Digesting Your Food with Ease and Comfort

Digest


Feeling bloated during and after meals?  Is gas a problem?  Does the food just sit there? You're not the only one.  I hear these complaints regularly.  In fact millions of Americans have constipation and intestinal discomfort...soon we'll examine some of the causes.

 

Think of the digestive tract as one 30 foot long tube traveling through your body.  It’s surface area is about 600 square ---- Digestive Sys 5-pics (large)meterswhich is approximately the size of a baseball diamond!!  Strictly speaking, it is actually outside the body as it communicates with the outside world on both ends.  If you eat lots of high fiber healthy foods including, fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains; eat several servings of lean protein; drink 6-8 glasses of water or healthy fluids and get adequate physical activity, you probably don’t have problems with your digestive system. 

The problem is that most of my patients don’t fit into this category.  Let’s dispense with the anatomy lessons and cut to the chase.  Here are a few of the main GI problems along with some solutions.

Constipation:

  • One of the main causes is a lack of Fiber due to a lack of fruit and vegetables consumption.  Most people don’t get close to the recommended 7 servings of fruits and vegetables for women and 9 for men.  In addition most of my patients don’t eat beans, nuts and seeds.  So our diet is lacking in fiber.  The best way to solve this problem is to consume more of these foods.  Some of my patients can do this yet others have trouble.  My favorite fiber supplement (which I helped to formulate) is Blue Berry Detox.  First of all it’s delicious.  Secondly, it has a full 6 grams of fiber per serving.  This will help to knock out constipation by bulking up your stool while helping to restore your normal gut flora.  Triple Greens is another favorite.  Featuring 3 grams of soluble fiber along with over 3 dozen super foods to super charge your health at every level.
  • Dehydration is another reason for constipation.  Try to drink at least 6 glasses of water (or clear fluids such as green tea) per day.  When you don’t have enough water in your body your stool becomes hard and difficult to pass.
  • Most people don’t know this but inadequate physical activity is a big reason for constipation.  Just like skeletal muscles tend to get weaker when you don’t exercise; similar changes take place in the muscles around you intestine and colon. So if you have problems with constipation, get some more physical activity, you’re whole body will thank you for it in so many ways.
  • Some of my patients don’t chew their food well.  Remember that the digestive process begins in the mouth.  The teeth need to mechanically break down the food you eat, while the salivary glands moisten the food with saliva and the first digestive enzyme, alpha amylase.  During this process larger chunks of food are broken down into smaller bits that the stomach can further break apart.  This creates hundreds of times more surface area for your stomach acid and digestive enzymes to work on.  So chew your food well; it’s a critical part of the digestive process.
  •  As we get older (and wiser), we produce less, not more, stomach acid and digestive enzymes.  These substances are responsible for breaking down our proteins, fats and carbohydrates into tiny particles that our intestines can absorb. Our stomach alone produces 2-3 quarts of digestive juices per day!!  However, the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes produced by the stomach and pancreas become dilute with age.  This creates an interesting quandary to ponder.  Why are our doctors and drug companies pushing acid blocking drugs such as Tums, Rolaids and a Little Purple Pill, when we need more acid and enzymes, not less?  These substances are actually further hampering an already limited digestive function, not helping it.  Remember, when you were young and you had stronger stomach acid and more powerful enzymes?  You could eat anything and feel fine afterward.  You had no GI upset or acid reflux and digested your food with ease.

    We need strong acid in the stomach, like we had in our youth, to create an acidic environment which kills pathogens in our food (bacteria, parasites, viruses) and breaks down protein and fat.   Strong pancreatic and intestinal enzymes are able to break down protein, fat and carbohydrates into tiny digestible particles.  But what happens as we get into our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and our digestive juices are not as potent as they once were?  The above processes don’t take place as efficiently, and we feel bloated and uncomfortable.  The food isn’t being efficiently handled, but is instead sitting in our intestines and actually beginning to rot.

    What do we do about this?  Try Digestive enzymes first, and if that doesn’t completely resolve your digestive problems, try using Betaine Hydrochloride as well.  I like to start my patients with 2-3
    Ultrazyme, digestive enzyme capsules with a big meal and 1-2 with a small meal.   You can take a few more or less.  Experiment; how you feel after eating will tell you if you’re using enough.  If this doesn’t do the trick, I have them add the Betaine Hydrochloride.  We use the Warming Test to determine the appropriate amount:  First of all, only take Betaine Hydrochloride with food and never chew it.  That said, start with one during a meal, and work you way up.  Keep increasing the number of capsules that you take with subsequent meals until you feel a slight warming sensation in your stomach.  That warming sensation tells you that you have taken one too many.  So reduce that number by one capsule and you have your dosage (it may be 5-6 with a normal sized meal). 

    As you are using the enzymes and betaine hydrochloride with good results, you can try to reduce your dosage to see if you remain comfortable.  When you begin to feel like your not digesting well again, you know you’re not taking enough.  At that point bump the dose up again and there you have it.  Your minimum dosage to properly digest your food.

GERD - Reflux:

  • GERD is a very common problem which should be taken seriously. In people with GERD the esophageal sphincter (the valve that connects the esophagus with the stomach) doesn't work well and allows the acidic contents of the stomach to move backward up into the esophagus. If this process goes on unchecked over time the cells lining the esophagus can change (Barrett’s Esophagus) and in rare cases lead to cancer of the esophagus. So if you suffer with GERD it makes sense to minimize the problem. Here are some ways to do it:
    *Utilize the procedures that I have outlined above. When there is less
    back pressure from food sitting in your stomach and intestines, reflux is
    minimized.
    *Avoid foods that trigger symptoms such as alcohol, spicy foods, fatty
    foods or acidic foods.
    *Try eating smaller meals
    *Don’t eat too close to bed time
    *Lose weight if appropriate
    *Wear loose-fitting clothes
    *Raise the top of the bed so that when you’re lying down, gravity helps to
    keep the contents of the stomach from refluxing up into the esophagus.

Proper digestion, absorption and elimination of the food that we eat is critical. This is were health begins. We need to absorb the nutrients from the food to build our cells, tissues and organs. We need the vitamins and minerals to optimize our energy and vitality. Try to make healthy choices. Eat lots of Fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Try and include heart healthy nuts, seeds and legumes. Choose only whole grains when using carbs such as breads and pastas. Try to reduce your overall carbohydrate consumption from grains, such as breads, pastas, pastries, muffins etc, as most people eat far too many grain products.

If you’re not using a good multivitamin, pharmaceutical grade fish oil, probiotics and a healthy green drink, add them to your daily routine. These 4 nutrients are critical. I’m sure that if you adopt some of these recommendations you will feel much more comfortable, have more energy and feel sharper.

I hope that you find this advice to be helpful. If your symptoms persist make sure that you consult a qualified health care provider to fully diagnose and treat you GI problems.

In Health,
Dr. Neil Levin
Chiropractor practicing in East Northport, NY
(631) 651-2929