Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Whats going on in your gut?

The digestive system is more complex than most people realize. Most people know that the food they eat goes in their mouth and out the other end, but few people really understand what happens in between. It is a subject that people do not like to discuss, but digestion is something that everyone should understand and pay attention to.

Food should stay in your body for about 12-18 hours. If it moves through faster than that, proper digestion and nutrient absorption is not taking place. If it is slower than that, proper digestion and elimination are not happening, and this can cause a build up of toxins in the colon and the body.

This process can cause a myriad of symptoms such as;

  • Chronic Allergies

  • Jaundice

  • Acid Reflux

  • Indigestion

  • Kidney Disease

  • Candida Overgrowth

  • Acne

  • Psoriasis and Eczema

  • Headaches

  • Joint Pain

  • Depression

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • IBS

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Leaky Gut Syndrome

  • Immune System Dysfunction; ie autoimmune disorders and/or antibody dysfunctions

  • and more

If you would like to know how long it takes your body to digest and eliminate waste, you can do a simple test. Eat something that doesn't digest all the way, like corn, and see how long it takes to show up on the other end. You might be surprised.

Food, which is meant to nourish the body, should be chewed into tiny particles and swallowed. The chewing process activates the salivary glands in the mouth and hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. Digestion begins with the chewing process by releasing the enzyme amylase, which acts directly on carbohydrates. This is why infants, who are learning to eat solid, food must have it gound into tiny particles. Infants do have plenty of saliva, but do not have the ability to chew their food into digestable sized pieces. Breaking the food into small particles releases the foods natural enzymes which aid in digestion. Children and adults should pay special attention to chewing their food into similar tiny particles so that digestion begins immediately upon consumption.

As food is swallowed, it proceeds down the esophagus to the stomach, where the second step in digestion takes place. The stomach, which normally produces hydrochloric acid, churns the partially digested food to help break it down further. The enzymatic break down of proteins begins in the stomach with hydrochloric acid. Without the proper amount of hydrochloric acid proteins are not broken down completely and can pass on into the small intestines. This can cause gas, bloating and other digestive upsets. If the process of digestion is hindered the hydrochloric acid can be forced back up and into the esophagus and cause acid reflux. As the broken down food empties into the small intestine both liver (bile) and pancreatic enzymes need to be adequate to buffer the acidity of the stomach contents.

If food particles enter the small intestine that are not broken down properly, the final stage of digestion is compromised. The small intestine utilizes additional enzymes from the liver and pancreas along with bacteria that lives in the gut to complete the digestive process. Fat digestion begins in the small intestine by using bile and bile salts from the gallbladder and liver. If the liver or gallbladder is not functioning properly, digestive upset can occur due to the inability to break down and absorb fats. The surface area of the small intestine, when stretched out has the surface area of about the size of a football field, however the small intestine itself is only about 22 inches long. This is made possible by the tiny villi that line the wall of the small intestine, which resemble fingers. These villi absorb the particles of digested food that have been broken down into small enough pieces for use. If the food particles are still too large, or not broken down properly, they are passed on as waste.

The large intestine is used for storage of fecal matter and the re-absorption of water. If the body is not properly cleaning itself out, or if waste matter is sticking to the sides of the colon, the water that should be recycled is either not able to be absorbed, or is absorbed and full of toxins. This water is of course filtered through the liver to clean it. This detoxification process can put unnecessary stress on the liver and kidneys. To keep the colon clean it's very important to have the proper amount of non-soluble fiber going through it every day to help clean the walls, and absorb undigested fats and sugars too.

Friendly bacteria are a necessary component of the digestion process. Most people live a lifestyle which is not "friendly" to friendly bacteria. Something else to keep in mind is, if there is no room at the inn... then taking a supplement with friendly bacteria may be of little help. When opportunistic bacteria, which are fed by processed foods, drugs and other lifestyle choices, take up too much space in the gut, it leaves little room for friendly bacteria. Likewise, friendly bacteria can also push out the non-friendly types if done properly. Bacteria is a necessary part of the digestive system, and often antibiotics, steroids, sugar and other things kill off the beneficial bacteria and feed the non-beneficial bacteria, by allowing yeast to flourish.

The immune system begins in the gut with proper digestion, detoxification and elimination. In order to have a healthy body, a healthy gut is very important.

So you ask... how do I have a healthy gut?

Avoid these things:

  • Antacids and proton pump inhibitors - acid killers

  • Antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary)

  • NSAIDS - non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Steroids - including birth control pills

  • White sugar

  • Processed foods

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Antihistamines

  • Coffee

  • Chlorinated and flouridated water

  • Meat which has been given antibiotics

Do these things:

  • Completely chew every bite of food until it's liquid - looks like baby food

  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruits - as raw as possible

  • Eat fiber - from high fiber vegetables or as a supplement (psyllium husk is best)

  • Take probiotics - daily, you should flood your system at first to build up good bacteria

  • Walk regularly - 210 minutes a week or more to help the intestines move

  • Drink lots of clean water - avoid chlorinated and flouridated water

  • Take digestive enzymes if needed

  • Have your indican level tested - an indican test is a simple urine test to determine the level of bowel toxicity

For an indican test please call our office. If you wish to take probiotics we do recommend that you do a one week intensive booster for friendly bacteria. We also have a great psyllium husk fiber supplement. Please call our office for more information.