Aug 10, 22
Learn more about digestive health
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, gastric reflux, inflammation, bloating, colic, food intolerances and deficiencies...
The list of digestive problems is long and seems to be getting longer and longer.
Why is digestive health so important?
It's quite simple:
If food cannot be properly broken down, it is difficult for the body to get the materials it needs to function properly. This is followed by nutritional deficiencies and several risks to your general health.
Let's start with the basics: Appetite.
The first step in your digestion occurs before the food even enters your mouth. That's right! Think about the last time you smelled bacon in the morning or when you came across an interesting recipe on your Instagram feed. Food desire activates the production of a specific hormone that impacts not only saliva production, but also appetite - hence the phrase "My mouth is watering!"
Appetite is governed by two hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite while leptin leads us to feel the effects of satiety. In other words, one makes you hungry and the other makes you feel full.
Ghrelin will be produced mainly by the cells at the bottom of the stomach and by those of the pancreas. However, a small amount will also be produced in the hypothalamus, as it has receptors that will stimulate the production of various hormones related to growth.
Leptin is produced mainly in white fatty tissue and is a hormone that limits our appetite, because it is also responsible for regulating fat reserves. To put it simply, keep in mind that ghrelin helps us to develop and leptin helps us not to store too much.
Second phase: Mastication
You've certainly heard about the importance of chewing while eating. In an ideal world, you wouldn't prepare your next bite until you've finished the first one. The contact with saliva and chewing is, in fact, very important to ensure proper digestion. The goal is to form a homogeneous mass of food reminiscent of a paste called the food bowl. This is done first by the enzymes present in the saliva and then by the mechanical action of breaking down the food more finely through mastication.
The Gastric phase
After swallowing, the food bowl falls into the stomach where it undergoes a more chemical degradation - by mixing with gastric juices containing hydrochloric acid and some enzymes. The food bowl goes from a pasty form to a more liquefied form, a bit like a porridge! This is actually called "chyme".
🧑🏽🔬 Interesting fact: People with reflux are often victims of the fact that the acidity sought during this stage is not sufficient. Due to this, the body's action is to achieve this acidity, so the production is continuous and this is what causes the discomfort.
Supplementation alternatives exist to help you, if this is your case. A digestive enzyme formula containing hydrochloric betaine (hcl) would relieve your discomfort.
The Intestinal Phase
The food bolus continues to be broken down, but much of the absorption takes place here. Pancreatic juices, intestinal juices and bile will all help break down the food according to their functions. Materials that are important to the body will pass through the wall of the digestive system to be transported.
Again, supplementing with digestive enzymes is a good idea if you are experiencing discomfort in this area. But that's not all! It is important to incorporate fiber and a good variety of plants in your diet.
The last phase
In this last phase of digestion, we still assimilate a little, even if most of it has already been assimilated since the previous stage. The water reabsorption phase takes place in the colon.
This is where the importance of a varied diet comes into play. The variety of plants and dietary fibers will influence our digestive flora (bacteria) which will be responsible for fermentation and putrefaction.
🧑🏽🔬 When food is not properly broken down in the previous phases, there is too much fermentation action in the colon and conversion to gas - which makes us feel bloated. The soluble fibers will be fermented to form our digestive mucosa: this prevents the food from coming into direct contact with the colon wall and creating inflammation. This lining is also home to our probiotics, which are bacteria essential to digestive health. A variety of plants and fruits rich in antioxidants should be favored here, especially if you eat a lot of animal proteins (meat). The variety of plants allows you to have a good enzymatic variety and a contribution in soluble or insoluble fibers. The latter will contribute to a balance in your digestive health by regulating the volume and transit of your stools.
You can understand by now that digestive health is a relatively complex subject. A varied diet is required and supplementation can help you solve some problems before they get worse.
If you suffer from digestive problems and would like to have solutions to help you relieve your discomforts and establish a healthy eating routine, professional support is a definite possibility. Many naturopaths and naturopathic practitioners are part of the Everwell Team and will be happy to guide you in your lifestyle.
Take your free consultation with Coach Francis, naturopathic practitioner and author of this article to better understand your digestive system and take the necessary actions to take back your digestive health 😉