Healthy digestion is more than avoiding heartburn, gas, constipation, and other discomforts. If we don’t thoroughly digest our food, nutrients won’t reach the cells in our body. The body needs a steady supply of nutrients to grow, replace worn out tissue and to generate energy. Food choices and supplements are not enough. Without proper digestion, we still may not be getting optimum nutrition from our food. We can naturally support healthy digestion through proper eating habits, exercise, supplements, and herbal extracts.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a tube twenty-five to thirty-two feet long that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. It involves the teeth, mouth, gums, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, duodenum, small and large intestines, and rectum. The liver, pancreas, and gall bladder all play and important role.
Causes of Digestive Disorders
There are many causes of GI disorders, including dietary and nutritional factors, food allergies, viral and bacterial infections, parasites, and stress. Breakdowns in the digestive tract are linked with cavities, gum disease, heartburn, hiatal hernia, gastritis, ulcers, hemorrhoids, flatulence, constipation, and cancer of the colon. Digestive proteins that are incompletely broken down may impair the immune response and lead to allergies by producing a state of low tolerance.
The typical western diet of high fat, high carbohydrate, highly processed foods with many additives and preservatives is the root cause of many digestive disorders. Lack of fiber in your diet makes the digestive system sluggish, and leads to improper elimination and constipation. This, in turn leads to a build up of toxins in the body and may lead to “leaky gut syndrome” in which food particles cross the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream, inducing an autoimmune reaction.
Food allergies may be a factor in GI disorders. Common culprits are milk, dairy products, and wheat. Gluten intolerance can result in celiac disease. Food allergies may arise as a result of malabsorption syndrome, which occurs whenever there is injury to the surface layer of the GI tract.
Stress also affects the digestive system, causing excess acid production and poor digestive function. Insufficient exercise leads to a decrease in enzyme secretion and HCl needed for digestion. This will lead to malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies and constipation.
When things go wrong
Eating too quickly or eating when upset or exhausted usually causes heartburn. Alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, fatty foods, orange juice, spicy food, sugar, and tomato juice are specific foods that may trigger heartburn. Swallowing air while eating also leads to heartburn. The air warms to body temperature, expands, and is belched with enough force to propel stomach acid into the esophagus. Once in the esophagus, the acid irritates membrane tissues.
Antacids and alkalizers do help, but they may be more damaging than beneficial. These products neutralize stomach acids, thereby blocking effective digestion. Enzymes, herbal extracts and dietary supplements can be used instead of antacids.
Excessive gas that begins to cause discomfort could indicate a more serious problem and should be checked out by your doctor. Persistent unexplained bloating for more than three days could signal appendicitis, gallstones, stomach ulcer, irritable bowl syndrome or a malabsorption disorder.
Specific nutrients can help to relieve bloating and gas. When there is no physical cause, pantothenic acid alleviates intestinal gas by supporting efficient digestion and proper bowel movements. Fermented foods, such as yogurt and buttermilk, promote the digestion of dietary fiber and increase the level of “friendly” bacteria in the colon. Lemon juice and cider vinegar are also known to help. Exercise also stimulates bowel movements and breaks down large gas bubbles. Activated charcoal is often used to treat excessive flatulence. The charcoal apparently binds up the gas in the gut.
Constipation is failure to move the bowels after three days or more, and the difficult passage of hard dry feces. Overuse of laxatives, as well as a low fiber diet, the use of certain medications, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or even depression can trigger constipation. Less common causes are hypothyroidism, high blood calcium levels and Parkinson’s disease. A balanced diet and regular exercise are recommended for the relief of constipation. Increasing fiber and fluid intake also helps. Fiber improves stool bulk and speeds up intestinal transit time. The national cancer institute recommends 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts are rich in fiber.
Digestive enzymes are protein molecules that are essential for digesting food. They are secreted along the GI tract and break down foods, enabling nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream for use in various bodily functions.
Enzymes are present in raw, unprocessed foods. They are extremely heat sensitive and, therefore, easily destroyed by cooking. If we are short on enzymes, our digestive organs must do double duty to produce more enzymes. Eventually, these systems begin to wear out.
Symptoms of an enzyme-deficient diet include fatigue, constipation, gas, headaches, colon troubles, and high cholesterol. The body uses energy to digest the foods we eat; that’s why we’re often tired after eating a big meal. Raw foods contain the enzymes required to divide the food molecules into the building blocks of metabolism: Amino acids (from protein), glucose (from carbs), and essential fatty acids (from unsaturated vegetable fats).
Supplemental enzymes may also help the body digest foods more efficiently. Enzyme formulas are a natural combination of living plants and animals, and help ensure biochemical balance and healthy digestion.
Transformation Powdered DigestZyme aids in complete food digestion. Contains a wide range of pH sensitive enzymes. Helpful with indigestion, impaired gallbladder function, malabsorption and food allergies. For sensitive systems and helpful in children.
Transformation Digest is the capsule form of the Powdered Digest. Recommend dose is 1-2 capsules with meals.
Thorne Bio-Gest is an effective broad-spectrum digestive enzyme combination, containing HCl, pepsin, pancreatin and ox bile. This product does not contain lactose
Allergy ButyrEn is the formulation of calcium and magnesium salts of butyric acid, designed for delayed release in the lower GI tract. This short chain fatty acid is produced by some probiotic bacteria, and appears to support mucosal integrity.
Thorne Dipan-9 is a pure, undiluted pancreatin. It is the highest potency and purity available. This product does not contain lactose.
Tyler Panplex 2-Phase contains pancreatic enzymes with hydrochloric acid (HCl).
Specific nutrients nourish the digestive process. Our physicians provide through evaluation with functional medicine testing. This allows them to determine pH, gut flora health, enzyme and metabolic activity. Some healthy solutions from our store:
Vitamins C, E, and the B complex support the liver and promote detoxification.
Super Gram III is a supplement we carry that provides these vitamins and is a great antioxidant.
Tri-B-100 is a complete B complex. Which contains great doses of each B vitamin.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in the digestive system. When these friendly bacteria will help fortify the body’s internal environment.
Prescript-Assist with FloraStat contains 30 soil based organisms. Enables the gut to better cope with antibiotic/drug intervention, or to help normalize conditions where it has been previously compromised.
Sedona Labs iFlora contains 16 different strains of good probiotic cultures with 30 billion viable cells per gram. Including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium infantis.
Metagenics UltraInflamX is a nutritionally diverse medical food designed to provide targeted nutritional support for patients with chronic inflammatory conditions.
Proper digestion is a requirement for optimum health. Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract are quite common and can lead to improper digestion, malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. Which may contribute to the development of many other diseases. Your doctor can help you to find the right support you need.
An optimum diet and supplementation are only as good as the digestive process. Natural measures such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, supplemental enzymes and specific nutrients and herbs promote healthy digestion. Healthy digestion means that you’re getting optimum nourishment and optimum nourishment is your health
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