Eat. Digest. Absorb By Claudia Guy, ND
Catalog Summer 2016
Eat. Digest. Absorb
Written by Claudia Guy, ND
After years of research and updated technology, the old saying, “you are what you eat” has become “you are what you eat, digest, and absorb.” Understanding the digestive system is opening worlds of knowledge into its vital role in many aspects of health. The digestive tract begins at the mouth and ends at the anus; each section dedicated to a precise duty and function. Complications with digestion can happen anywhere along the digestive tract, resulting in a multitude of digestive issues and associated health problems, most commonly heartburn, gastric ulcers, constipation, and diarrhea.
Enzymes speed up excruciatingly slow reactions. Digestive enzymes are in saliva, the stomach, the pancreas, and along the intricate folds of the small intestine. Our bodies are not designed to absorb foods in whole forms, but rather in their building blocks—amino acids, glucose and lipids. Lacking enough enzymes to breakdown food results in gas, bloating, diarrhea or indigestion. Indigestion was thought to result from too much hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Upon further examination, it was determined that indigestion is the result of not enough hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid stimulates the secretion of intrinsic factor, which binds to vitamin B12 and helps its absorption. Stomach acid is important for the absorption of essential minerals like calcium, iron and zinc. Further reducing stomach acid with medications leads to nutrient depletion and proliferation of H. pylori. Mental-emotional health also influences digestion. Stress and anxiety reduce digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, and breaks down the protective stomach lining, allowing the formation of gastric ulcers. Betaine Hydrochloride helps compensate for reduced stomach acid and helps with the assimilation of nutrients. Other essential enzymes important for digestion are lipase to break down fats, amylase for carbohydrates, protease for proteins, and alpha-galactosidase for gassy foods like broccoli and beans.
Zinc is an essential mineral in over 300 functions in the body. It is noted for its importance for immunity and wound healing. Zinc, when coupled with L-carnosine in a complex called PepZin GI, was studied in Japan in the early 1990s for its effects on healing ulcers along the digestive tract. These ulcers resulted from medications, chronic stress, inflammation, cancer therapies, and stomach infections like H. pylori. This bonded compound allows zinc to adhere longer to digestive ulcers, where it scavenges oxygen radicals by activating antioxidant enzymes, and stimulates the migration and proliferation of wound-healing cells. This process accelerates wound healing, and has been shown to reduce gastric ulcers by 75%. Its effectiveness has been proven in numerous clinical studies for speedy wound healing along the digestive tract without any side effects. L-Glutamine has long been a nutrient known to support the health of the gut. It is the preferred food of intestinal cells, helps repair intestinal ulcers and gut permeability, and pairs very well with PepZin GI.
Beneficial bacteria are mainstream because of the tremendous impact on digestive health. The bacteria on the human body outnumber human cells tenfold; meaning, we are essentially microbial colonies. These hundreds of species keep us alive by digesting and transforming nutrients, and interacting with our immune system. Roughly 70% of our immune system lines our digestive tract. The disruption of our microbial colony, called dysbiosis, results from over-the-counter and prescription drugs especially antibiotics, hormone replacement therapy and antihistamines, chronic stress, a sugary diet or the Standard American Diet (SAD), aging, and the overuse of household cleaning agents. The most common signs of dysbiosis are constipation and diarrhea. Though it is important to find and eliminate the cause of dysbiosis, the gut is always ready to start the healing process. Studies are supporting the use of probiotics even in clinical settings, especially after recovery from Clostridium difficile infections and antibiotic-related digestive side effects. Bacillus coagulans has been used in studies to significantly decrease abdominal pain and diarrhea associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Other studies show its efficacy in limiting the recurrence of C. difficile infection, which often results from antibiotic use. Lactobacillus rhamnosus was used in studies in which diarrhea was induced by rotavirus, a virus that causes gastroenteritis. This microbial specie was shown to alleviate gastroenteritis through reducing viral replication, and decreasing intestinal cell death, thus reducing diarrhea from gastroenteritis. Bifidobacterium breve was shown to reduce constipation and association with abdominal pain in both adults and children. Many studies on probiotics have shown its safety and efficacy, without side effects. These probiotics need prebiotics for fuel. Prebiotics are indigestible nutrients like inulin or fructo-oligosaccharides that provide food for microbes as they thrive in our digestive tract.
The digestive tract is always in healing mode, and quickly turns over old cells to promote healing and absorption. Optimal digestion depends on stress management, chewing habits, food choices and lifestyle. Proper digestion leads to optimal absorption and elimination. Consider supplementing with probiotics, PepZin GI, or digestive enzymes to reduce your chances of needlessly suffering from chronic digestive issues.
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