The Digestive System
by Laurie Lynch, N.D.
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Digestion is the process by which food and drink are made absorbable to the body. This is accomplished by the action of enzymes that the body secrets  into the alimentary canal, where foods are broken down into their simpler chemical compounds so that the body can use them to build and nourish cells and o provide energy. 

The Mouth is where digestion begins. Chewing breaks food down into smaller particles so it can be digested. If people do not chew food thoroughly because they eat quickly or have tooth problems, they increase the burden on the digestive organs. Saliva in the mouth contains starch digesting enzymes that begin breaking down starchy foods as soon as they enter the mouth.  So try this now.  Concentrate on producing saliva now. It also kills decay causing bacteria, thus eliminating tooth aches and preventing cavities.

 The stomach mechanically mixes food. It also releases substances that chemically break down food, such as hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) that helps digest proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals, maintains the acidity of the stomach, and helps kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites. When we take antacid drugs, hydrochloric acid production is blocked, preventing the digestion of proteins and minerals. This can cause wasting and death.

The small intestine is the primary organ involved in the absorption of nutrients. It receives enzymes from the pancreas and produces its own enzymes to further digest and absorb carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  In addition, bile salts secreted from the gallbladder help with the digestion and absorption of fats and the fat soluble nutrients vitamin A, D, E, and K.

 Anything that interferes with the secretion of enzymes or bile salts, or disrupts the absorptive walls of the small intestine, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, chronic antacid use, chronic diarrhea, pancreatic insufficiency, celiac disease, gall bladder removal, or coated intestinal walls may result in nutritional deficiencies and fat malabsorption.

 The large intestine (the colon) absorbs water, electrolytes, and a few vitamins. The length of time taken for food to pass through the colon largely depends on fiber intake. Mucus is secreted to protect the cells lining the colon from physical trauma and bacterial toxins.

Good salivary and gastric digestion is necessary for good intestinal digestion. When any part of the digestive does not function properly, then indigestion can occur. Indigestion (called dyspepsia) is a common disorder experienced by about 8,000,000 Americans per year.  About one fourth suffer from some degree of indigestion at any given moment. Indigestion accounts for up to 70% of all gastrointestinal complaints (wrongdiagnosis.com/indigestion/prevalence.htm).  

Why is indigestion a big deal?                                                                                                                              
Many people think indigestion is normal, and nothing to worry about. However, i
indigestion can indicate an underlying problem, such as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heart problems, infection, ulcers, gallbladder, liver, and/or pancreas disease. There are 2 major causes of diseases, cell toxicity and nutritional deficiencies, and not digesting properly is an underlying cause of both.                                                                                                                                                                             
What are the possible symptoms of indigestion?

  •  Stomach discomfort
  •  Heartburn
  •  Acid reflux
  •  Excessive burping/belching
  •  Bloating
  •  Nausea and/or vomiting
  •  Abnormal or slow digestion
  •  Fever and chills
  •  Sour stomach or bitter taste in the mouth
  •  Stomach rumbling
  •  Feeling overly stuffed after eating
  •  Feeling food stuck in the esophagus.

What are the possible causes of indigestion?  

