Homeopathy for Digestive Disorders and Their Emotional RootsTamara Der-Ohanian May 1, 2008
Shortly after we began enjoying our meal at a recent dinner party, the host stopped eating, became visibly uncomfortable and excused himself from the table. Upon his return minutes later, he revealed that he had food stuck in his esophagus and was unable to swallow it. Four hours later, he was able to expel a piece of meat lodged in his esophagus and felt much better.
I suggested to the host that he might have anxiety. “But I feel calm!”, he protested, “and doctors cannot find anything wrong with me.”
Anxiety can surface for no apparent reason, I explained, even wake you up in the middle of the night. As long as you have the tendency to becoming anxious in stressful situations, anxiety can manifest when you least expect it.
Based on excellent results with similar cases, I was confident I could make his problem disappear. He took me up on my offer of homeopathic treatment.
This incident inspired me to write about digestive disorders and how our emotional state can have a huge impact on our digestive health. More importantly, I wanted to convey how homeopathic medicine can be instrumental in healing our emotions as the root cause of our physical ailments.
Due to its massive, highly interactive nerve supply, the human gastrointestinal tract is sometimes referred to as the body’s second brain. Given the extent of the nervous tissue present in the digestive system, it can easily get irritated from negative thoughts and emotions, contributing to a host of digestive problems. Homeopathic remedies are prescribed by giving more consideration to a person’s fears, phobias and emotional make-up, rather than just their physical complaints. The remedy which addresses a person’s core emotional issues will ultimately heal their physical ailments.
Food Stuck in the Esophagus
Dysphagia is the medical term for food stuck in the esophagus. Although more common with meat, chicken, bread and other “hard” foods (as was the case with my 38-year-old patient), softer foods like pasta can also cause dysphagia. Andrea, another client with dysphagia, was able to swallow her food after relaxation and deep breathing. More severe cases would cause Andrea to vomit. Barium x-rays revealed no structural abnormalities, although her esophagus would constrict for no apparent reason, disallowing food to pass through. Her gastroenterologist suggested “esophageal constriction of unknown causes.”
Following a thorough homeopathic interview, it became apparent that Andrea had a history of anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, the dysphagia was more frequent during stressful periods in her life (prior to a public speaking engagement, days before her performance review at work, and days leading up to exams during her school years).
Homeopathy recognizes Andrea’s feelings of inadequacy and strong fear of being judged as the root cause of her dysphagia. Her remedy was Argentum Nigricum, which is well known among homeopaths as a “performance anxiety” remedy. Other patients needing this remedy may not necessarily suffer from dysphagia, but manifest a host of other physical ailments instead. Following four months of treatment, despite her performance review at work and a small presentation to her co-workers, Andrea reported no incidents of dysphagia. She also reported feeling calmer, having more confidence and feeling more at ease in social situations.
Everyone can relate to the statement, “Too much worry can cause stomach ulcers.” We probably all know one person with a stomach ulcer who has a well-ingrained habit of worry and anxiety. Ulcers are sores on the lining of the digestive tract and can be located in the duodenum (duodenal ulcers), the stomach (gastric ulcers), and the esophagus (esophageal ulcers). Common symptoms include abdominal pain below the ribcage, indigestion, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
In modern medicine, it is typically believed that ulcers are caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). But why does H pylori chooses to settle in some people’s stomachs and not others? Homeopathy suggests that mental/emotional stress comes first, impairs the body’s resistance and makes it susceptible to the H pylori, which in turn causes a stomach ulcer.
One patient suffering with a duodenal ulcer was experiencing the classic symptoms of pain, indigestion and occasional nausea. A homeopathic consultation revealed a life-long pattern of jealousy and anger. Her feelings of jealousy arose in response to everything from material things to others’ achievements, to her husband talking to another woman. As long as she perceived another person being better than her, she became irritated, angry and jealous. She even admitted to having homicidal feelings towards one woman she felt was more physically attractive. The remedy Hyoscyamus matched the person’s constitution and the ulcer was completely healed after two months of treatment. The patient reported to feeling less insecure and jealous. She felt more stable and balanced with her emotions, and no longer had the suspicion that her husband was cheating on her.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a collection of symptoms including prolonged periods of recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation alternating with diarrhea. Unlike colitis or other inflammatory bowel disorders, there is no inflammation present. Some people can manage and even prevent their IBS symptoms by restrictive diets; however, emotional upsets such as anxiety, anger, and depression are known triggers. This was the case with a 43-year-old man diagnosed with IBS.
