Understanding Digestion

Understanding Digestion

Digestion and the gut are so central to our overall health. This quote sums it up well; “All diseases begin in the gut.” -Hippocrates, 460-370 BC.

Healing the gut is often one of the first steps I suggest to start with.

What the gut does

– It breaks down, digests and absorbs our food. Nutrients are then sent to cells in the body.

– Keeps out the bad stuff! Preventing things like toxins, parasites and chemicals.

– Makes good bacteria, which in turn produce vitamins.

– Protects us – up to 60% of our immune system is within the gut.

It’s easy to see, that if our digestion isn’t working well, you may not be sufficiently nourished, your detoxification maybe affected and it may affect your immune system.

This in turn may contribute to issues such as leaky gut, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), poor energy, growth issues in children, poor sleep, food intolerances, autoimmune conditions, skin conditions (acne, urticaria, eczema), chronic fatigue, mood disorders and more.

Symptoms suggesting digestion issues:

  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Feeling ‘really’ full after meals
  • Frequent burping/belching
  • Fatigue after eating
  • Frequent tummy aches
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea or loose stools

In order to heal, we need to start with the gut!

A closer look at digestion

To digest our food we need: Stomach acid, bile and digestive enzymes. These key issues are often overlooked.

Stomach acid

If you suffer from acid reflux or other digestive symptoms, it is common practice to take antacids. However in many cases, we are actually LOW in stomach acid and need to increase it.

Fixing stomach acid is essential, there are many ways to do this, which I will blog about soon.

Without sufficient acid the following may occur:

  • Proteins won’t be broken down correctly, absorbed or used for nourishing the body.
  • Sterilisation of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasites may not occur.
  • Absorption of other nutrients may be reduced (e.g. calcium, magnesium, zinc).

As we age, our ability to produce stomach acid decreases, but some people are not so good at producing stomach acid (including ourselves!).

Bile

Bile is produced in the liver and breaks down and helps to absorb fat. It is also involved in removing toxins from your body (e.g. parasites, yeast, excess nutrients like too much copper). We need more bile, particulalry when we are detoxing.

There’s many simple ways to help the bile to flow! From drinking warm lemon water, eating beetroots and artichokes to ensuring you have enough taurine (an amino acid) and lecithin in your diet.

Enzymes

Enzymes are responsible for breaking down food into usable nutrients. Certain foods are high in enzymes (e.g. pineapple). Some people may need enzyme supplements for a short period if they don’t tolerate certain foods. (I don’t always recommend enzyme supplements).

Other steps to heal the gut

  • Ensure you are not deficient in nutrients required for digestion (e.g. zinc)
  • Heal the stomach lining: Sometimes leaky gut can occur. This is when the gut lining becomes inflamed, it allows undigested foods, bacteria & toxins to slip through and enter the bloodstream. This can trigger inflammation, brain fog, food intolerances, digestive issues, joint pains, headaches, autoimmune conditions and more.
  • Balance your bacteria: through probiotics (e.g. yoghurts, kefir or supplements). Particularly if you’ve ever had antibiotics.
  • While you are fixing the gut, try to steer clear of foods that irritate you (e.g. gluten, dairy).
  • Ensure you have a happy liver! The liver is involved in many functions, including digestion.

I can help you to work out if your digestion is working efficiently and where to go from there if it isn’t.