Our digestion doesn’t only happen in our stomach. Our digestive tract starts in our mouth and ends in our rectum where we excrete waste. As such the act of digestion is a long process, dependent on the proper functioning of many things within our digestive tract.
It all starts in our mouth. As we chew and swallow food, our digestive system releases a number of digestive juices – stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile acids – that convert the food we eat into nutrients our body can absorb. These nutrients feed our cells and our health. If any of these digestive juices are disrupted, our digestion can be impaired and many health issues can happen.
Our stomach has the important job of breaking down large pieces of food into smaller ones so they can be more easily digested and absorbed and travel further down into our small intestine. It does this by releasing stomach acid (HCL – hydrochloric acid), which also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. As such, stomach acid is really important for our digestion and not having enough of it (hypochlorhydria) can lead to issues such as:
- poor absorption and digestion
- poor immunity (infections, food intolerances…)
How to stimulate stomach acid production
If you think you have low stomach acid, here is a small number of things you can do:
- take Betaine Hydrochloride (Betaine HCL) tablets with pepsin to increase acidity in the stomach and encourage effective digestion. Please refer to a Nutritional professional for advice on good quality supplement and dosage
- test for H.pylori, a common cause of low stomach acid
- reduce or avoid using antacids
- eat cholagogue food
- chew well, masticate fully
- hydrate well
These are released by our pancreas to further breakdown protein, carbohydrates and fats.
How to stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes
Increasing the production of pancreatic enzymes can be done by:
- taking digestive enzymes
- eating more bitter foods
Our liver produces bile acids which helps to breakdown the fats we eat. If this function does not work well, digestive issues such as diarrhoea, bloating or urgency can follow. Bile acids also play an important part in our eliminatory system by getting rid of our waste products.
How to increase bile acids production
To ensure sufficient levels of bile acids:
- avoid high fat meals and refined sugars
- eat more fibre
These are just a few things to be looked at for improved digestion. There are, however, many other aspects to be considered such as infections, diet, environment, sleep and stress. As a gut health nutritionist specialising in the connection between our gut and our brain, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of our mental wellbeing to our digestion. Our level of stress has a direct impact on how we absorb and digest what we eat and this in turn has a direct effect on our mental health.
If you suspect your stress may be contributing to your health issues and if you are suffering from digestive issues such as bloating, pain, flatulence, fatigue, poor bowel movement, and correlated problems such as headaches, brain fog, poor memory or anxiety, it is important to consult with a health professional to tackle the matter in a holistic way.
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