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Digestive health is more than just getting food in your stomach to satisfy hunger pangs. It’s okay to enjoy delicious food.
Healthy digestion is the ability to easily digest food. These nutrients are then used to fuel, cell growth, tissue repair, and energy.
The digestive system (also known as the gastrointestinal track (GI tract) is basically one long passageway made up of many winding tubes. It starts at your mouth, then goes down into your stomach, small and big intestines and finally out to the other end.
The liver, gallbladder and pancreas are all organs and glands that aid digestion.
How the Body Digests Food
1. Mechanical Digestion: This refers to the physical mashing, grinding and churning food that increases the food’s surface area and prepares it for absorption (1).
The action begins in the mouth with chewing, and continues in the stomach to prepare it for entry into our small intestines where the majority of our nutrients are absorbed.
2. Chemical Digestion: This refers to the process of eating food through the use of digestive juices such as stomach acid (important in vitamin B12 and mineral absorption), and bile (fat digest) that are made by the liver (2).
Digestive enzymes are also helpful to the body. Enzymes, which are types of proteins that accelerate biochemical reactions, are called catalysts.
There are many types of enzymes within the body. Digestive enzymes break down macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins into smaller compounds. This allows the body to absorb the nutrients better.
Each digestive enzyme only breaks down one type of nutrient. For example, a protein-digesting enzyme will only be able to break down the grilled chicken you ate for lunch, but not the fat from avocados or French fries. You can get another enzyme to do that!
Digestive enzymes are produced in the stomach, small intestine and pancreas. They are released when there is a first taste, sight, or even thought of food.
3. Microbial Digestion: The microbiome, which is a trillion-strong community of bacteria in our guts, plays a major role in digestion. These friendly bacteria help break down fiber found in foods like fruits and veggies and turn it into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) which provide a source of energy for the cells like those in your large intestine (3).
Researchers have discovered that the health of our microbiome can impact almost every aspect our health including our immunity, hormone balance and mood.
What Causes Digestive Trouble?
Although our digestive systems seem quite simple, they can be easily out of balance.
These are some of the things that can impact our digestion:
Too many processed, fatty, or sugary foods
Not enough fresh vegetables, fruits, or whole grains
Lack of probiotics and fermented food
Too little or too much fiber
Stress and anxiety
Alcohol, smoking and drugs
Your body might have difficulty breaking down foods if you experience frequent digestive discomfort after eating.
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These Are Some Signs That Your Digestive Health Could Be Improved
1. You Feel Full of Air (Translation : You feel gassy)
If you experience excessive bloating, gas, or belching after eating, this is an indication that your digestive problems are serious. This “full-of-excess air” sensation can be mildly to extremely painful.
Certain foods like lentils, peas and onions, as well as carbonated beverages, can cause gassiness. Gas can also be caused by eating too much, drinking too fast, talking while eating, and overeating.
GERD, which causes stomach acid to rise into the esophagus, can cause constant bloating or belching. If your microbiome is out of balance or unhealthy, gas can form at the bottom of your body. This can make it difficult to break down certain foods.
Low levels of digestive enzymes can also cause gas. This can lead to digestive problems and other health issues.
2. Certain foods can cause poor reactions
You may have food sensitivities or intolerances if certain foods cause discomfort in your digestive system.
Both can have similar symptoms. They are however, different.
An immune reaction to food is called a food allergy. Your immune system responds to food allergies by going on defense when it detects an offending food. This can lead to symptoms such as itchy eyes, itchy skin, cramps, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and itchy lips. Food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis and even death if they are severe.
Food allergies include peanuts, egg, milk, shellfish and soy. Food allergies are not curable. Avoid allergic foods.
Food intolerances can be a sign that your body isn’t able to digest certain foods. After eating, symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, and cramping can be common. Food intolerances, unlike allergies, aren’t life-threatening. Sometimes you can eat small amounts of food that you don’t have any symptoms.
Food intolerances are often caused by enzyme deficiencies or sensitivity to food additives.
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include the inability to digest milk proteins due to a lactase enzyme deficit.
Other intolerances are gluten (a protein found in wheat) and histamines (found in foods such as wine, avocados and cheese).
You may have a food intolerance if you are unable to digest certain foods or your microbiome is not balanced.
3. Heartburn (Acid Reflux).
Heartburn refers to an unpleasant burning sensation that is felt around the breastbone. It is caused by stomach acid entering the esophagus. This is often felt right after eating. It can also occur at night when you are asleep or after eating too close to bedtime.
Heartburn can occur if you are overweight, pregnant, under stress, or have hormone imbalances. Heartburn can be triggered by acidic, spicy, or fatty foods, such as tomatoes and coffee, or anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDS).
GERD is a condition that causes heartburn more than once per week.
Some other common symptoms are:
Feeling like you have something in your throat.
Hoarseness or sore throat
GERD, if not treated, can cause scarring and damage to the esophagus. It can also irritate the lining of your throat, airways and lungs. This can make breathing difficult. Although doctors aren’t sure of the link, around 75% of asthma patients also have GERD. Research suggests that GERD could increase the risk for esophageal carcinoma (7).
Seek medical attention to determine the root cause of your heartburn.
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img alt=”A diagram showing the digestive system using gut friendly foods.” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-12159″ height=”775″ loading=”lazy” src=”https://www.brusselsstandard.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/How-To-Improve-Digestion.jpg” width=”1200″/>
4. You have symptoms of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria).
Although it may seem counterintuitive, heartburn could be caused by your stomach producing too much stomach acid. This can cause painful bubbles of acidic gases to rise from your stomach into your throat and esophagus.