  •  Duodenal , pyloric, or gastric ulcers
  •  Diseases such as gastritis, chronic appendicitis, partial obstruction of ileus or paralytic ileus. "There may be diminished secretion of GI juices in pernicious
    anemia, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, hepatitis, congestive heart failure, abdominal angina, migraine, epilepsy, chronic pancreatitis, or in patients with previous gastrectomies. 
  •  Electrolyte disturbances such as hypokalemia (diuretics) or hyperkalemia (Addison disease) and
  •  Anemia and diabetic acidosis may produce similar symptoms.
  •   Acid reflux /hiatal hernia
  •   Gastric or esophageal cancer, or pancreatic or stomach carcinoma    
  •   Malfunction digestive organs such as the gall bladder, liver, pancreas, esophagus, or stomach, as well as the muscles and nerves used in digestion.
  •   Thyroid problems 
  •   Infection
  •   Stress
  •   Allergies 
  •   Toxic chemicals such as antibacterial cleaning products, pesticides, and herbicides.
  •   Drugs such as antacids. Antacids prevent hydrochloric acid production or neutralize the acid in the stomach, preventing proper digestions and interfering with the absorption of nutrients, which leads to continued indigestion and severe protein, calcium, and other nutritional deficiencies.  Some other digestion- damaging drugs include antibiotics, anesthesia, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, antiplatelet drugs, blood pressure drugs, diuretics, pain relievers, synthetic vitamin pills, thyroid drugs, and hormone drugs such as estrogen and steroids.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the number of drugs and the use of some specific drug classes are significantly correlated to indigestion. The list of possible medications or substances mentioned in sources as possible causes of Indigestion includes:  A-Methapred,  ACTH,  Acthar, Action, Adalat Oros, Adlone,  Agon SR, Aldesleukin, Aldopren, Alin, Alin Depot, Amantadine, Amantadine Hydrochloride, Amlodipine, Ancolan, Angiotrofen A.P, Angiotrofen Retard,  Anpec, Antiotrofen, Apo-Diltiaz, Apo-Prednisone, Arthropan, Articulose-50, Aspirin and Codeine, Atorvastatin, Auscard, Benacine, Benadryl Cough Medicine, Bextra, Bisolvon Chesty, Bisolvon Elixir, Bisolvon Sinus, Bisolvon Tablets, Bromhexine, Brompheniramine, Calcium Carbimide, Carafate, Cardcal, Cardinol, Cardizem, Celebrex, Celecoxib, Cerivastatin, Chemistsí Own Chesty Cough, Chemistsí Own Chesty Mucus Cough, Chlorpheniramine, Choline Magnesium Salicylate, Choline Salicylate, Cialis, Colese, Colifoam Rectal Foam, Colofac, Coras, Cordilox, Cortic 0.5%, Corticotropin, Coryphen Codeine, Cryosolona, Dalalone L.A, Decadron, Decadron-LA, Decadronal, Decaject-L.A, Decorex, Decrin Powders, Dekasol-L.A, Delixir, Delta-Cortef, Demazin, Hot Lemon, Depacon, Depakene, Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakote Sprinkle, DepMedalone, Depo-medrol, Depoject, Depopred, Derm-Aid, Dexasone, L.A, Dexchlorpheniramine, Dexone L.A, Dibasona, Diltahexal, Diltiazem, Dilzem, Dimetane, Dimetriose, Dipsan, Doxercalciferol, Drisdol Liquid, Dur-Elix Plus, Duralone, Duro-Tuss Expectorant, Duro-tuss Mucolytic, Efcortelan, Egocort Cream, Empirin with Codeine, Endantadine, Felodipine, Felodur ER,  Fisopred, Flebocrotid, Fluvastatin, Fortovase, Gestrinone, H.P. Acthar Gel, Hectorol Capsules, Hexadrol, Hydeltra-T.B.A, Hydeltrasol, Hydrocortone Acetate, Hydrocortone Phosphate, Hydroxyethylrutosides, Hysone, I-MethasoneSolurex L.A, Inflamase, Inflamase Mild, Invirase, Isoptin, Jaa-Prednisone, Key-Pred, Key-Pred-SP, Lipobay, Logicin Expectorant, Mebeverine, Meclozine, Medralone, Medrol Tablets, Methdilazinea, Methylone, Methylprednisolone, Methylprednisolone Min-i-Mix, Metreton, Neurotonin, Nifecard, Nifedipine, Nifehexal, Norvas, Norvasc, Nositrol, Novo-Diltazem, Novo-Prednisolone, Novo-Prednisone, NovoNorm, Nu-Diltiaz, Nyefax, Orabase HCA, Oxpentifylline, Paroven, Pediapred, Perindopril, Piriton, Plendil ER, PMS-Amantadine, Polaramine Infant Compound, Pred Forte, Pred Mild, Predair, Predaject, Predalone T.B.A, Predcor, Predcor-TBA, Presoken, Presoquim, Proleukin, Ramipril, Robitussin ME, Saquinavir Mesylate, SCF, Sigmacort, Sildenafil, Solcode, Solu-medrol, Sophipren Ofteno, Squibb-HC,  Sucralfate, Symadine, Symmetrel, Syn-Diltiazem, Tadalafil, Teejel, Tilazem, Trendal 400, Trilisate, Tussinol Expectorant, Ulcyte, Valproic Acid, Vancocin,  Vancomycin, Vasocardol CD, Veracaps, Verahexal, Verapamil, Viagra, Vincentís Powders, Wimpred, Winsprin Capsules.  (wrongdiagnosis.com/indigestion/medic.htm)
  •   Enzyme and hydrochloric acid deficiencies (not excess stomach acid).
  •   Excess acid from foods such as dairy, animal products, processed foods, sugar, vinegar, cranberries, coffee, citrus and tomato products.
  •   Alcohol and tobacco consumption
  •   Swallowing excessive air when eating, chewing with mouth open, talking while chewing.
  •  "Washing down needed enzymes for digestion by drinking liquids with meals" (James F.. Balch,  Prescription for Nutritional Healuing, Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, N.Y., p. 216).
  •   Wrong food-combining  
  •   Eating indigestible foods such as fried foods "(which actually suppresses the secretion of gastric juice and slows gastric emptying)" (R Douglas Collins, 2007, Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)..  Other indigestible foods include chocolate, animal products, processed foods, genetically engineered foods, or eating too much food.  Itís impossible for the digestive system to function properly when excessive amounts or excessive combinations of cooked foods are eaten.  Good salivary and gastric digestion is necessary for good intestinal digestion.  Putrification and fermentation that begin in the stomach as a result of wrong combinations of food, continue in the intestine where bacterial decomposition sets in. As a result, such products as carbonic acid gas, alcohol, ammonia, and harmful bacteria develop, and constipation can occur.  Sometimes pathological microbes ascend into the small intestine and into the liver, appendix, and gall bladder, and the build up can cause allergies, appendicitis, or gall bladder attacks. 