This patient had a history of quick anger, anxiety attacks and severe depression. His life history was full of love disappointments, violent outbursts and two suicide attempts. After careful consideration of his IBS symptoms and emotional state, I prescribed the remedy Aurum Metallicum. At his first follow-up meeting, the patient reported a 50% reduction of his IBS symptoms, feeling calmer and not as quick to anger. He later shared the story of an incident when a co-worker made a remark which would have normally made him very angry and argumentative. To his surprise, he was able to dismiss the comment and maintain his cool. This incident impressed upon him the power of the remedies he was taking. “These are like gold,” he joked. Astonishingly, the remedy was in fact a homeopathic preparation of gold!
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Crohn’s disease: A patient I treated with the remedy China Officinalis has reported being symptom free for the last three years. Prior to seeking homeopathic treatment, he had suffered abdominal pain accompanied with bloody diarrhea for the last two years. He was advised to have a section of his intestine removed and was put on a dose of steroids for the rest of his life. Following six months of homeopathic treatment, he reported feeling better than he had in a decade; he felt happier, more motivated and energetic. While his careful diet had helped in keeping the symptoms under control, he was never able to achieve contentment with good nutrition and supplementation alone. After homeopathic treatment, his elevated moods and happier disposition eliminated his physical discomforts.
Another Crohn’s patient mentioned that her symptoms were dramatically reduced during happy periods in her life. With homeopathic treatment, she began to see the correlation between feeling good emotionally and being symptom free. With homeopathic treatment, people with Crohn’s disease can experience long periods of amelioration and absence of symptoms. While symptoms may return during stressful periods, with continued treatment and the strengthening of the immune system the symptoms will become less severe and shorter in duration.
Ulcerative Colitis: Unlike Crohn’s disease, which can affect the entire digestive tract, Ulcerative colitis is usually confined to the innermost layer of the large intestine and rectum. Inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the lining of the colon and rectum can cause bloating, severe cramps, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding as well as fatigue and anemia.
A 29-year-old female accountant, a single mother of two, had been suffering with ulcerative colitis for three years before she came to see me. She had taken the medication Prednisone for a few months, but had to stop due to the side effect of feeling nervous and irritable. She lost 25 pounds while ill. Following a healthy diet and avoiding spices made little difference in her bowel symptoms. She tried to eat smaller portions to reduce the number of bathroom visits.
This patient’s life history revealed underlying feelings of being alone, unsupported and misunderstood. Her illness was diagnosed a few months after losing her mother to cancer – yet another reinforcement of being alone and unsupported. With a few doses of the remedy Mercurius Solublis over a six week period, the patient reported feeling happier, more motivated and more interested in socializing. In addition, the colitis symptoms had reduced by 50%. A few more doses of the remedy in the subsequent eight weeks eliminated her colitis symptoms totally.
Other Digestive Ailments
The above are only a few examples of digestive disorders homeopathy can heal. I have seen successful outcomes with many other problems, including acid reflux, chronic candidiasis, constipation, and even conditions that have no labels. One patient sought homeopathic treatment with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and painful bowel movements which doctors suggested was psychological. The remedy Colocynthis helped eliminate his physical discomforts; his irrational thoughts also diminished resulting in fewer panic attacks.
In Chinese Medicine it is said that negative emotions get processed through the digestive organs the same way food does. Unresolved emotions linger in the organs as an unprocessed charge. When the body accumulates enough unprocessed “garbage,” it reaches its breaking point (different for everyone). As a result, the body and digestive health start to deteriorate. Of course there are a host of physical and emotional ailments that we inherit from our parents, some of which are passed down through several generations. Thus, we are a collage of inherited and unprocessed physical and emotional energy patterns culminating in ill health.
The classical homeopath is like a detective searching for clues in the patient’s life history, emotional well being, and behavioural patterns that could lead to a successful prescription. The theory that deep emotional trauma can produce susceptibility to disease may be called “unscientific” since it is difficult to prove or disprove. Nonetheless, most homeopaths will testify to the great emotional healings they have witnessed in their patients, and the subsequent physical healings which inevitably follow.
Tamara Der-Ohanian, DSHomMed, HOM, was a registered homeopath practising in North York, Ont. She also taught at the Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine. Tamara passed away in 2019. For those who are seeking homeopathic approaches to illness, Kerry Walker is a colleague of Tamara's and a graduate of The Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine. She can be reached at 647-781-4861 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org