How to prevent and relieve difficult digestion
Bloating, stomachache, a feeling of heaviness, heartburn: all these things can happen to you from time to time. What's not normal is when it’s part of your daily life.
A study of 73,000 people from 33 countries revealed that 44% of adults suffer from a digestive disorder.
Almost 1 out of 2 people would have a more or less critical difficulty digesting.
Yes, this number is frightening.
Digestion problems are generally benign. However, they can significantly impact the well-being of those suffering from them.
If your digestive disorder is ruining your life and all the tips from your well-meaning loved ones have done nothing for you, it's time to take a step back.
The following article will help you sort out the gossip about digestion. It will help you better understand your digestive health and think about the best solutions for your situation.
Do you understand how digestion works?
First, think about the organs that make up the digestive system.
If « stomach » and « intestine » popped into your mind instantly: good job!
But what if you're asked to name a third, a fourth, and a fifth? Not so obvious, is it?
In health, as in many other fields, we think « by category » and do not appreciate a subject as a whole. Our vision of the digestive system is no exception: « stomach » + « intestine » = digestion… that’s it!
However, the first digestion step happens long before the food reaches your stomach. Did you know that?
Yes? No? Maybe you did? Let's start from the beginning.
The organs of digestion
The digestive system consists of the digestive tract, subsidiary organs, and glands.
The digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and anus. The subsidiary organs are the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
For each meal, snack, and bite, 9 organs are working together. So you understand that if one of them is compromised, your digestion will be more difficult.
And as you may have guessed, your annual dental appointment contributes to your digestive health.
Mechanical digestion versus chemical digestion
The term « digestion » refers to the processes of mechanical and chemical breakdown of food.
Mechanical digestion is when we chew food, which moves through the digestive tract due to contractions of the gastrointestinal muscles.
Chemical digestion is when an enzyme or hormone is involved. For example, saliva in the mouth contains salivary amylase. This is an enzyme that is used to digest carbohydrates.
Yes, digestion does start in your mouth!
By the way, if you have experienced unpleasant bloating after consuming fresh juices, it's because you have skipped the first step of digestion.
The amylase can't mix with food when you drink it instead of chewing it. The carbohydrates arrive in your stomach without having undergone chemical digestion, which causes fermentation and intestinal discomfort.
To consume your fresh juices without bloating, swish the liquid in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. It allows the digestive enzyme to work, and you can sip your healthy elixir in peace.
The 4 stages of digestion
The primary function of the digestive system is to supply nutrients to the body's cells. It accomplishes this task through 4 processes:
- Ingestion (arrival of food in the digestive tract)
- Digestion (mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into molecules)
- Absorption (passage of nutrient molecules to cells in the bloodstream)
- Elimination (mechanism of excretion of the waste products of digestion)
The impact of digestion on the rest of your body
Your digestive system is so much more complex than you might think. It is interconnected with all the other systems in your body: cardiac, immune, nervous, endocrine, respiratory, etc.
Aging, smoking, and lifestyle are the 3 most significant factors that influence the quality of your digestion.
The first one is a privilege that you can't control.
If it affects you, the second is a fight that must become your priority.
And the third is made up of variables that are unique to each individual. It’s the factor we're focusing on today.
How do you get better digestion?
Move your body
In all its forms, physical activity stimulates the involuntary movements of the digestive tract. In other words, moving every day keeps your digestive system active.
In contrast, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise put you at risk for constipation.
Revisit your diet
Here's a roundup of facts about how your diet affects your digestion:
- Alcohol and high-fat meals are hard on the liver
- Nearly 70% of humans are lactose intolerant
- Fermentation of sugars in the stomach is responsible for bloating and gas (most often)
- Eating deli meats and cold cuts increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer
- Caffeine stimulates colonic motility
- A low-fiber diet puts you at risk for constipation (beware of the trendy keto diet)
If we made an exhaustive list, this article would never end.
The goal is for you to evaluate your diet in the most honest way possible.
A review of what you eat over a week can reveal necessary information about the habits causing your digestive problems.
Reduce your stress
You've heard it before, but it's worth repeating: the digestive system is intimately connected to every other system in your body.
The hormones your body secretes when it is under stress have the effect of slowing down digestion. As a result, gastrointestinal symptoms such as epigastric pain, nausea, loss of appetite, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are often present in people experiencing chronic stress.
Some gastrointestinal disorders, such as stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, are aggravated by stress.
Take a digestive enzyme supplement
Do you often experience bloating, flatulence, and abdominal cramps after eating certain foods containing fiber and sugars? Do you feel an intestinal heaviness following a meal high in fat and protein?
If so, an enzyme supplement could significantly improve the quality of your digestion!
Enzyme complexes are designed to be used daily to help your digestion with every meal. This natural product is ideal for people with slow digestion or difficulty digesting fiber.
Digestion: "Caution" is the final word
Digestive problems are so common that everyone is willing to share personal experiences. Still, be careful with any suggested DIY remedy.
Suppose you have abdominal cramps because your digestive system is not producing enough enzyme X to digest food Y. In that case, a mint or ginger tea after dinner will not change that.
Indeed, mint would stimulate digestive activity. This is why it is often recommended for digestion. Still, be aware that it's irritating and contraindicated if you suffer from heartburn.
In short, always be careful with your neighbor's advice. And please, never ever put essential oils in the water you drink to help your digestion (even if someone claims it did miracles for them).
If you are concerned about your symptoms or don't know where to start, seek a healthcare professional's advice first.
Adrien Gagnon Team