Good health begins with the fundamentals. This includes supporting the most basic functions of the body such as: hydration, digestion/assimilation and elimination. When there are problems in these basic bodily functions, health often seems like an impossibility. These basic functions are easy to overlook, especially if your health is in a precarious state. Yet they are major components to what underlie all of the complex imbalances you may have.
Rule #1 Listen To Your Body
How ‘tuned in’ to your body are you? Are you one of those people who blindly follows medical or nutritional advice without having an intuitive sense of awareness for your own body and how it functions? Health really begins with you becoming ‘tuned in’ to your body in a deep way. In all honesty, the people who I have watched make the greatest improvements in their health, even those in a very ill state, are those who went all out with listening to their bodies, experimenting with what works and what does not. Those who are only willing to follow what they are told tend to have a very limited sense of their actual experience.
This honed in sense of awareness has to be earned. It can’t be given to you. Keeping a Daily Food Diary can be a wonderful starting point for figuring out the reactions you experience from your food.
Health is not a casual, passive experience. Health is not about blindly following medical or nutritional advice. Health is born out of the desire to be healthy. It is bold. It is fierce. You have to really want it. And to have health you have to work for it, both mentally and physically.
Make The Right Food Choices
Making the right food choices ensures that what you are putting into your body will result in the most productive and efficient energy. Eating in harmony with your type of metabolism should be a conscious act. Once you understand which foods work well in your body and which do not, it is easier to choose. Pay close attention to how certain foods affect you. If you want good digestive health you must be attuned to your food choices. Not only what you eat, but also how much you eat and the quality of the food you’re consuming.
Good Digestion Involves Many Factors
Eating too much food can result in digestive problems. As can eating the wrong foods for your body. Eating the highest quality foods that are in harmony with your body and your metabolism, which have been minimally heat damaged, is a wonderful way to spare your digestive health. I personally believe there is a lot of value to eating a good portion of one’s food raw as opposed to cooked because of the enzyme factor in raw food.
Personally, my body feels very good when I eat a good portion of my food raw. I do not limit this practice to only raw plant foods.
Eating too much food can cause digestive distress, expending too much energy to digest the food which uses additional amounts of hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes. Many clinicians believe that raw foods aid in the pre-digestive process in the stomach, sparing the amount of enzymes produced by the pancreas.
The Role of Digestive Enzymes
Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing your food. When you chew, saliva contains the carbohydrate enzyme amylase which initiates the digestive process. Neural lingual signals are sent to the stomach that food is about to enter. When food enters into the stomach, it can sit for upto an hour before the stomach begins producing hydrochloric acid.
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is not for digesting food. HCL’s primary functions are to sterilize food and to trigger the stomach to produce pepsin. Pepsin is a protein digesting enzyme whose role is to break down protein into peptides.
For the first 30-60 minutes after eating, salivary enzymes and any plant enzymes present can hydrolyze (break down into various components) proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Some studies indicate that as many as 40-85% of starches can be digested before HCL production is initiated. This hydrolysis takes place when the stomach’s ph is not very acidic. When the stomach’s ph lowers to about 3.0 after HCL secretion, pepsin continues to work. When the partially digested food arrives in the pylorus (bottom part of the stomach), the contents move into the duodenum (beginning of the small intestine). Two hormones get released (cholecystokokinin and secretin) and trigger the pancreas to release enzymes as well as bicarbonate needed for the remainder of the digestive processes.
After HCL production, the chyme (partially digested food on route to small intestine) is very acidic, and needs to be alkalized before entering the small intestine.
What is interesting and very important is that these 2 hormones (cholecystokokinin and secretin) tell the pancreas exactly how much enzymes and bicarbonate is needed. If there is adequate hydrolysis and pre-digestion which took place before HCL production, the amount of enzymes and bicarbonate needed to be produced by the pancreas is less. If the food consumed was lacking enzymes (because it was devoid of enzymes entering the stomach or if hydrolysis was minimal due to inadequate presence of digestive enzymes) the pancreas must work harder to produce more enzymes and to produce more bicarbonate. Obviously you see the potential problems that can arise in the digestive tract.