What is the standard medical treatment for indigestion?

  •   Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Riopan,  Antacid side effects could include brain damage, anorexia, malaise, muscle weakness, softening of bones, allergic reactions, diarrhea, or constipation.  "Antacids are useless for gas and bloating" (Balch, p. 217).  "It has been noted that one of the most frustrating aspects of treating functional dyspepsia is that these traditional agents have been shown to have little or no efficacy. Antacids and sucralfate were found to be no better than placebo in a literature review" (wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigestion).
  •  "H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) include ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), and nizatidine (Axid) .... H2RAs treat symptoms of indigestion by reducing stomach acid" (wikipedia). Side effects of H2RAs may include headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and unusual bleeding or bruising, somnolence, mental confusion, agitation, psychosis, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, disorientation, male breast develop0ment and impotence, decreased white blood cell counts, allergic reactions, vasculitis, urinary retention, nephritis, heart problems, joint problems, skin reactions, immunodeficiency (Physicians Desk Reference). When these stomach acid reducing drugs are used, the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach to digest protein and minerals is reduced and protein and mineral deficiencies develop, and could be fatal.
  •  Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) include omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex), and esomeprazole (Nexium) ... treat indigestion symptoms by reducing stomach acid. ... Side effects of PPIs may include back pain, aching, cough, headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, gas, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea" (wikipedia.). Some of the other side effects mentioned in the PDR include fungal and other infections, esophageal ulcer, gastric nodules, polyps, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, diabetes, thyroid problems, bone disorders, leg cramps, agitation, amnesia, anxiety, confusion, convulsions, depression, hallucinations, hostility, nervousness, neurosis, hives and other skin, hair, and nail disorders, vision problems, deafness, impotence, kidney stones, sex gland disorders, speech disorders, sleep disorders, tremors, asthma and other allergic and respiratory disorders, pneumonia,  heart attack, stroke, circulatory fai8lure, blood pressure problems, numerous digestive disturbances, fatal anaphylactic reactions, and PPIs were shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  •  Prokinetics such as metoclopramide (Reglan), Metoclopramide,  "Prokinetics have frequent side effects that limit their usefulness, including fatigue, sleepiness, depression, anxiety, and involuntary muscle spasms or movements... drug cisapride which has since been removed from the market (now only available as an investigational agent due to serious adverse events such as torsades, and publication bias has been cited as a potential partial explanation for such a high benefit. Modern prokinetic agents such as metoclopramide, erythromycin and tegaserod have little or no established efficacy and often result in substantial side effects" (wikipedia)..

What can we do to prevent and eliminate digestive problems?

