Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite subjects: digestion. Yes, it’s really true, I do love how the body’s digestion system works. AND, many of my patients come in with all sorts of complaints and issues that actually come down to improving their digestion.
So where does digestion begin? The stomach? That’s the common thought, but it actually begins in the brain.
Just the thought of food gets your saliva going. Let’s do a little experiment. I want you to imagine a bright yellow lemon. Then see yourself cutting that lemon and squeezing out the juice into a cup. Imagine that you take a sip of that lemon juice.
Ok, did your mouth start to salivate? Well it should have if you were picturing the lemon and the juice.
The thought of food sends a message to the salivary glands, which secrete saliva into the mouth. That saliva is filled with enzymes to break down the food you eat.
Your mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and fiction so as you were imagining that lemon, your brain was telling your body, Get ready food is coming.
Health begins in the gut
Have you ever heard you are what you EAT? Well think of it more as you are what you CONSUME and DIGEST.
If you consume garbage, you will smell, look and feel like garbage.
Ok, so the brain activates the production of hydrochloric acid (HCL). This helps break down and digest your food in your stomach. The bummer is HCL decrease with stress and age. That’s why I often suggest digestive enzymes before a meal for many of my patients.
If there is not enough HCL, then you have heartburn
Gastrin tells your stomach to make more HCL and that’s a problem if you’re taking an antacid that is squashing your stomach acid. See the problem?
I had a patient once who was taking anti-acids for heartburn. Well, that meant that she was actually suppressing her HCL production. I didn’t have her go off the medication, but I did have her begin digestive enzymes before each meal. As her digestion got better she was able to reduce and eventually eliminate the need for medication.
One of my habits is to take the digestive enzymes before meals when I’m having a hectic or stressful day. I find on those days my eating is a little to quick and my breathing a bit too shallow so I know my stomach is not going to be able to properly digest my food.
Apple cider vinegar or digestive enzymes before meals can be very helpful
If you’re going out to dinner or traveling, taking HCL tablet before going out to eat will kill bacteria of any bad food that you may eat. If your stomach acid is too low, then you are more likely to get sick, food poisoning or colds.
Think of HCL as your first line of defense. It will keep potential bacteria and viruses from making you sick.
There is a very simple way to increase your HCL
Any ideas what that might be? Super simple, slow down and chew your food. Chewing your food 25-50 times is the easiest way to improve digestion.
I know 50 is WAAAy hard to do. But just start with 15 or 20 and take smaller bites of food. Put down your utensils between bites of food and never put more food in your mouth while you are still chewing. We’ve all done that one, but now I want you to have the awareness of slowing down and breathing. Be mindful of your eating.
Did you know that deep breathing stimulates that parasympathetic nervous system? That’s the system that calms you down. Unlike the sympathetic, which is fight or flight.
So not only chewing will improve your digestion, but also eating in happiness and calm.
Now, in the stomach it’s like the holding and mixing tank for your food.
If you drink too much water or liquids with your meal, it will decrease your HCL. Remember, you want good amounts of HCL to break down your food.
When you have low HCL it creates an alkaline environment. This is ideal for growing bacteria such as H-Pylori.
This is from Sue Ward, Certified Nutritionist, at Sanoviv, and here’s what she recommends:
- 1 glass of water upon rising (we recommend room temperature water with the juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon with a few shakes of cayenne pepper)
- Plenty of water throughout the day (especially in hot weather or when exercising)
- Limit water with meals (too much water with a meal or too close to a meal may interfere with or dilute digestive enzymes)
The bottom line is, not enough water will always be a problem to all body systems
Chronic dehydration is a big problem. It is MUCH more important to be sure you take in enough water than it is to worry about scheduling drinks at a specific time.
Sanoviv also recommends drinking pure water (filtered tap water is our first choice) and a Reverse Osmosis filter would be a good choice (be sure to add ¼ teaspoon of Unrefined Celtic Salt or Himalayan salt per gallon to put back some essential minerals).
Digestive enzymes help break down food and get the nutrients into your cells. If you over indulge, you can take digestive enzymes after a meal, and if you’re pregnant, digestive enzymes help with heartburn.
Sodas, caffeine, high sodium and high protein will deplete your body of calcium.
As part of the digestive process, the liver creates bile in the gallbladder, then releases bile to emulsify fat. This is where your vitamins KEAD are broken down. These are your vitamins that come from the fats you eat. So that’s why it’s so important to eat things like full fat dairy in order to get these vitamins through your food.
What happens if you don’t have a GB? Then you need to increase your fish oil supplementation
I’m always amazed at how easily a doctor will remove a gallbladder if there is any pain. My mom was having pain and they figured out it was her gallbladder. The doctor suggested she have it removed. She said No that she didn’t want to do that. He told her well then she would continue to have pain and eventually have to have it removed. So she called me and asked what to do. I did some research and found a great herbal supplement to help support her gallbladder function and I also put her on a liver support supplement. Know what? It’s been 3 years and she still has her gallbladder and she no longer has any pain.
What about the appendix?
Well, I agree that removal is needed if it’s infected, but I don’t agree with randomly removing it just in case something may happen in the future. If you don’t have an appendix, then you need to be taking HCL or digestive enzymes, as well as probiotics.
How can you tell if your digestion is working well? Ideally, you should be eliminating the food you ate 12 hours ago. So if you want to do a test, eat beets and then check your next bowel movement. You’ll know if you’re digestion is working well.
What else can affect digestion?
Why is gut health so important?
Did you know that 70-85% of your immune system is located in the mucosal lining of the GI tract?
And that 85-95% of your serotonin is produced there as well? Serotonin is your happy hormone so you want to produce as much of that as possible. Poor gut health can be a contributing factor to depression.
If your stomach is not doing a good job, then food particles will continue into the small intestines. This can cause a situation where bile is not released so your fats don’t get broken down and then that causes constipation.
Speaking of that, I had this patient who came to me with a primary concern of constipation. Honestly, she didn’t have a bowel movement for several days at a time. When I reviewed everything she was doing and eating, it turns out she was drinking very little water. I had her increase her water intake and by the next appointment she was no longer constipated. She could hardly believe all it took was drinking a bit more water. So, if you don’t have 1-3 bowel movements daily, it could be lack of water.
Daily bowel movements are essential otherwise that food is just fermenting in your intestines and causing the toxins to leak into your body. Constipation could also be a magnesium deficiency or stress. If you’re drinking more water and still having constipation then try adding magnesium without calcium, magnesium citrate, or high doses of vitamin C and Epsom salts baths.
So, here are the key points to remember
- Digestion starts in your brain
- Eat slowly and chew your food to increase HCL
- Drink 4oz or less of liquids with your meal to help digestion
- If you’re constipated, it might be dehydration
- Gut health is important to your mood as well as your immune system so do all you can to help it work effectively and efficiently
I know this was a lot of info, but what I encourage you to do it just pick one thing and start that today. You can start at lunch today by just chewing your food more thoroughly. Before you know it, it will be a habit for you and your digestion will thank you.
If you need help with any of this, I’m here to support and guide you. Have a great week. Donna