Why is digestive health so important?
Good digestion is fundamental to our health. It all starts with our five senses that we use to prepare our bodies for the arrival of food. We use sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste to tell us about the shape, texture, taste, crispness and temperature of food. When those senses activated the body starts preparing for the food arrival by producing extra saliva in our month. Saliva contains water, electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes. The enzyme amylase can break down starch into simpler sugars such as maltose and dextrin that can be further broken down in the small intestine. The mucus in saliva is extremely effective in binding masticated food into a slippery bolus that (usually) slides easily through the oesophagus without inflicting damage to the mucosa. About 30% starch digestion takes place in the mouth cavity. When the pre-digested food passes through oesophagus the stomach sphincter, also called pyloric, opens to let food in. Strong acid and enzymes are secreted to further digest food. From there the digested bolus moves to small intestine where it continues the process of breaking down food by using enzymes released by the pancreas and bile from the liver. Small intestine made up of three segments the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The duodenum is mainly responsible for continuing the process of breaking down food, with the jejunum and ileum being mainly responsible for the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. So, for the last stop the digested bolus now moves to large intestine consisting of cecum, the ascending (right) colon, the transverse (across) colon, the descending (left) colon, and the sigmoid colon which connects to the rectum. Waste left over from the digestive process, is passed through the colon by means of peristalsis (contractions), first in a liquid state and ultimately in solid form as the water is removed from the stool. A stool is stored in the sigmoid colon until it empties it into the rectum once or twice a day. The stool itself is mostly food debris and bacteria. These bacteria perform several useful functions, such as synthesising various vitamins, processing waste products and food particles, and protecting against harmful bacteria.
As you can see from this simple explanation how complex our digestive system is and how many processes that are involved, can go wrong. Unfortunately, digestive problems are very common, which can cause debilitating symptoms such as abdominal bloating, excessive burping, flatulence, gastric reflux, constipation/diarrhoea, abdominal cramping and nausea. Underlying imbalances such as hypo or hyperchlorhydria ( low or high stomach acid), sub-optimal enzyme secretion, problems with synthesis or flow of bile, dysbiosis including yeast or bacterial overgrowth, parasitic infections or diminished levels of friendly bacteria and intestinal hyper-permeability ( known as a “leaky gut”) can be involved in the creation of the symptoms that one experiences. It’s worth mentioning that sometimes more unspecific, systemic symptoms may also be related to imbalances of the gut. Such a symptoms include skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, muscular and cognitive fatigue, low mood (anxiety, depression), behavioural problems, headaches to name a few.
Identifying and addressing GI imbalances is typically one of the first steps to the better health. This might include seeing qualified nutritional therapist who may suggest functional testing to identify triggering factors. Gut protocol may be implemented, which follows 5 “R” approach - remove, replace, repopulate, repair and re-balance. As well as lifestyle intervention and dietary advice.
In the clinic I find that this approach works really well as a start of the clients healthier lifestyle journey, therefore I have created a 6 week gut program that will give your digestive system boost to perform better enabling you to feel more empowered to continue on your new healthier lifestyle journey.
If you would like you know how can I support you to overcome digestive symptoms and feel better then please give me a call for free 15min chat.