any complex system, your digestive tract is affected by its internal and
external environment and can get out of balance. When it does, the results
can include annoying and uncomfortable symptoms. Allowed to continue over
time these symptoms can become progressively worse and include abdominal
pain, changes in bowel movements and other symptoms that are signs of
serious problems and disease in their developing stages. In this section
we will examine some of the specific causes of digestive problems, the
impact of these causes, how the problems progress if not addressed and
the resulting syndromes and diseases that can be the end result.
Of Digestive Problems
Stresses of all kinds, physical, emotional and mental, are primary causes
of poor digestion. All unconscious activity in the human body, including
both our reactions to stress and digestion, are controlled by the autonomic
nervous system. When humans experience stress, as a survival mechanism,
the body diverts energy, blood, enzymes and oxygen from the digestive
organs to other areas of the body. In addition to mental and emotional
stresses like fear, anger and worry, physical stresses including infections,
trauma from injuries, surgery and environmental toxins can have a major
effect on our digestive efficiency.
Antibiotics can kill a high percentage of the naturally occurring beneficial
bacteria that we need for digestion. They affect these necessary bacteria
as well as the pathogenic bacteria they are designed to protect us against.
Once the antibiotic treatment stops there is an opening (very few bacteria
in the gut and open enteric sites) and pathogenic bacteria, opportunistic
yeasts, fungi and parasites can move in to fill this void. Once they become
dominant and multiply, they can damage the gut wall, create toxins and
affect your immune system.
food consumption – In the refining process, sugar and flour
(refined carbohydrates) are stripped of dozens of essential nutrients
and fiber. A steady diet of refined carbohydrates forces the body
to rob itself of the chromium, manganese, cobalt, copper, zinc
and magnesium. Once these minerals are depleted, the body finds
it harder to digest any carbohydrates. Those that are not-fully-digested
ferment into simple sugars and alcohols, providing fuels for yeast
and bacteria and leading to indigestion, gas and bloating.
- Low fiber
diets – Fiber is a non nutritive food component necessary
to move residue through the intestines. Lack of fiber results
in a slow transit time of food through the digestive tract (constipation).
A slow transit time means greater risk of the absorption of some
of the toxins from not-yet-eliminated food waste into the bloodstream.
- Not enough
raw food – Food enzymes help digest food and they are supplied
(aside from supplementation) solely by raw foods. Cooking at high
temp over 116 degrees destroys food enzymes.
- Food allergies
– Including those to dairy, wheat and fruits.
- Junk foods
– These (often high fat, high refined cartbohydrate and
or high sugar) foods are high in calories but almost completely
devoid of nutritional value.
- When food
is swallowed after only a few short chews, those food particles
are harder for the body to digest and can result in gas, bloating
- Fruits should
be eaten alone. Since they are high in enzymes, they take only
20-30 minutes to travel through the system and for their nutrients
to be absorbed. When eaten with other foods which need much longer
transit time, fruit will ferment in the transit process causing
proteins with heavy starches like pasta and potatoes stress the
All drugs and chemicals are basically toxins to the digestive system.
Many drugs directly affect the digestive organs and digestion itself.
Over-the-counter, prescription drugs and recreational drugs that can affect
digestion include: antacids, antihistamines, NSAIDS, birth control pills,
laxatives, steroids, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and
many others. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen and
ibuprofen can directly irritate the lining of the stomach impairing digestion
leading to infection.
Modern life is full of environmental toxins including chemicals, radiation,
solvents, food additives, air/water pollution, mercury and other metals.
When exposed to them, the body naturally reacts to detoxify, which uses
large amount of energy that leaves little energy for proper digestive
As with all functions and organs genetics plays an important role in digestive
functioning and our ability to withstand stress and resist digestive problems
and diseases. Problems experienced by family members can be clues to our
own genetic strengths and weaknesses as we learn more about this subject
and move in the direction of improved health.
Impact Of Digestive Problems – How They Affect The Body
Low Production of Hydrochloric Acid
Hydrochloric Acid (HCI) is a powerful digestive acid produced in the stomach
and it is essential to the digestion of proteins. HCI also acts as the
body's first lines of defense destroying parasites, mold, harmful bacteria,
and viruses. HCI activates pepsin, encourages the flow of bile and pancreatic
enzymes and facilitates the absorption of nutrients, including folic acid,
ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, zinc, calcium and minerals. Adequate production
of HCI is therefore critical to the good health and functioning of the
digestive system. Over time, continued abuse of the digestive system,
especially emotional stress and a diet high in animal products can decrease
the body’s ability to produce HCI leading to incomplete digestion
and assimilation of food and leaving us vulnerable to infection.
Lowered Enzyme Production
Enzymes, which are complex proteins, are essential elements in the digestive
process. Actually, there are two types of enzymes used by the body. Metabolic
enzymes are used in running, repairing and healing throughout the body.
Digestive enzymes are used in the digestive process to help break down
protein into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into
sugars. Digestive enzymes (Protease, Lipase and Amylase) are produced
in the pancreas. When Pancreatic function is diminished because of an
overgrowth of candida, parasite infections, aging or stress there can
be a deficiency in the amount of enzymes produced. The result of not having
enough of these enzymes available even with a healthy diet is that the
food cannot be broken down and the nutrients extracted leading to deficiencies
and toxicity forcing the digestive system to move undigested food through
the digestive tract.
