In this five-part series, we’ll be talking about all things digestion. Last week we went over the basics of digestion. Today we’ll be going through the signs and symptoms of a dysfunctional digestive system.
Do you get bloated often?
Do you find yourself belching after every meal?
Are you popping antacids like candy to ease heartburn and indigestion?
Do you wait days between poops?
Let’s just get something straight, guys. I don’t care what anyone tells you, these symptoms are NOT NORMAL.
The food you eat shouldn’t be making you feel ill.
If it is, it probably means one of two things: 1) you’re not filling up on whole, nourishing food, or 2) your digestion is impaired in some way.
Let’s go down the list shall we?
In your BRAIN
You’re stressed. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of how stress inhibits digestion in another post, but the basic idea is that you need to be in a relaxed state to digest your food. If you’re worried or distracted by something else, then your brain can’t signal the rest of the digestive system to prepare the necessary enzymes and mechanisms to fully break down your food. Remember, digestion starts up here!
In your MOUTH
You’re not chewing enough. This may sound inconvenient, but
you should be chewing your food 20-30 times before you swallow.
Trust me, you’re not doing this. At your next meal, I want you to STOP AND COUNT what at least 20 chews feels like and then pay attention to your normal eating habits.
When you don’t chew your food it doesn’t get broken down enough, which puts a bigger burden on your stomach to have to digest it. You also won’t produce enough saliva to secrete the proper enzymes that break down the carbohydrates in your food. This puts extra stress on your small intestine to break down that starch, which it most likely can’t do fully, so undigested starch enters your colon and ferments leading to Candida overgrowth and dysbiosis.
In your STOMACH
You’re not producing enough stomach acid.
Wait, but isn’t too much acid the cause of heartburn and acid reflux??
Actually, too little acid is the main cause.
Without enough HCl acid in the stomach, food will not get broken down sufficiently. It stays longer in the stomach and putrefies, which leaves you feeling indigested. The lack of acid can also cause a reflux, or backwards flow, into the oesophagus (remember the automatic swing door we talked about in Part 1?). Because your oesophagus is not made for acidic foods, when the partially digested foods that have been mixed with some stomach acid comes back up, then you’ll feel that burning sensation characteristic of acid reflux.
When you don’t produce enough HCl, your first line of defence against pathogens also disappears. When your stomach is acidic enough, then these bacteria and microbes are digested and become food. In a less acidic environment, however, these organisms (like H. Pylori, which is understood teh be the cause of ulcers) remain there, thrive, and wreak havoc in the GI tract.
Just a note, antacids are formulated to neutralise your stomach acid, so just think about what’s happening in there now!
In your PANCREAS
If the chyme coming into your intestines is not acidic enough then secretin will not be excreted to trigger pancreatic juice. Without pancreatic juice, sodium bicarbonate is not released to neutralise the acidic chyme, and it burns the mucosal lining. This leads to intestinal ulcers.
In your GALLBLADDER
Dysfunction in your gallbladder is related to a diet high in poor-quality fats or a low fat diet. “Bad fat” diets — which include hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and rancid vegetable oils — can cause the bile to thicken up and become viscous (think: cold oil coagulating in the drain pipe!).
Low-fat diets do not stimulate the release of bile, causing the bile to get old and viscous.
With the bile so thick and viscous, there is no way that the gallbladder can release it no matter how hard it tries to contract. NO BILE = NO DIGESTION OF FATS.
These undigested globules of fat start to go rancid in your colon, ultimately stressing out your liver and leaving you fatty acid deficient!
In your LARGE INTESTINE
Your large intestine deals with the leftovers from digestion. When everything up top isn’t working right, then what you get coming into the large intestine is maldigested food that is full of parasites, microorganisms, and undigested fats.
All this debris degenerates in the colon, causing dysbiosis or the imbalance of good and bad gut flora. Without the healthy bacteria, butyric acid (the food of your colon cells!) is not produced, which weakens the cells of the colon. This leads to inflammation, diverticula and loss of tone of the colon, making you more susceptible to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, and Celiac Disease.