What is Healthy Digestion?
Just because something is common, typical, and frequent in our society does NOT mean it is normal! It may be common for you to experience reflux after eating and you've struggled with constipation for so long you don't even think about it anymore - but this is not healthy digestion.
So, what is normal, healthy digestion?
To answer that you need to first understand that your gastrointestinal tract (GI) can be thought of as a tube from your mouth where food enters and winds down to your anus where waste exits. Along the way digestion occurs, which is the process of breaking your food down into nutrients for your body to absorb.
This tube is like the "outside world" passing through your body (From mouth to anus) and there is a highly protective system along the way designed to not let any pathogens/poisons get through to the inside of your body (into your blood stream, protected organs, etc.).
When this system works well - you experience healthy digestion which involves eating food, digesting quickly and a prompt, easy elimination of waste.
Those in nutrition love to liken a healthy digestive tract to that of a dog. The dog eats and 30 minutes later has a bowel movement (bm) in the backyard. Of course, we prefer you stay inside. Seriously though, it is normal and healthy to have a bm 3 or more times a day without any pain or straining. Read more in the article on constipation HERE.
When your digestion is working well, you will feel like a well-oiled machine.
When it is off, there is a cascade of problems that occur beginning with mild discomfort and then chronically it will wreck havoc creating potential immune, endocrine and neurological dysfunction. Read more about the Gut-Brain Axis HERE. Think constantly sick, tired, allergies, mood swings...
The symptoms below are all signs that your digestion is NOT NORMAL and your body is screaming for your attention:
Belly distention/feeling over-full
Stomach or gut pain/burning/cramping
Loss of taste or smell
Loss of appetite or revulstion to smell of cooked foods
When you take something to get rid of the symptom - you run the risk of now "shutting up" your body from talking to you and not solving the problem that caused the symptom in the first place. See Tums example below.
Digestion in your body is such a complex, incredible piece of machinery. Here's the lay-person, cliff note version:
Food in mouth - chew to begin breaking it up, release saliva which begins the process of dissolving it and sends a signal to the rest of the GI tube - "Hey, food incoming...hit your battle stations!"
Swallow - moves food through esophagus and into stomach
Stomach - HCL (stomach acid) released and starts breaking food down into a mush that is released about a spoonful at a time into your small intestines
Small Intestine - enzymes and bicarbonate from the pancreas help to extract nutrients from the food which then permeate (pass through) the gut lining and into the bloodstream as fuel for the body
Liver/Gall Bladder - food does not pass through these organs - they aren't part of the tube - however they are essential in providing bile formation and secretion which is what emulsifies (breaks down) your essential fatty acids
Large Intestine/Colon - reabsorbs water and processes waste (what your body didn't need/use for fuel) and elimates from the body
This is a basic understanding but I believe it allows you to be more conscious of what you ask your body to do. For example:
If you eat too much at one time then gaining weight is actually your smallest problem. It's what happens when food isn't properly broken down in your stomach that sets up a world of hurt...kicking acid from putrefying protein into your esophagus (heartburn/acid reflux). Which then sets up the stomach to kick food into the small intestine too soon - you really didn't give it much of a choice when you ate that mexican buffet...twice!
If food kicked into the small intestine isn't processed correctly by the stomach, you run the risk of not signaling the pancreas to release bicarbonate and enzymes. Now you'll have bulky food moving through the small intestines without correct nutrient absorption which equals malnutrition. You can be 100 pounds overweight and be malnourished because of the foods you eat and/or your digestive health.
How about if you are popping Tums after every meal?
It's because you have too much stomach acid, right? Wrong - you can't have too much stomach acid. Your stomach is designed to be an acid pit ready to break down that food and protect you from bacteria, viruses, & parasites.
When you experience Heartburn/Acid-Reflux that is most likely acid from putrefied food in your stomach that is backing up into your esophagus. There isn't supposed to be any acid in the esophagus and it can tear through the lining - ouch!
Why do you have acids from putrefied foods? Because you aren't breaking it down in your stomach because you don't have enough stomach acid.
So, taking Tums makes the cause of the problem even worse and is a cycle you want to halt and repair as soon as possible. If this is you, solve your upper GI problem before you can deal with any other issues...
The Effects of Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid/HCL)
Poor nutrient absorption (malnutrition)
Weak bile secretion (can't emulsify fats)
Susceptible to pathogens
Mineral deficiencies (Ca, Fe...)
Oh boy...I could go on forever. It is fascinating to me because I personally experienced the long term and extremely serious side effects of poor digestion. Read more of my story HERE.
Bottom line: HEAL YOUR GUT.
Desire and work toward creating healthy digestion and a whole new set of expectations for vitality in your life!
Serving Hands-On Healing,