Imbalanced Intestinal pH
The level of acidity and alkalinity is an essential element in proper
digestion. The pH level is a measurement of acidity and alkalinity on
a scale of 0 to 14 with 0 being pure acid and 14 very alkaline. In the
healthy digestive tract, there is a shift in pH levels as food goes through
the system. The Pancreas regulates this change from acid to alkaline by
producing both Hydrochloric acid (HCl) and buffers. In the mouth the saliva
is alkaline, the stomach is a very acid environment, the small intestine
alkaline and the colon is acid. When the pH of any of these areas is too
acid or too alkaline food cannot be properly broken down and absorbed.
Poor Pancreatic functioning due to any of the factors mentioned above
can lead to insufficiencies in HCl or buffers and lead to a too acid or
too alkaline pH an incomplete digestion.
a Minor Stomach Ache to Cancer
Without a healthy and efficiently functioning digestive system major health
problems are unavoidable. Almost everyone experiences occasional minor
upsets like heartburn, diarrhea or a stomach ache. It is when those symptoms
persist or keep coming back, even if they are temporarily improved with
medications and rest that we are at risk. Unless the underlying problems
can be found and treated they can develop into chronic and/or serious
conditions including IBS, ulcers and colon cancer.
Problems begin with poor digestion causing symptoms that could include
gas, indigestion, abdominal discomfort, bloating, food sensitivities,
heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, bad breath, candida
infections, food allergies, nausea and vomiting. This can be caused
by low HCI and enzyme production in the system.
When pH imbalance in the intestinal tract is untreated, bacteria present
in the gut act upon undigested food and produce gases and toxic chemicals
like indole, skatol, methanea and phenol. These toxins can damage
the nucosal lining, resulting in intestinal permeably often without
any acute and/or apparent symptoms – usually not worse than
symptoms experienced in the previous stage. If not taken care of though,
bacteria, viruses, fungi multiply, and the toxins overwhelm the body’s
Candida is normally present in the intestinal tract in small amounts
where it remains in its yeast form and exists in balance with trillions
of bacteria. When overgrown, however, candida changes from a yeast
form to a fungal form and can cause significant damage. While a small
amount of candida is helpful to our system, it’s abnormal and
damaging for fungi to escape the intestinal tract and live in other
parts of the body. In its fungal state, candida damages the mucous
lining by puncturing it with a long root and tearing it by secreting
acid. As a result, fungus and its toxic waste enter into the bloodstream
along with other foreign substances and undigested food particles.
Candida infections are often accompanied by parasitic infections.
Parasites are hard to detect since they tend to hide in the lining
of the intestines and have a complex life cycle. When they escape
from the intestinal tract and enter the blood stream they can travel
to other organs such as heart or lungs where detection is difficult.
Parasites can injure tissue and disrupt functioning of the digestive
tract and affect the immune system. In other organs parasites often
cause problems that are often not recognized as parasite related.
Symptoms can include digestive distress, skin problems,
irritability, sleep disturbances, anemia, muscle cramps, joint problems
Over 500 different species of micro flora can be present in the in
the normal intestinal system. There are both beneficial bacteria which
help us in digestion and elimination and pathogenic bacteria which
if they overgrow can cause problems. All of the bacteria are competing
for space (sites on the intestinal walls) and food and in the state
where there are 80% or more good and neutral bacteria and 20% or less
pathogenic bacteria the system is in balance. The beneficial bacteria
are keeping the pathogenic bacteria in check and are able to help
digestion including the production of enzymes, acids, and certain
vitamins. They also perform a vital function in the fermentation of
dietary fiber, resulting in short-chain fatty acid production. Fatty
acids support the production of new cells which are necessary for
rebuilding the intestinal tract itself. When pathogenic bacteria are
allowed to overgrow beyond the proper ratio they can cause irritation
of the intestinal tract, tissue damage and impaired circulation and
chronic gastrointestinal inflammation. Overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria
such as e.coli, salmonella, Giardia, shigella or staphylococcus cause
illness. Opportnistic bacteria, other parasites, fungi and candida
pose a threat whenever the balance of healthy bacteria is disrupted.
The healthy gut lining allows essential nutrients in the form of small,
digested food particles and liquid to pass through it and enter into
the bloodstream while shielding it from undigested food particles
like fats, proteins and starches, intestinal toxins, and unwanted
toxins such as parasites and candida. Over time toxins, poor diet,
alcohol, caffeine, use of drugs such as antibiotics, steroids, antacids
and other factors act to erode the gut lining. The intestinal wall
cannot renew or repair itself without sufficient beneficial flora
to ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids. When the balance of
good bacteria in combination with the erosion of the intestinal lining
reach a certain point, the gut lining becomes semi permeable allowing
toxins to literally leak into the bloodstream. The result can be a
weakened immune system, digestive disorders and eventually, chronic
diseases. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition in which the small intestinal
wall is breached with tiny pinholes that leak putrid food particles
into the blood stream. Leaky gut itself isn’t a disease itself
but is thought to play a part in many other diseases. Allowing undigested
food or bacteria into the bloodstream sets in motion a chain of events:
the immune system reacts, the body thinks it’s sick and expresses
it in a number of ways, such as a rash, diarrhea, joint pain, migraines
even psychological symptoms like depression.
Leaky gut is a serious condition itself and an indication of many
serious consequences to come. Some researchers estimate that more
than 2/3 of all immune activity occurs in the gut. Absorbing nutrients
while eliminating toxins is essential to our health and well being.
As indicated in this section the minor symptoms that you don’t
take seriously could be a warning of serious processes going on and
of the possibility of life threatening disorder and diseases in the
The list of chronic and/or serious conditions include:
Heartburn, Peptic Ulcers, Gastritis, IBS, IBD,
Hemorrhoids, Colitis, Esophagitis, Enteritis, IIeitis, Proctitis,
Chron's Disease, Diverticular Conditions, Colon Cancer