Many people suffer from various digestive disorders however, how these come about is less talked about.
The gut is a huge organ and has many functions.
It is a sensory organ with an abundant nervous system.
It is also primary immune organ, a great source of microbial and environmental antigens.
When the gut becomes imbalanced (through the use of antibiotics, stress or an unhealthy diet) then the presence of such a large number of pathogenic microbial cells can generate all sorts of gut related problems.
It has been linked to almost every health condition, including allergies, skin conditions, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gluten related problems, diabetes, depression, autoimmunity, etc.
In keeping the bowel healthy the diet is obviously the main concern.
The diet ideally shouldn’t contain refined white flour, refined sugars, preservatives, colourings etc. and should contain lots and lots of fruits, vegetables, RAW foods, sprouted seeds, and small amounts of protein (especially oily fish but not excessive red meats).
It is very important that the body can digest efficiently. It this is not the case then foods will not be broken down and processed sufficiently and poor health will result.
Poor digestion can come about by faulty eating habits, not taking time to eat and eating too quickly, stress, illness and age.
Digestion starts in the mouth, with the production while you are chewing of salivary amylase which breaks down starch. Therefore it is extremely important for good digestion to thoroughly chew your food.
The second stage of digestion is in the stomach where the cells of the stomach lining produce Hydrochloric acid which provide the right conditions for the enzyme pepsin to start the breakdown of proteins. The food in the stomach must also be adequately acidified prior to it moving on into the duodenum as with out this acidity the further output of enzymes from the pancreas will not occur.
This is why the use of anti-acid preparations can be detrimental to aiding good digestion as they prevent the adequate production of hydrochloric acid and in turn the adequate production of digestive enzymes.
As people age they also lose the ability to secrete sufficient acids and consequently can have poor digestion and poor absorption of nutrients.
Food enzymes can work wonders however for problems such as reflux and yes, also gluten often intolerances, especially when there is difficulty in eating sufficient raw foods as in often the case in colder weather.
The ones I use do not contain animal products or added HCL acid. They are very gentle on the stomach and can help to heal the stomach even when there has been use of LOSEC or similar medications.
See page on Enzymes – facts.
Once the food has passed into the duodenum the intestinal phase of digestion proceeds in which the acidity of the intestinal content triggers the release of two hormones called secretin and cholecystokinin, which in turn stimulate the pancreas to produce further digestive enzymes (proteases, amylases and lipases).
The final part of the digestive tract is the large intestine or the colon. The bacteria that live in the colon are of tremendous importance.
When these bacteria are living in the correct balance we have a healthy intestinal tract with efficient elimination of waste matter, good nutrient absorption, regular bowel motions of the correct consistancy with no gas and no discomfort!
Probiotics also have specific uses….. Such as specific strains of lactobacillus rhamnosus for eczema and allergies (if used in high doses) or specific strains of lactobacillus plantarum for inflammatory conditions. When any probiotic is used it needs to be of a strain that is resistant to degradation by acids and bile so it actually survives transit of the upper digestive tract.
See page on Probiotics.
The integrity of the bacteria in the bowel is controlled by both the acidity of the mucosa, by the amount of fibre in the diet and the balance of the dietary intake.