Almost 75% of all Americans regular experience digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. And many experience multiple digestive systems and they are miserable! But these symptoms, although common, are NOT normal! They are a warning sign from the body that there is something out of balance.
IBS, GERD, leaky gut, and malabsorption are just a few of the things that can plague those with poor digestion. But although it may seem easy to define a gut issue simply by looking at the symptoms, but there are as many symptoms as there are ailments when talking about stomach problems. Let’s look at the hard-working digestive system and give you some ways that you can improve it.
Here are the most common symptoms of poor digestion:
Most people would expect the symptoms above. But many people are unaware that digestive troubles can also cause these common symptoms too!
- Joint Pain
- Skin Rashes, Itching
- Hair Loss
- Low Energy
- Muscle Loss
- Depression, Anxiety, Irritability
When we think of digestion, we always think about the stomach. But the digestive system is much more expansive than that. Digestion truly starts in the mouth. How well we chew our food and how available saliva is makes a huge difference in how our small intestine finishes up the job. The more you chew, the more you are breaking down the food into easily digestible particles. As that is happening, the enzymes, amylase, in your saliva are starting pre-digestion by breaking down carbohydrate and starches.
When the food reaches the stomach, HCl (hydrochloric acid) is released. This in turn activates pepsin. Why is this important? When you eat protein, the molecules are folded up, much like a piece of paper you keep folding into a smaller square. In order for the amino acids of protein to be released, the molecule must be unfolded by HCl and then broken down by pepsin. If this fails to happen, most commonly by low stomach acid, the amino acids will not be released and they will not be available for absorption in the small intestine. That food is no longer fueling your body. For people with very low stomach acid, this can also lead to malnutrition.
Did you know….
The many symptoms of low stomach acid are the same as the symptoms of high stomach acid. Though high stomach acid is the most common diagnosis, low stomach acid is the most common cause!
Currently, more than 65 million people take prescription medication for acid reflux and GERD. But doctors never look for underlying reasons why that issue is happening in the first place! And most prescription and over the counter medications for acid reflux and GERD are not meant to be taken long term and may lead to other health complications.
Digestion is completed in the small intestine along with the absorption of nutrients. Leaky gut, biofilm and dysbiosis can prevent many of the food’s nutrients from being used by your body despite how well digested it is and this also can lead to a deficiency of nutrients.
What are some things you can do to begin improving your digestion? Here are a few simple tips for your tummy!
Chew your food well.
Most Americans eat too quickly and do not thoroughly chew their food. A lack of adequate chewing prevents the release of vital enzymes needed to break the food down. It is even more important if missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures are preventing a thorough chewing of your food. Chew each bite a minimum of 20 times.
This sounds a bit too simplistic but taking the time to determine how different foods make you feel can also help you identify which foods may be causing the issues. We often don’t pay a lot of attention to how our body reacts to different foods. Food journaling can also help you begin notice patterns of symptoms after you’ve eaten certain foods.
Lower your stress.
We are all chronically stressed these days! But living in a continual stress response isn’t healthy for your digestion. One of the first things your body does when the stress response has been triggered is to slow down your digestion significantly. If your stress is always high, your digestion will not be functioning the way it should! Do what you can to incorporate daily stress management into your routine.
Drink your water!
Many people are chronically dehydrated and don’t know it! Not drinking enough water daily can slow down your digestion. If drinking water before a meal, make sure to drink it at room temperature and at least 15 minutes before your meal so that it doesn’t dilute your stomach acid.
Take your time eating.
Yes, Americans eat too quickly in general. Slow down and chew thoroughly. This gives your body time to release those important enzymes and won’t overwhelm your digestive tract!
Choose high quality whole foods over processed foods.
Whole foods are much easier for your body to digest. In fact, many fresh fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that can help your body digest them even more. Highly processed foods are often depleted of vital nutrients and often can be more challenging for the body to digest.
There may be other things going on with your digestive system such as food intolerances or infections. While you could continue to guess at what will help your tummy troubles go away, working with a coach that can connect you with functional testing can help. They can find out exactly where your problem has started, and help you on the path to feeling better…faster!