Hey folks, if you haven’t read my previous post “Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works” I recommend reading it to give you the background necessary to get the most out of this post, and help resolve your digestive issues.
Your digestion works top to bottom (pun intended) starting with your brain ( top) and the anticipation of food, and ending with elimination (bottom).
When addressing any kind of digestive dysfunction we need start from the top and work our way down. Problems start uphill and roll downhill in our digestion.
Before getting started I want to ask if you ever experience any of the following ?
Constant burping (especially around meals)
Feeling of excessive fullness after eating
Gas within 1 hour of eating
These are all common signs that dysfunction is happening in your gut, or that the body is experiencing a healing reaction.
Most likely the body is trying to send you message that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.
Most people experience the symptoms listed above and brush them off as “normal”. We tend to use medication to suppress symptoms, leaving the underlying cause unaddressed.
Enough with the doom and gloom though! the purpose of this post is to help inform and arm you with the knowledge and tools to begin solving your own digestive problems.
Throw away your package of tums and keep reading if you’re interested in improving your health and empowering yourself.
The Brain: Rest and Digest
We need to be in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) to allow the body to get ready for food. This sets the stage for proper breakdown of foods in the stomach.
As a culture we are stressed out, and many people shovel lunch out of their tupperware into their mouth barely chewing.
All the while working on a on a new cover letter for the TPS report...your digestion did not get the memo.
Taking the time to get away from screens and relax around your food is crucial. It allows you to better digest foods , and gets you in tune with with your hunger. Are you still eating because you are hungry or are you in a robot like work mode ? Aim for eating until you are no longer hungry for the next bite, not until you are full.
The Mouth: Breaking It Down
We all know the person who inhales their food at a remarkable rate, then complains about how full they are or how bad their stomach hurts. Don’t be that guy.
Chewing is a fundamentally ignored part of our digestion, I’ll admit it is not sexy to talk to people about chewing and how their mom was right all along.
When you don’t adequately chew your food the brain doesn’t get the signal to prepare the stomach for the incoming food. Stomach acid is a critical part of our digestion, when we lack it we can’t properly break down and digest foods.
When we do not chew well enough passes the rest of that burden on to the stomach, and the production of saliva is not triggered. Who cares about saliva right ? it’s just our spit...well not exactly.
Saliva: Why Give a Spit ?
Out saliva is a complex blend of electrolytes, hormones and enzymes that play roles in our digestion. The main enzyme in our saliva is amylase which is responsible for the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates.
If we do not chew well enough amylase is not secreted and the breakdown of carbohydrates does not begin in our mouth.
By not properly breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth we leave the burden to finish job on our small intestine and pancreas, but without adequate chewing the stomach and pancreas can’t do their own job as well.
The key here is to chew your food well, at least 20-30 times per bite. Your food should be a liquid when you are done chewing. To help try putting your fork down in between bites.
The Stomach: All About The Acid
As you learned from reading my last blog post, the stomach is all about creating an acidic environment so foods can be broken down and trigger enzyme release.
But there are a number of factors that prevent the body from creating the necessary acidic environment some include:
Not relaxing before Eating
Not chewing foods well enough
Excess carbohydrate consumption
Nutrient deficiencies ( Zinc & B Vitamins)
Allergies (Food or environment related)
The above bullets describe the average american which makes it safe to assume that most of us are not producing enough stomach acid to digest foods optimally.
So what happens when we don’t have enough stomach acid ? Nothing good...
To begin with our first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms is gone. The acidity of the stomach prevents bacteria, viruses and parasites from living and making it into our digestive tract and then blood making us sick.
The Heartburn Myth
When we are deficient in stomach acid the ability to break down foods and trigger further digestion is hindered. The partially digested foods sit and wait for the next step in digestion.
Over time these foods sitting in our gut start to ferment causing bloating and pressure to build. The pressure has to be relieved and the valve between our stomach and esophagus is not meant to open upward - but with enough pressure it will be forced open.
The release of pressure upwards creates a reflux or backward flow of the acidic foods from the stomach into the esophagus. It burns the esophagus because it is not made for an acidic environment like the stomach.
Supporting Your Digestion Tips:
Relax Before Eating - Put away all electronics and move away from the TV. Smell, see and even touch your food before eating to allow the body to begin digestion, and get ready to break down food.
Support Stomach Acid Production: Drink 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in 4 ounces of water 15-20 minutes before a meal to kickstart HCL production. You can use Digestive bitters 15 minutes before a meal or use a HCL supplement.
Drink Slowly At Meals: If you throw back two full pint glasses of water along with a lot of food at meal this will only further dilute stomach acid. Try to consume less liquid with meals and Sip slowly when you do.
Chew Your Food Well: No one wants to hear that their mom was right, but she was. Try chewing each bite 20-30 times, it should be closer to a liquid than a solid by the time you swallow it. Try putting your fork down between bites as reminder.
Hydrate Throughout The Day: We are all chronically dehydrated. Too much fruit juice, coffee and soda and not enough clean pure water. Digestion is a taxing process for the body and many fluids are required , the base of those fluids is...water.
Eat Slower and Take Pauses: By chewing your foods better you will naturally slow down your eating a bit. This will allow your body to signal when you are no longer hungry for the next bite. Ask am I really hungry for the next bite ? When we overload our digestion with too much food we get bloated, gassy and have digestive pain.
Consume Less Alcohol and Processed Carbs: By consuming these alone or together at meals we squelch the production of stomach acid. Not to mention the extreme blood sugar spike and potential fat gain.