DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS

Like 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.

Causes Of Digestive Problems

Stress
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
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.

Poor Diet
  • Processed 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.

Eating Habits
  • 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 and indigestion.
  • 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 gastric distress.
  • Combining proteins with heavy starches like pasta and potatoes stress the digestive system.

Drugs
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.

Environmental Toxins
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 function.

Genetics
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.

The Impact Of Digestive Problems – How They Affect The Body

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

From 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 defenses.
 

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 and allergies.
 

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 future.

The list of chronic and/or serious conditions include:
Constipation, Diarrhea, Heartburn, Peptic Ulcers, Gastritis, IBS, IBD, Hemorrhoids, Colitis, Esophagitis, Enteritis, IIeitis, Proctitis, Chron's Disease, Diverticular Conditions, Colon Cancer

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