Improving your digestion
Improving your digestion

The Magnificent Design of Your Digestive System

Our body is an incredible creation, and nothing compares to the magnificent design of the human body. Consider the extraordinary process of digestion. Today, your body will produce around 10 liters of digestive juices to break down the food you eat, enabling it to pass through your gastrointestinal wall, which is like a 30-foot long tract with a surface area the size of a small football pitch. What’s even more remarkable is that this surface effectively replaces itself every four days. The health of your gastrointestinal tract is maintained by a team of between 300 and 4,000 strains of bacteria and other microorganisms.

Like all other animals, we spend our physical lives processing organic matter for waste. How well we perform this task determines our energy level, longevity, and overall state of body and mind. A lack of nutrients and the wrong kind of food can lead to faulty digestion, impaired absorption, abnormal gut reactions, including bloating and inflammation, gut infections, and poor elimination. The consequences of these digestive issues can disrupt every body system, hormonal balance, mental health, and our ability to detoxify.

How Effective Is Your Digestion?

Let’s take a moment to assess the efficiency of your digestion. Do you:

  1. Fail to chew your food properly?
  2. Suffer from bad breath?
  3. Experience a burning sensation in your stomach or regularly use antacid medication?
  4. Often have an uncomfortable feeling of fullness in your stomach?
  5. Find it difficult to digest fatty foods?
  6. Frequently suffer from constipation?
  7. Regularly experience a bloated stomach?
  8. Often feel nauseous?
  9. Frequently belch or pass wind?
  10. Fail to have a bowel movement at least once a day?
  11. Feel worse or excessively sleepy after meals?

For each “yes” answer, give yourself a point. If you scored more than 4, it is advisable to follow the recommendations in this program and consider consulting a health practitioner or nutritionally oriented doctor.

Stomach Acid – Finding the Right Balance

Digestion is a process that starts with our senses. The sight and smell of food initiate chemical reactions that prepare our body to assimilate and digest the food. Cooking from scratch is an excellent way to kickstart your digestion. Chewing is particularly important because it sends messages to the digestive tract to prepare different enzyme secretions according to the food in your mouth. Additionally, chewing triggers the production of stomach acid, which, in turn, encourages the production of digestive enzymes and bile. This acid is essential in breaking down large proteins into smaller groups of amino acids. The first step in protein digestion is carried out by hydrochloric acid released from the stomach wall, which is dependent on zinc.

As we age, hydrochloric acid production often declines, as do zinc levels. This can lead to indigestion, particularly noticeable after meals high in protein. Surprisingly, the most common reason for acid reflux is low stomach acid. When the ring-muscle (sphincter) between the esophagus and the stomach loses tone, it fails to close properly, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus, causing damage and pain. Common foods and drinks that affect sphincter tone include coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks, chocolate, tomatoes, and spicy foods.

While taking an antacid may provide temporary relief, it can exacerbate the problem in the long run. The nutritional solution for low stomach acid is to avoid aggravating foods and take a digestive supplement containing betaine hydrochloride, along with at least 15mg of zinc citrate. On the other hand, a minority of people produce too much stomach acid, and they can alleviate their symptoms by avoiding acid-forming and irritating foods and drinks.

Digestive Enzymes

The stomach also produces a range of enzymes to break down protein. Protein digestion continues in the small intestine, where digestive enzymes are released from the pancreas and liver. Proper digestion depends on adequate levels of stomach acid and requires many micronutrients, especially vitamin B6. Sub-optimal nutrition often results in sub-optimal digestion, which impairs absorption. This leads to undigested food in the small intestine, encouraging the proliferation of the wrong kind of bacteria and microorganisms.

To address this issue, it’s advisable to take a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement with each meal. Before fat can be digested, it needs to be specially prepared. Bile, produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, contains lecithin, which helps emulsify large fat particles, making them easier to digest. Supplementing lecithin granules can assist those with poor fat tolerance, especially if they’ve had their gallbladder removed.

Probiotics – Your Digestive Tract’s Best Friends

Our digestive tract is home to a myriad of microorganisms, most of which are friendly and vital to our health. These microbes play various roles, such as aiding in food digestion, improving mineral absorption, manufacturing essential vitamins (primarily K, B12, and folic acid), and relieving constipation. They are also critical in healing a wide range of digestive disorders, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS.

One of the key ways probiotics benefit our digestive tract is by promoting healing and repair. When the digestive tract is inflamed, due to disease, infection, or irritation from various sources, it can become abnormally permeable, leading to food intolerances and detoxification problems. Probiotics, specifically those producing short-chain fatty acids, can help restore the health of the digestive tract.