  •   Avoid foods and situations that cause indigestion and consume foods that are easy to digest.
  •  Avoid drinking liquid with food because it dilutes our digestive juices and inhibits digestion. If we drink our liquid Ĺ hour before eating, then we won't get thirsty, and if we don't drink again until the food has left the stomach, then the digestive system can perform better. However, an occasional small sip may not hurt.
  •  Combine no more than 3 or 4 cooked foods at a meal.
  •  Rotate cooked foods every 3 or 4 days. Eating the same cooked foods every day can wear out the pancreas by continually forcing it to produce the same enzymes over and over again.
  •  Eat fruit 1/2 hour before and not until 2 hours after food.
  •  Don't combine animal protein and carbohydrates, or better yet, avoid all cooked animal protein.  Dr. Loraine Day explained that meat putrefies in 3 hours.  Humans have a 30 foot wound around intestine which makes it impossible to  eliminate the meat before it  putrefies, so it rots and coats our intestinal tract preventing proper nutrient absorption and elimination. A cat, on the other hand, has a straight, one foot long intestine that can eliminate the animal protein in 3 hours before it putrefies, and cats have enzymes and 20 times the protein-digesting hydrochloric acid as humans. We do not have the enzymes to digest cooked animal protein or enough hydrochloric acid to digest meat, and meat-eating uses up what little hydrochloric acid we have to digest minerals and vegetable protein, so we become deficient in protein and minerals, and can develop osteoporosis and other mineral deficiency diseases as a result. So it is obvious that cats are meant to eat animal protein and humans are not. 
  •  Don't combine sweet fruit with acid fruit, don't combine melons with anything.
  •  Take smaller bites, chew the food well, and swallow slowly. Remember when our grandmothers told us to chew each bite 100 times?  Smaller food particles leave the stomach faster, and chewing promotes saliva that contains starch-digesting enzymes. Liquefying food in a blender helps, but we still need to chew to mix it well with the digestive secretions in our saliva .
  •  Eat 5 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.  The size of a meal shouldn't be more than the size of your stomach. To estimate the right size, open your fist so that the tips of the thumb and forefinger touch. Your stomach is about the width of this open fist, but twice as long. 
  •  Don't lie down with a full stomach; wait  2 or 3 hours for the food to leave the stomach.  
  •   Avoid fatty foods in the evening. Fat takes longer to leave the stomach.
  •   Relax. Stress produces acid. Relaxation/stress reduction techniques and exercise are helpful.
  •  Take a leisurely walk after eating to help the food go down and digest easier, and do stretching exercises..
  •   A Wellness Consultation with Laurie Lynch, ND can give information on your underlying causes of indigestion and other health concerns and on the specific foods and herbs that can best aid your body to heal itself.

Here's a brief general list of easily digested foods and herbs that promote digestion:                                                                                 
Raw foods contain their own digestive enzymes and cleansing fiber and provide the maximum amount of energy with minimal effort.  Raw vegetables help neutralize excess acids in other foods.
Raw fruits are easy to digest only when eaten on an empty stomach.  Raw pineapple and papaya contain protein-digesting enzymes. Enzymes in raw honey also aid digestion.

Herbs that aid digestion include alfalfa, caraway seeds, garlic, red pepper (aids digestion by stimulating the flow of both saliva and stomach secretions), fennel, anise seeds, cumin, basil, turmeric, ginger, thyme, rosemary, slippery elm, peppermint, and chamomile.  And our great grandmothers told us that they put these herbs in the food just to make it taste good!   I think grand mothers knew more than we gave them credit for.                                                                                              

Here's a good, easy-to-digest recipe for babies or anyone who wants to be healthier and more energetic

BLENDED ORGANIC SALAD
1 CARROT, grated                                                  1/2 BELL PEPPER
1 stalk CELERY                                                       1 stalk BOK CHOY
ROMAINE LETTUCE                                             1/2  Tbsp fresh LEMON JUICE                                                           
1 Tbsp OLIVE OIL                                                   dash BRAGG'S AMINOS
1 Tbsp fresh BASIL                                                  1 Tbsp ALOE VERA (freshly picked from the live plant)

Cut raw veggies into small pieces and mix all ingredients in blender. 

 

 To learn how to quickly improve and regenerate the digestive system with the right herbs and nutritional supplements, call for a Wellness Consultation today! 
Laurie Lynch is a Wellness Consultant, Naturopathic/ Nutrition Doctor, Master Herbalist and certified Hypnotherapist at the Living Well Health & Education Center, (910)
426-5159.

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      Copyright © Laurie Lynch, N.D., 2008-2011