It’s no surprise that digestion sucks in America. We are a fast- food nation that is constantly eating and on the go, not to mention seeing commercial after commercial about Pepto-Bismol, Pepcid AC or whatever other kind of patch being thrown at the sinking ship of one’s digestive system.
Because of the compartmentalization in the medical field, many aren’t aware of how fundemental digestion is to an optimal quality of life. It is literally the first step in the process of building life out of the materials we ingest. Digestion can either enhance or hinder your ability to thrive. Many people today consider poor digestion to be like some kind of bothersome thorn in their side. Thank goodness for Tum’s, right? No, while Tum’s might work as a good bandaid on some occasions for some people, it can really exacerbate the problem and potentially create new ones, as you’ll learn.
In essence, the question that needs to be asked is, why would we use a patch when we could renovate the entire boat with equal effort and money spent!? Now that’s a good deal that no one deserves to miss out on! Little do the majority of people know, poor digestion is a result of not enough stomach acid, rather than too much. In fact, those over the counter and prescription antacids are making matters worse in the long run, not better. These medication act by shutting down the proton pumps in your stomach which allow you to digest your food. We need stomach acid in order to absorb any nutrients we eat.
The cause for acid reflux is hypochlorhydria, the valve that closes off the throat from the stomach doesn’t end up shutting like it’s supposed to. This allows gasses emitted by the putrefying food in our gut (because there’s not enough acid to digest it) are allowed to come up and burn our throat. Normally, if our body is functioning properly and our stomachs are plenty acidic, the valve would prevent any of this from coming near our delicate throat. This is how the body was made to work. However, any type of stress, infection, or even just rushing through your meal can shut off the parietal cells of your stomach lining so they won’t create stomach acid (HCl). Additionally, if your bile duct is clogged by reason of excessive inflammation, poor fat intake or possibly even parasitic infection, and your body can’t produce enough bile, then your stomach will not produce enough acid before that happens. This is to protect itself because bile neutralized the stomach acid and makes it suitable to go down to the rest of our digestive tract without burning actual holes in our intestine over time.
Various factors will affect our digestion but he important first step is HCl production. This is because if stomach pH is too high— alkaline, and not acidic— then the other necessary steps in the chain of digestion won’t happen. This can create a domino effect of dysfunction as the result. If the stomach never gets acidic enough, the gall bladder never secretes bile and the pancreas never secretes enzymes. As a result, the person ends up bloated with gas, burping and feeling overly full. This can also cause a diminished taste for meat. More serious issues can develop as food sits in the gut and essentially “rots”. This leads to widely known issues ranging from diverticulitis to ibs to crohns. Again, unfortunately, because conventional medicine tends to be so specialized and compartmentalized, these links aren’t necessarily made. Parasites, yeast overgrowth and H.Pylori (the bacteria that cause ulcers) are often the main contributing factor underneath it all. Unfortunately, though, medical doctors aren’t generally paid to find the cause. Instead, they are literally wined and dined by big pharmaceutical companies to sell their products, which are very often band-aids. These band-aids can potentially do more harm than one might realize though because as you take your over the counter Pepsid AC or prescription antacid (which the handout for by the way says that it is only supposed to be used for a few weeks!) makes your symptoms slightly less noticeable while your health deteriorates under the surface in other ways.
More advanced symptoms of chronic low HCl lead to not only things like Crohn’s, IBS and diverticulitis, but non-digestive symptoms that come as a result of malnutrition. There’s actually a reason why those on prescription antacids end up getting broken bones despite taking the extra recommended calcium. It’s because their body isn’t absorbing the minerals taken in due to insufficient acid which is required for proper digestive function and nutrient assimilation. Downstream negative effects of long- term, indiscriminate consumption can range from cognitive decline due to less nutrients to the brain, a buildup of endotoxins, to autoimmunity and allergies caused by food particles seeping into the blood stream being recognized as invaders. Liver issues are bound to result with an ever-increasing amount of waste built up in the body. Given that the liver has 500 different purposes that we know of, its dysfunction can lead to degradation of ones’ health in just about every way. So, the dire process of digestion is not something you want to simply band aid and leave functionally unaddressed. Instead, by understanding the whole picture, you can support the process physiologically and symptomatically, at the same time.
