Improved Health through Better Digestion and Stomach Healing

Improved Health thru Better Digestion

Ben Brown, Nutritionist, Owner, Body Systems Healing & Performance

As you may already know, the process of digestion begins not in the mouth or the stomach, but in the act of smelling, tasting, touching and even thinking about food. These sensory mechanisms allow our body to prepare for the digestive process by stimulating the production of saliva, chyme, stomach acid (HCl) and pancreatic enzymes that facilitate the breakdown, absorption and assimilation of food literally, from our eyes, through or digestive system and ideally into our trillions of bodies cells. The ability for one to effectively utilize this digestive process is being recognized as a major limiting factor in how healthy we can be. Numerous physical symptoms and disease processes are being linked to poor digestion and gut health. In order to optimize this process, one must fully understand the many factors associated with complete digestion along with the steps involved in identifying and repairing an already compromised stomach and digestive tract.

Easy Ways to Immediately Improve Digestion

  • Eat and Prepare your OWN food:

In a perfect world, there would be little disconnect between the foods we eat and where they come from, however, this is simply unrealistic and impossible for most people. Regardless, it is not unrealistic to make a concerted effort to shop local, sustainable, and organic, as well as try and do the majority of your cooking at home. Spending time with family preparing, and cooking your quality food will impart significantly greater nutrition as well as ensure a more relaxed and healthy environment for you to enjoy and adequately digest your foods.

  • Chew, Chew, Chew…and Chew Some More

As one of my mentor’s once said, “drink your food and chew your water”, essentially saying, we need to savor our food and beverages a little more before swallowing, as this ensures better nutrient breakdown and ideally absorption.

  • Drink Water

Adequate hydration is crucial for necessary enzyme and stomach acid production. Often times, simply being under hydrated can be a major cause of digestive symptoms as water is essential for the cellular hydration needed to supply and protect the mucosal barrier that protects us from our strong stomach acid.  Try drinking a glass of water 30min before each meal, but limit fluid consumption during and immediately after meals, as it can dilute the stomach acid needed to break down our foods.

  • Stress Less

I’ve mentioned before about how our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the digestion and detoxification process. Conversely, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight or flight response. Ideally we should have a balance between these two systems, but because of too much stress, sugar, caffeine, and lack of sleep, most Americans are living in a prolonged sympathetic state. This is hardly conducive to adequate digestive enzyme production. As Paul Simon said in 59th St. Bridge, “Slow down, you move too fast…”

  • Food Combining

Try and avoid mixing proteins like meat, fish, eggs or cheese with concentrated starches like potatoes, cereals, breads, pastries, or refined sweets at the same meal. Starches when combined with protein dilute stomach acid and inhibit protein breakdown. The starches can essentially act as a sponge, soaking up the important stomach acid, thereby mitigating it’s effects. This can lead to food fermentation, putrification, and a build up of toxins and bad bacteria taking place. Gross!

Identifying Poor Digestion

Have you been diagnosed with excessive stomach acid or GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease)?  Do you suffer from bad breath, body odor, loss of taste for protein containing foods, burning or “acid” stomach, gas shortly after eating, indigestion after eating, difficulty digesting fruits or vegetables, undigested food in your stool and upset stomach from acidic or spicy foods?

Dr. Jonathon Wright, author of “Why Stomach Acid is Good for you”, has tested thousands of patients using the Heidelberg capsule (considered the gold standard for hydrochloric acid determination) suggests that as many as 75% of people over the age of 60 could suffer from low stomach acid.  While young people will typically have more stomach acid than an older person, we often confuse digestive symptoms with excess stomach acid, which 98% of the time is in fact hypochloridia, or too low stomach acid. Here’s how to determine how much hydrochloric acid you need.

Food Allergies/Sensitivities

Individuals who do not secrete enough digestive enzymes often suffer from multiple food allergies and sensitivities.

Failure to digest food coupled with a weakened mucosal barrier in the digestive lining allows for large molecules of undigested food to be absorbed and cause such problems as food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, colitis, and immune system weakness. These digestive enzymes are essential in keeping the bodies immune response from attacking it’s own body tissues.