Once protein gets sufficiently broken down into smaller components, the amino acids enter the liver through the portal vein. If digestion is impaired and protein linkages are too large, the immune system is activated to attack these proteins. When fats enter into the duodenum, they are further emulsified by bile. Short and medium chained fatty acids (like the fats found in coconut oil and palm oils) are absorbed right into the intestinal wall. Long chained triglycerides (like polyunsaturated omega 3 and 6) must be accompanied with chylomicrons into the lacteals (lympahtic vessels) before entering the blood.
The process of carbohydrate digestion is more involved than the other two macro-nutrients. Starches and carbohydrates enter into the small intestine partially digested. The fibrous hull is indigestible as the body does not make the cellulase enzyme. The last stage of carbohydrate digestion takes place in the middle portion of the small intestine. The micro villi (small finger-like hairs in the small intestine) secrete the enzymes lactase, maltase and sucrase. Some individuals apparently do not produce sufficient amounts of lactase to digest lactose. If the micro villi are damaged, or are unable to produce sufficient enzymes to complete the digestion of carbohydrates, many different problems can take place.
If a person has an intolerance to gluten, gliadin, or a food sensitivity/allergy, then an immune response can take place in the small intestine, over time causing degradation to the digestive functions. Mal digestion will result in diminished gut function, chronic constipation, chronic inflammation, decreased intestinal flora and can degrade and derail normal immune processes.
The breakdown of the intestinal mucosal barrier can become a virulent process where the immune system is called to perform special tasks of repairing damaged cells. Over time, villous atrophy results in a total shutting down of gut function and is the precursor to autoimmune diseases such as RA and Crohn’s Disease.
“Leaky gut” or intestinal permeability is now considered to be a primary cause of numerous, chronic health conditions.
Saving Your Gut Means Improving Digestive Functions
I recommend numerous laboratory tests to identify the impairment of digestive functions, thereby creating strategies for improving function. The key point to remember is that good digestion is a primary key to good health. A lot can be done to take the work load off of the pancreas and liver.
If you eat cooked food you should take digestive enzymes that have a wide ph range. This is especially true if you have any degree of digestive distress. Plant-based digestive enzymes have a ph range usually between 3.0-9.0. This is ideal because plant-based enzymes (including raw vegetables) can work at many different stages of digestion, including the pre-HCL state in the stomach and even during HCL production. Animal based pancreatin only work in the small intestine, so they don’t spare your stomach’s function, and they won’t spare your pancreas’ release of enzymes or bicarbonate. I do advocate pancreatic enzymes in some circumstances however.
Because you want digestion to be maximized during the hydrolysis phase, prior to HCL production, it is important to take digestive enzymes at the beginning of your meal.HCL should be taken at the end of your meal so that HCL doesn’t interfere with hydrolysis and pre-digestion. If you have H-Pylori, DO NOT take HCL until you eradicate the infection.
Probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach so that the HCL of the stomach doesn’t interfere or destroy the bacteria. If there are issues regarding gut permeability, intestinal dysbiosis, these protocols need to be carefully put together on an individual basis. In some cases, improving the function of the adrenals may be necessary as well.
The pH of Your Stomach MUST Be Acid If You Want Digestive Health
Hydrogen is vitally important for your stomach’s production of HCL (hydrochloric acid). The higher the ph of the stomach, the weaker digestive functions will become.
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is the primary gastric acid secreted by your stomach. Its role in digestion and the regulation of ph in the body is critical for maintaining your health in a number of ways.
Hypochlorhydria, otherwise known as low hydrochloric acid (HCL) is a very common problem that can be both a cause of and a result of numerous health issues. There are a few different methods to effectively identify hydrochloric acid (HCL) deficiency, including blood tests, hair analysis tests and the Heidelberg HCL test.