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When food sensitivities aren't food sensitivities.

I use Michael Moore's herbal energetics. He's defined two major types of digestion, which depend on two major types of liver function: the underactive ("cool") and the overactive ("hot"). (There's people with a balanced digestion, too, but those don't go see herbalists, or if they do, they don't visit herbalists for digestive troubles.)

So somebody might come in and tell me all about their allergies and various food sensitivities. And, they tell me, it seems as if it's getting worse every year.

Time to dig into the details:

Signs of an underactive digestion.

  • You wouldn't remember what you ate a few hours ago, but unfortunately your stomach reminds you with smelly burps for the rest of the day.
  • You balk at salads and such - sprouts, raw cabbage, and similar. You really dislike them, because they make for even smellier burps than usual. And you get various gut pains, too, after eating them.
  • You don't like proteins and fats because they give you that strange green feeling. Gak.
  • You think you're allergic or sensitive to half the foods there are - but you don't get rashes or similar obvious signs of allergies. No, it's gut pains, gas, and those foul *burps* (scuse me).

That's a host of trouble with a "cool" digestion right there.

There's another, more sinister problem, too, to having so little stomach acid that food sits in the stomach for hours. That problem is, there's loads of white blood cells in the stomach, too. And while they recognize your own cells ("self"), and right-out food, they might not recognize half-digested foods, and just might take such to the nearest lymph node. Whammy, now you have a real food allergy ...

... of course, if you heat up your digestion, foods won't sit for all that long in your stomach. This means that white blood cells won't have time to pick up all that many half-digested foods, so you might not have that food allergy anymore, for all practical purposes, for as long as you keep your digestion humming away at a more normal clip.

Heating your digestion

Those with a "cool" digestion can easily remedy their troubles:

  • Help your liver. Do bitters 20-30 minutes before every meal. That's anything that tastes bitter, but because a "cool" digestion is linked to a "cool" liver, the best liver herb for you is not dandelion (or chicory or cynara) but berberis (or mahonia). Campari is nice, too.
  • Stay off all sweets, icecreams or iced foods in general, sodas and other sweet and/or cold drinks, raw vegetables, raw fruit, coffee, and alcohol, for starters. They all cool things down even more.
  • Eat only boiled foods.
  • Do lots of heating spices: ginger, garlic, mustard, pepper, cayenne (chili), wasabi, horseradish and so on. Things that make your eyes water when you ingest a teensy bit too much.

If you have to have coffee add a heating or warming spice to it - cardamom, or cinnamon, for instance.


And then somebody with loads of various food sensitivities goes away with above dietary advice and some bitter herbs to take before every meal.

Most of them are very happy a month or so later, because most (if not all) their food sensitivities disappeared after they got their digestion into gear.

Gotta love herbs herbalism.

Related entries: Dietary problems - Bitters - Swedish bitters - Bitters again - Hot vs. cold liver


You know henriette, I REALLY like this blog thing you've been doing... it's really added to the bioavailability of good information for my students and people I consult with... I can go over, say, elimination diets, with somebody and then send them the link to your site where they can see that I'm not the only person whose ever suggested such a thing.

Real helpful.

So maybe now you'll write next about hot & cold livers so all the people who can't wrap their mind around Michael Moore's constitutional physiology and get the Cliff's (err... "henriette's") notes version?

Thanks! As to hot and cool liver: I expect I'll get around to that, too, one of these months.

So...are there signs for an "overactive" digestion? ...or is that just not the thing that you run into? I've mostly seen people with the underactive variety, but I just wonder. It does seem that the digestion tends in that underactive direction when it is deranged. Thanks for the great blog stuff!

Hot digestion -> faster throughput: you'n'me eat corn on the cob (or red beets, or lots'n'lots of blueberries) today and see the results in the toilet bowl tomorrow (or even later, if the digestion is cool enough); people with a hot digestion see what they ate a few hours after the fact. Hot digestion folks are generally not troubled by their digestion, at all.

The bigger problem other than hot or cool, IMO, is a lack of HCL Acid. Betaine HCL with pepsin works like a champion for me after eating cooked foods. There is usually too little acid, not too much, as the Ant-acid commercials would have you believe.

Good point. However, instead of pepsin or whatnot, try taking bitters before meals, for a while. You'll be surprised, and pleased that you won't have to finance all those antacid commercials anymore.