees it all the time. “People are leading a wellness lifestyle, eating all the right healthy foods, then can’t understand why they have stomach pain and discomfort,” he says. “It usually turns out their symptoms are the result of compromised digestive function.”

According to Pollack, whole foods and paleo-style diets are harder to digest than processed, nutritionally devoid foods. The way that manufacturers process foods make them easy to chew and swallow. Because much of the fiber is lost during processing, it takes less energy to eat and digest ultra-processed foods than whole or less processed foods.

For optimal digestion, food should be fully broken down in the digestive tract into its smallest constituents, explains Pollack. “If it doesn’t become fully digested, that good food now becomes foreign material, as it either remains in the gut, sticking to the walls of the intestines, or crosses into the bloodstream through what is often referred to as a leaky gut.” When the immune system detects foreign material in the body it mounts a response, called inflammation. Over time, compromised digestive function can initiate or exacerbate chronic inflammatory problems, “even when eating as an elite vegan or a paleo-style diet,” he says.

There are ways to improve digestive function that are natural and safe. Many people use herbs, alkaline water, probiotics, and other natural treatments to help their digestive symptoms. “Most of these treatments are safe but only deal with the symptoms and do not actually improve function,” he explains. 

According to Pollack, digestive problems can have many sources, including organ dysfunction, physical issues, emotional imbalance causing ‘nervous stomach’ and diverticulitis attacks. He notes how important it is to repair digestive problems by first identifying the underlying cause(s) of symptoms. Once the known issues are uncovered, multiple healing techniques can be applied, such as nutritional therapy, enzyme therapy, physical manipulations, Chinese medicine techniques, including acupuncture and moxibustion, detoxification and cleansing. Pollack advises, “Cleansing and detoxification should not be employed too early in the healing process as they can cause more harm than good if the body is not healthy enough to tolerate the negative effects of toxicity, which include stomach distress, breakouts, headaches and more.” Always utilize the help of an experienced holistic digestive specialist when engaging in any nutritional or herbal program, cautions Pollack.

For occasional bouts of mild digestive upset, implementing a few lifestyle changes can help prevent them from turning into regular disruptions. 

  1. Hydration plays an important role in digestion and is particularly important for anyone experiencing constipation. 

  2. Managing stress can improve digestion. When the body enters fight-or-flight mode, stress hormones are released, and blood and energy are diverted away from the digestive system because the body doesn’t think it has time to rest and digest. 

  3. Chew food thoroughly. Chewing food thoroughly breaks it down so that it can be digested more easily. The act also produces saliva, which is needed for proper mixing of food in the stomach. This may help prevent symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn.

  4. Eat slowly. When we rush through meals, we miss hunger and fullness cues, making it easy to overeat and experience gas, bloating and indigestion.

Pollack Wellness Institute is located at 66 Commack Rd., Commack. For more information, call 631-462-0801 or visit


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