All this talk about digestion and health but what how does it really work and more importantly why should you pay attention….
Our bodies are wonderful efficient living machines. We get all of our nutrients from food. Food is literally the fuel we need to survive. And that means food matters tremendously. All the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats we eat are used by our bodies so we can think, be happy, remember things, feel energized, move properly, not hurt, play with our kids, manage stress, and live an amazing life.
You truly are what you eat.
Everything you eat either promotes health and vitality or feeds disease and your chronic symptoms.
How you eat matters just as much.
Your digestion starts in your brain. When you see food and smell food your brain get signals start producing saliva filled with enzymes and other things to start breaking down the food in your mouth even before you take a bite. Your brain also send a signal to your stomach to start its release of important digestive juices to both digest your food and ward off any invaders that may be on your food. These two processes are crucial but unfortunately they may not always happen
When you are stressed, eat in a stressful state, eat standing, eat driving, eat on the go your digestion never gets started.
- In order to even begin the digestion process we must be in a parasympathetic state, which means we are relaxed, sitting down, and our nervous systems are taking a break from the sympathetic lifestyle we all live.
- Chewing our food is the next step. This may sound like a no-brainer to you but most people do not chew their food long enough swallowing it before the digestive enzymes in the mouth can do much work.
The mouth excretes amylase to start the breakdown of carbohydrates and when we miss this step we are in for trouble, as our stomachs are not prepared to make up for it. The stomach is laser focused on breaking down the protein you eat, but without the digestive juices signaled for release by a stressed out brain this doesn’t happen either. The large pieces of food still get churned around in the stomach but the carbohydrates ferment, the proteins putrefy, and the fats get rancid.
Normally the stomach uses hydrochloric acid and pepsin to break down protein into smaller peptides that then travel to the small intestine for further breakdown into amino acids. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach also creates an extremely acidic environment that is necessary to kill unwanted bacteria, viruses, and other toxic substances before they get any further.
Most people don’t produce enough hydrochloric acid to break down their food or kill pathogens. What happens? The fermented, putrefied, and rancid food sits around too long and causes belching and reflux into the esophagus, and bloating, gas, and discomfort in the intestines. Additionally the first major line of defense never occurs and
We are left unguarded while the bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens get free entry to our intestines
These pathogens thrive in our small intestines and make it their home. They attach to the walls, they cause inflammation, and they proliferate. The pathogenic bacteria will break down the barrier between our guts and the rest of our body compromising our small intestine lining and creating a leaky gut. Now the undigested food particles and the pathogens have a way into our blood and the rest of our body.
Poor digestion leads to a leaky gut, causing malabsorption of nutrients, absorption of toxic substances, an inflammatory response, and a compromised detoxification system.
Leaky gut becomes the root of our problems causing a cascade of symptoms from physiological pain, inflammation and atopic conditions to psychological imbalances ranging anywhere from mood and behavior disorders, to learning disabilities, to cognitive issues and more.
Read all about Leaky Gut here
What can you do today?
Key Tips for better digestion:
- Sit down when you eat,
- Take a deep breath
- Put your fork down between bites,
- Chew your food 20-30 times before you swallow it.
Have specific questions about your digestion? Want to look more closely at your Gut health? Contact me here or read this article about the GAPS Diet.