Health starts in the gut – that’s why understanding the role digestion plays is critical for your overall health. The human digestive process is a complex process with several stages. It begins with a very simple yet important step: chewing. The smaller the particles of food are, the easier they are to process and the smoother digestion will be.
From the mouth, food travels to the stomach, where it is further digested by stomach acid. We’re taught to believe we produce too much stomach acid, but the truth is we produce too little. Symptoms often perceived as being caused by too much stomach acid include bloating, belching, stomach pain, heartburn and bad breath.
Stomach acid performs many functions in the digestive process. It aids in the digestion of proteins, facilitates the absorption of minerals and other essential nutrients, controls harmful bacteria and parasites that may be present in our food, and stimulates the production of additional digestive enzymes. The prolonged usage of acid blockers can lead to an increased risk of hip fractures and increased risk of stomach and intestinal infections, pneumonia and food allergies. Betaine HCl, a natural stomach acid supplement, can be used to increase stomach acidity and prevent those uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Once the partially digested food mass leaves the stomach, it is subjected to pancreatic enzymes such as amylase, protease and lipase. These enzymes and the liver are essential for digestion and help to destroy harmful bacteria and parasites that have survived stomach acid. If we fail to produce the proper digestive enzymes, we cannot break down and digest our food properly. Digestive enzymes can be affected by a number of factors, such as stress, low thyroid function, meal size and composition, and age.
The final components of the digestive process involve bile salts. They are used to break down and convert fats so they can be absorbed. Individuals who have had their gall bladder removed should supplement their digestion with a supplement that contains ox bile with each fatty meal.
Added protection to the intestines comes from the use of probiotics and glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that serves as the primary fuel for cells that line the intestinal tract and helps support and repair the mucosal lining of the stomach. This is particularly helpful to treat symptoms of a leaky gut.
Understanding the role digestion plays is the starting point for alleviating other health conditions. And since health starts in the gut, I can help you truly get healthy.