Probiotics are also known to be highly effective in cases of diarrhea, especially those caused by bacterial infections. Probiotics can halve the recovery time in most cases. Saccharomyces boulardii is an excellent probiotic supplement for addressing diarrhea.

If you suffer from food intolerances, probiotics can be a helpful addition to your diet. They can reduce inflammatory reactions in the gut caused by the consumption of offending foods. Additionally, you can support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut by consuming foods that feed them, particularly fiber-rich plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, and grains.

Gut Reactions – Irritants and Sensitivities

Indigestion can also be triggered by certain foods that irritate and damage our sensitive digestive system. Wheat, for example, contains gluten, which contains gliadin, a known intestinal irritant. Consuming wheat-based products like biscuits, toast, bread, cereals, cakes, pastry, and pasta can lead to digestive discomfort and gluten sensitivity in severe cases.

Gut Infections – Antibiotics and Sugar

If you’re looking for a surefire way to develop a gut infection, a combination of excessive sugar consumption, chronic indigestion, and frequent courses of antibiotics is a recipe for disaster. Within your gut resides a diverse ecosystem of thousands of different bacteria strains, many of which play a crucial role in protecting you from harmful bacteria, viruses, and other potentially dangerous organisms.

However, when antibiotics are introduced into your system, they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria; they wipe them all out. This effect can be even more pronounced in individuals who no longer have their appendix. For a long time, the appendix was considered a vestigial organ, no longer necessary for human survival. Yet, recent research has shed new light on its role as a “safe haven” for gut microbes, allowing them to repopulate the bowel after an insult or disturbance.

In situations where the gut contains the wrong types of bacteria or experiences an overgrowth of yeast-like organisms such as Candida albicans, a high-sugar diet, including fruit, can exacerbate the problem. If you frequently experience feelings of intoxication, drowsiness, and bloating after consuming sugar, these could be indicators of an underlying imbalance.

Thankfully, there are several powerful natural remedies that have been proven to be effective in treating gut infections. Some of these include:

  1. Caprylic Acid: This compound, derived from sources like coconuts, olive leaf, and garlic, is known for its powerful antifungal properties. It can help combat the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms in the gut.
  2. Probiotics: Probiotic supplements can introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut, helping to restore the balance of your microbiome and counteract the effects of antibiotics.

Preventing Wind and Constipation

Indigestion can often lead to excessive wind (flatulence), especially when consuming foods rich in indigestible carbohydrates found in beans and vegetables. These carbohydrates can ferment in the gut, producing gas. To address this issue, consider incorporating the enzyme alpha-galactosidase (glucoamylase), which breaks down these indigestible carbohydrates and reduces flatulence. This enzyme can be found in higher-quality digestive supplements.

Constipation, a common digestive woe, has multiple potential causes, with hard fecal matter being one of the most prevalent. Consuming fibrous foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can provide soft, moist bulk for the digestive tract. However, it’s essential to increase water intake when upping your fiber content, as water helps move fiber through the digestive system. Additionally, some foods and nutrients possess a mild laxative effect. You can try incorporating the following into your diet:

  1. Flaxseeds: Soak them in water overnight and consume them first thing in the morning to aid bowel regularity.
  2. Prunes: Prunes are well-known for their natural laxative effect and can help alleviate constipation.
  3. Vitamin C: In doses of several grams, vitamin C can have a mild laxative effect.

The Key to Good Health: Improving Digestion

The cornerstone of good health lies in improving digestion. When your digestive system functions optimally, you’ll notice various benefits:

  • Your energy levels will improve.
  • Your skin will become softer and clearer.
  • Body odor will decrease.
  • Your immune system will strengthen.

The key to achieving these benefits is to work from the top down, starting with good digestion, then focusing on absorption, and finally ensuring good elimination. However, it’s crucial to remember that if you have specific digestive difficulties, it’s wise to seek guidance from a healthcare practitioner who can provide tailored advice and solutions based on your unique needs. Your digestive health plays a vital role in your overall well-being, and taking steps to enhance it can lead to a healthier and happier life.

Understanding and Managing Food Cravings

In the realm of diets and healthy eating, cravings can be a formidable adversary. Regardless of how delicious your diet may be or how committed you are, there will inevitably be moments when you succumb to those irresistible temptations. This is entirely normal and, unless you have superhuman willpower, cravings are bound to happen. However, the frequency and duration of your overeating episodes can significantly impact your success in weight loss and weight maintenance. It’s important to recognize that occasional indulgences don’t equate to failure; they are simply part of the human experience.

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