How good is your gut instinct? For many people it might seem like all their gut ever does is complain. Nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, constipation, bloating, flatulence- these are never fun conditions to deal with. On top of being unpleasant, however, digestive troubles can be signs of greater problems happening. Whether it’s an indication of inadequate nutrition or an underlying disorder, poor digestion can have significant consequences on your overall health. So listen to your gut- if it’s saying that something is wrong, it is time to help it out!
Poor digestion is a common problem
Everybody has had less-than-fond experiences with stomach or intestinal troubles at some point in their life, but chronic indigestion plagues a large number of people as well. The medical term for recurring indigestion is dyspepsia, and it is thought to affect as many as 20%-40% of the population1. There are multiple factors that can contribute to poor digestion, such as stress, infections, diet, and food sensitivities. The exact causes of dyspepsia can be difficult to discern, but they all result in a decrease in overall health. Some researchers have estimated that the reduction in quality of life from dyspepsia is similar to that caused by mild heart failure1.
Digestion and nutrition
While indigestion could be caused from an unbalanced diet, indigestion from any cause will definitely impact whether your food is being processed correctly. In either case, malnutrition will be an issue. Changes to the acid content and digestive enzymes in your stomach and intestinal tract can affect absorption of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and B vitamins2. Fat absorption can be reduced, along with fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Malabsorption and malnutrition can lead to greater problems like anemia and osteoporosis down the line2.
Trillions of bacterial cells make their home in your intestines. In exchange for the warmth and shelter you provide them, they help you digest molecules that your body couldn’t process on its own. A healthy balance of bacterial species in your gut is important for digesting certain proteins and carbohydrates (like fiber) into forms that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Problems along the digestive tract can upset this balance, causing further symptoms and nutrient deficiencies, which lower the energy gained from food. With the right balance of “good bacteria” however, you can help keep your gut clean and maximize the energy and nutrient value of the food you eat.3
Complications from poor digestion can cause strain on the lower intestinal tract, which can cause certain colorectal conditions to develop. Hemorrhoids, (those burning, swollen blood vessels on the colon wall) arise from constipation and related effects4.
On a more serious level, colorectal cancer is associated with various factors, several of which are related to poor digestion- including intestinal irritation and an imbalance of gut bacteria. This is the third most common type of cancer among both men and women in the United States5. A healthy diet and digestive tract can help prevent painful and dangerous diseases like these.
Digestion and mental health - everything is connected!
We know that mental and physical stress can cause indigestion - ask anyone how their intestines are feeling after a long international flight. Naturally, It goes the other way too, stomach and intestinal problems tend to come with anxiety and frustration. People who suffer from chronic indigestion and related complications can develop serious levels of stress and mood disorders. On the flip side, a well-digested meal has been scientifically shown to provide feelings of satisfaction, relaxation, friendliness, tranquility, and general well-being.6
Digestion and Your… IMMUNITY
If your gut is out of whack, your immune system will be too and that can result in a host of health issues.
You might not realize it, but the gut bacteria that live in your GI have a direct impact on your overall immunity. If these gut bacteria get altered in some way, it can cause dysregulation and lead to auto-immune disorders.11 Such things as diet, antibiotic intake, and hygiene, can all be major gut bacteria disruptors. When your gut is negatively impacted this way, it can lead to auto-immune disorders like “oral ulcers, dysphagia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, fecal incontinence, pseudo-obstruction, perforation and gastrointestinal bleeding”12 to name just a few. The takeaway is that it’s important to keep your gut health in check so that your immune stays strong, functional, and balanced.
Natural digestive aids
There are a number of different pharmaceuticals on the market that can help manage the symptoms of indigestion. With its multifactorial causes, however, it is likely that a case of dyspepsia won’t be able to be cured by a single drug. Furthermore, many medications come with unpleasant side effects or can make other matters worse. For instance, acid-reducing proton pump inhibitors (like Prilosec or Prevacid) can reduce absorption of nutrients like calcium and iron even further, making deficiencies more likely1. For these and many other reasons, natural solutions to improve digestion are becoming increasingly popular.
Several types of plants have beneficial properties which aid in digestion. These are frequently from the bitter, aromatic, or pungent categories of herbs, including ginger, peppermint, artichoke, aniseed, fennel, citrus fruits, chamomile, and dandelion7. Many have been used traditionally to address various symptoms related to indigestion, and now are being used as pro-digestive herbal supplements. By combining a variety of plants with biological activities, it is possible to enhance digestion and manage a range of indigestion-related complications.
Ginger root is well-known for helping upset stomachs and nausea, but so is menthol and peppermint oil8. Mint is also helpful for bloating and flatulence, as are star anise and fennel. Fennel is also used for diarrhea and stomach cramps9. Some herbs contain natural compounds which stimulate the secretion of bile and digestive enzymes from the liver and pancreas, improving digestion in general and helping with a range of indigestion-related symptoms. These include lemon peel, Oregon grape, bitter artichoke, and dandelion root.7,9
A number of common vitamin and mineral supplements are also helpful for maintaining a healthy gut. Like the rest of your body, your digestive tract is made of cells which require a continual supply of the right nutrients to keep functioning. You may have heard of milk of magnesia for addressing constipation - this is because magnesium is important for keeping the lining of your intestines moving. Zinc and glutamine are also required for optimal gut function.10
Many of the beneficial ingredients mentioned above are found in Digestion Restauration 360. It has been formulated to promote optimal gut health. So, remember to listen to your gut- it’s a good indicator as to whether you’re healthy or if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. If your digestion is off, there are probably larger issues at hand. Treat your digestive system to a healthy diet with beneficial foods and dietary supplements such as Digestion Restauration 360, and you will be rewarded with overall good health and feelings of satisfaction.
Author : Dr. Karen Vieira.
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