Gut Heath Series...Improving your Digestion

So you have taken the necessary steps to start healing your gut. You have begun to remove things that are possibly causing harm to your gut in order to prevent any further damage. So what’s next?

The next important step in the healing process is to get the gut functioning optimally again. The two key functions of the digestive system is to help break down the food to allow the nutrients in the food to be absorbed into the body and eliminating the unneeded waste products out of the body. If this process is not working properly, our digestive systems become sluggish causing a variety of annoying digestive symptoms like gas (both ways), bloating, abdominal discomfort and so much more. Not to mention we aren’t getting the necessary nutrients from our food. So what can you do to help with this?

The digestion process is quite complicated as the food not only has to be broken down physically, but also chemically. Only when our food is broken down into its smallest components, they can be absorbed through the intestine into the bloodstream to be used as nutrients in the body. This means carbohydrates are broken down into individual sugars, fats are broken down into fatty acids and protein is broken down into amino acids. 

Enzymes are what makes this all possible. These are powerhouses in our body that help to speed up this chemical breakdown. There are three types of enzymes, amylases, lipases and proteases, which break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins respectively. Our body creates its own enzymes, however sometimes we are not producing enough to get the job done. This is especially true for those  experiencing chronic stress as it impairs our ability to make our own enzymes. 

If you are dealing with gas, bloating or indigestion, it might be a sign that you need a little enzymatic support or supplementation. Foods that naturally contain enzymes include: pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, kiwi, avocado, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and ginger.  Alternatively, you can take enzyme supplements. Aim for a product that includes all three types of enzymes, amylases, lipases and proteases.

Another key factor in your body ability to break down food is your stomach acid. Stomach acid plays a crucial role because it contains these enzymes needed to break down food and is necessary to absorb specific nutrients like B vitamins and iron. It also plays a protective role as the acidity kills unwanted bacteria and viruses that enter our body through our food. Without proper amounts of stomach acid, your body will struggle to digest food and can also put you at risk of an infection or gut dysbiosis.

Factors that can lead to cause low stomach acid include:

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine 

  • Nicotine

  • Antibiotics 

  • Nutrient deficiencies 

  • Stress

  • Hypothyroidism 

  • Gut Dysbiosis

  • Age (around the age of 40 we start to produce less)

Similar to when you have too few enzymes, if you have low stomach acid you can experience gas, bloating, indigestion, fatigue after meals and surprisingly heartburn and acid reflux! Many people think heartburn and acid reflux are caused by too much stomach acid, however it is most often caused by low stomach acid. Since low stomach acid slows down the whole process, our food isn’t moving into the small intestine the way it is meant to, instead the contents of the stomach reflux into your esophagus, causing that burning feeling. So medications to help with heartburn and acid reflux, which further reduce your stomach acid, make you feel better in the moment, but are making your condition and digestion worse in the long run. 

So what can you do to help with digestion when you have low stomach acid:

  • Drink 1-2 teaspoons of fermented unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar in a cup of water in the morning or before meals. It is important to dilute in water as the acidity can be harmful to your tooth enamel. Alternatively, you can take apple cider vinegar capsules to protect your teeth. 

  • Drink lemon in water in the morning or before meals. 

  • Drink more water.

  • Chew your food more thoroughly to assist in food breakdown.

  • Stop taking medication for acid reflux and heartburn (antacids and proton pumps inhibitors).

If you take some of these steps to support your enzymes and stomach acid, you will find your digestive system will be so much happier. You will be keeping things regular and getting rid of any pesky digestives symptoms. 

Want to learn more?