As we age and are subject to stress, our stomach acid levels can drop. Low stomach acid can also be caused by vitamin B or zinc deficiency. Pylori, which is a common cause for gastritis or stomach ulcers, can be(8)
Low stomach acid symptoms include:
Bloating, Burping, Gas
Undigested Food in Stool
Hair loss and weak fingernails
Too little stomach acid can lead to poor digestion, which can result in similar symptoms to too much. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies as stomach acid is required for the proper digestion of protein, vitamin C, iron and magnesium.
5. You are a regular irregular
Constantly having diarrhea or constipation (more than three times per week) is a sign that your digestive system is not working properly.
Frequent or chronic diarrhea can be caused by foods that are spicy or fatty. However, frequent or prolonged diarrhea can also cause dehydration or nutrient deficiencies. This can happen due to bacterial infection, yeast overgrowth, enzyme deficiencies, food allergies, enzyme deficiencies, food intolerances, and digestive diseases such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease (10)
Chronic constipation may indicate a more serious problem such as IBS. Constipation can also be caused by certain medications (11).
Constipation and diarrhea are both signs of a poor microbiome. This is common after antibiotics (12).
6. You Have Undigested Food in Your Stool
Normally, food takes between 24 and 72 hours to get through the digestive system. It could indicate that your body may be having difficulty breaking down certain foods.
High-fiber vegetables such as peas and carrots have a indigestible fiber calledcellulose. The human body cannot break down this fiber.
You may also notice that you aren’t chewing food properly or eating too fast. This could be a sign that you are not properly absorbing nutrients. This could indicate a more serious condition such as Crohn’s disease or celiac.
Any disease that causes malabsorption can result in undigested food particles being deposited in the stool.
7. You may experience an upset stomach quite often
Everybody has a tummy ache from time to time. If you feel frequently nauseated, it could be a sign that your digestive system needs some assistance.
Neglecting to eat spoiled food can lead to nausea.
These Are Some Things You Can do To Support Better Digestibility
If you are experiencing severe pain or other symptoms that do not improve, consult your doctor.
More fruits, vegetables, whole foods
The lack of nutrients in processed foods can lead to digestive problems or worsening. Lean proteins and high-fiber plant-based food sources nourish your body and promote healthy digestion.
Slow down and chew slowly to get more nutrients.
Get lots of water
Water is vital for a healthy body. It keeps your digestive system moving. It helps with nutrient absorption as well as the digestion of food.
Exercise increases blood flow to the digestive tract, which supports healthy metabolism and organ health.
Enjoy a lot of sleep
Research shows that sleep can aid in the production of hormones such as melatonin or prolactin. This is important for healthy digestion.
Lower your stress
Stress can cause digestive upset. Regular exercise, time spent with loved ones and meditation are some ways to reduce stress.
Find Your Food Intolerances
To determine which foods cause you distress, an elimination diet may be a good option. If you suspect that you may have food allergies, consult a doctor immediately.
More Probiotic-Rich Foods
Sauerkraut, yogurt and miso are rich in friendly bacteria which support healthy digestion and gut health. You can add a probiotic supplement into your daily routine for more intense support.
Take Digestive Enzymes Before Eating
Supplementing with digestive enzymes can help you absorb more nutrients and relieve bloating. *
The body contains the following enzymes:
Amylase This is a starch-breaking enzyme that’s released by the salivary glands of the pancreas.
Lipid: This enzyme is made by the stomach, pancreas and mouth. It breaks down fats.
Protease: Proteins are broken down into peptides, then amino acids by prototeases.
Alpha-galactosidase This enzyme is responsible for digesting complex sugars such as those found in beans, cruciferous veggies and other foods that can cause gas or bloating.
Lactase is an enzyme that helps to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk.
High quality digestive enzyme formulas should be
Use a wide range of enzymes to break down different foods
It should be possible to measure the enzyme’s potency in units such as ALU (for lactase), HUT (for protease), FIP (for lipase), and ALU (for lactase).
Avoid any preservatives or allergens that could cause digestive problems.
Enzyme Blend by Flora is a complete digestive enzyme formula that supports healthy digestion. *
Enzyme Mix includes:
- A range of enzymes such as amylase, protease 4/5, amylase and lipase to aid in digestion of complex sugars, proteins, fats and carbohydrates*
Maximum nutrient absorption
A gluten-free, non-GMO and vegetarian formula
Advanced Adult Enzyme Blend by Flora is a stronger formula.
This full-spectrum, vegetarian enzyme mix includes a variety enzymes such as bromelain and protease (4.5), protease 6.00, amylase and lactase. It aids in digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. *
It dramatically reduces symptoms of lactose intolerance*
Helps improve fat digestion by containing 50% more lipase that the Adult Enzyme Blend
Is for adults over 65
Is Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, and Vegetarian
Take your digestive enzymes before you eat. Sprinkle them on top of the food, or use them as a topping.
Need to Get Your Digestive System Back on Track?
To learn more about digestive enzymes and to order Enzyme Blend, Advanced Adult Enzyme Blend, or Enzyme Blend for support of digestion, visit FloraHealth.com
Flora Health Advanced Adult Enzyme Mix
These statements have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended for the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of any disease.