Using Digestive Support

The pancreas produces enzymes that are required for digestion and absorption of food. Enzymes produced by the pancreas include lipases that digest fats, proteases that digest proteins, and amylases that digest starch. Production of your own digestive enzymes declines 1% every three years after age thirty and is additionally affected by other factors like stress, sugar and sickness. For many, it is beneficial to supplement these pancreatic enzymes for optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients from food.

Most plant based digestive enzymes in the health food store will help, however, here are the products that I recommend.

Digestzymes:

Start with 1-2 capsules in the middle of a protein containing meal. Increase dosage up to 7 capsules with each meal. If you feel warmth or burning after your meal, decrease by 1 capsule and maintain dosage assuming no burning. If you need multiple capsules per meal, then upgrade to Betaine-Pepsin HCl, as each capsule is equivalent to 2-3 Digestzymes.

For better instructions, check out the “Acid Test” Video

Purchase your digestive supplements

Healing The Stomach

For most people, therapeutic doses of hydrochloric acid will fix many digestive problems, but for some just starting out, seemingly low doses could make the problem worse. This is an indicator to stop HCl supplementation and take steps to heal the mucosal lining of the stomach before any HCl supplementation can be beneficial.

The first step involved in healing is to abide by the aforementioned guidelines to improve digestion, especially drinking adequate amounts of water. There are a few products that work very well for improving digestive symptoms while helping to repair the stomach and intestinal lining. There are two products that work very well for gut healing:

Glutamine: Glutamine has been recognized as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that under normal circumstances the body can make (synthesize) adequate quantities, but, during times of stress, including fever, illness, dieting, and chemotherapy, the body cannot make a sufficient amount.

Scientific research has found that glutamine also aids in the normal functioning of the intestines. It has been recognized as the second most important fuel for the cells lining your colon and helps clear out waste through the kidney and liver.

Dosing Glutamine: 1 tablespoon first thing in the am and last thing before bed in 4-6 oz water. An additional 2-3 tablespoons throughout the day will add even more healing benefits.

You can find glutamine at any health food store or supplement store. I personally like to mix a heaping tablespoon of glutamine with Natural Calm Magnesium powder at night, as it helps sleep and digestive health.

GI Revive: This product contains things like deglycerized licorice and slippery elm that are geared toward increasing the integrity of the mucosal barrier as well as creating an environment that is not conducive to the growth of bacteria.

Dosing GI revive: 1 teaspoon, 3x/day on an empty stomach.

Honorable Mention: PROBIOTICS

No healthy gut protocol can be complete without a good probiotic. These are healthy microorganisms that support intestinal and digestive health, but are often decreased because of antibiotic use as well poor food quality . These probiotics come from fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, but also can be found as a supplement in your local health food store, typically in the cooler section. Look for acidopholis and bifidobacteria together in one product. I highly recommend a probiotic for all people, especially children. If your kids are too young to swallow pills, simply separate a powder capsule and sprinkle onto a bite of yogurt or applesauce. These probiotics are live microorganisms, so keep them away from heat and stored out of sunlight, preferably in the refrigerator. Even breast feeding mothers can help their child by sprinkling some probiotic powder on their nipple while feeding. This is a fantastic way to build a strong immune system in your baby as well as yourself.

This should give you a very good start on healing the gut and improving digestion so that you can feel better, sleep better, be healthier, lose body fat, gain muscle and reduce inflammation and disease.

The health of our digestive system really is key in establishing any kind of health related goals, as we’re only as strong as our weakest link. For many improved digestion is the missing link in improved health and longevity.

 

* This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your physician. You should consult with your physician or health practitioner prior to implementing any supplement regimen.

References:

  1. http://www.tuesdayminute.net/heal_the_stomach-biotics_research.html. “Healing the Stomach”, Biotics Research
  2. http://www.tuesdayminute.net/food_combining-biotics_research.html. “Food Combining”, Biotics Research
  3. Getoff, David NMD. Supplement DVD series – Digestive Enzymes.
  4. Digestive Enzyme Studies: http://preview.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=historysearch&querykey=1
  5. Designs for Health product tech sheet: Digestzymes180: http://catalog.designsforhealth.com/Digestzymes-180