Digestion can be improved by getting all of the nutrients needed to create stomach acid, this includes magnesium, vitamin C, zinc and Vitamin B6. But because one would need to absorb them properly in the first place, taking an actual supplement of hydrochloric acid is beneficial to optimize digestion for many. Thankfully, HCl is available in supplement form at your nearest health food store, under the name Betaine HCl. Or you can purchase some here. It’s vital that you exercise caution in using HCl, as those with a history of ulcers will need to first heal and seal the gut. This means using things like bone broth, L-glutamine and Aloe Vera, for at least a couple months or longer depending on your gut lining and sensitivity to acids. For me, even when I had an ulcer, the only thing that actually took away the pain for me that I had at home was raw organic apple cider vinegar. There are many additional supplements which prove very helpful for those with this problem, called leaky gut. Some of these might include chlorophyll, Vitamin U also known as cabbage juice, or slippery elm. For any gut lining or digestive issue, I will say that I’ve had great experience using a decoction of marshmallow and slippery elm root, boiled and reduced down to half. Per recommendation of Dr. John Douillard (minus his suggestion to add licorice, which some auto-immune conditioned patients need to avoid) I let it sit over night and took a table spoon between meals. For me this brought quicker healing than almost anything I tried. Especially in severe cases, though, it is recommended these people see a practitioner who can address your unique individual needs. For instance, those with ulcers, yeast or maybe even SIBO, particular herbs and foods may need to be taken and others avoided completely for a time. If you do use HCl, be sure to take it with food as it’s sole purpose is to digest proteins and absorb nutrients out of the food that you take in.
Other digestive aids include enzymes which can be found in supplements or foods like sauerkraut, Kimchi, pineapple or papaya. Digestive bitters are perfect for when you’re on the go as is lemon or lime added to your water. The peel of citrus fruits are also very supportive to digestion. They can be dried, blended into a powder and encapsulated or stirred into a beverage. Ginger is a must have for anyone with digestive issues that is erring on the side of too little stomach acid (which is the vast majority of the population, explaining why we are so collectively malnourished). One way to greatly strengthen digestion is by making a ginger tea in the morning ad often as possible. To make the tea you’ll want to buy fresh, preferably organic ginger root at the store. Slice about an inch or two of the ginger and boil it for about 20 minutes on the stove, or until the water in the pot is reduced by half. Also helpful is peppermint (especially if you have a naturally hot constituency), chamomile to a milder effect, or fennel seeds prove beneficial. Furthermore, adding spices into your diet regularly like cumin and coriander seed as well as cardamom can work wonders for inherently strengthening your body’s own digestive power. There is a beautiful array of choices out there for optimizing digestion and in turn your well-being.
The moral of the story here is that if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, there is a reason. Always. We have been conditioned to disconnect from this fact, yet this is where all of our power lies. If your back or knee hurts, there is a reason. If your eye twitches, that is your body trying to indicate something is lacking! In fact, it would likely indicate you are low in minerals which is most likely because of… you guessed it– digestion! We are all deserving of happy healthy lives and we were equipped with bodies that tell us how to get there. I believe that this is possible for each and every one of us, and in order to get there, we all MUST digest our food. If we start digesting our food and absorbing the nutrients that we need to function, we no longer feel depressed due to a lack of B6 or tryptophan which make the feel-good hormone serotonin. This is why I say, we are all deserving and capable of wellness.
If we can start paying attention to signs from our body and listen, finding ways to nourish instead of numb them, chronic disease might actually feel like a solvable problem. People are unknowingly hindering their long- term quality of life for momentary relief with some less- than- ideal pharmaceuticals. It becomes a net positive when we actually try to understand the message behind to the discomfort. Then we can respond proactively and feel better from the inside out.
The simple step of supporting digestion has the power to transform. When the body is supported in what it was made to do naturally, astounding things can happen. As a result, quality of life can actually be enhanced as a result. When we give our bodies the supplies they need, we won’t unnecessarily turn to drugs with potentially far- reaching side effects.
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