Creative Eldering – Digestive Discomfort

Do you wonder if your digestive system is working well?  
Do you have heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, belching, constipation, diarrhea, or irregular bowel movements? These are all symptoms of an unhappy digestive system.

The amazing thing is that your digestive system is strategically designed to prevent all those discomforts.  Your digestive system’s structures, functions, enzymes, and additional digestive helpers are perfectly designed to coordinate with each other.  In fact, your body has complicated mechanisms for determining when each component should activate or relax.
Digestion begins in your mouth.  The enzyme amylase is secreted into your saliva when you take your first bite of a snack or a meal.  Amylase is specific to starch digestion and it begins softening the food you have just eaten.  Amylase functions as an early warning system and alerts the entire digestive system to become attentive and to watch for the next signal.  As food travels down to your stomach it gathers other digestive juices.  Your stomach analyzes the amount of acidity and identifies the contents that it is processing.  It then signals special digestive hormones to trigger the next step in your digestion.

Now your pancreas is activated to release its enzymes.  Next, your gallbladder is signaled to release its stored bile that was made in your liver to further breakdown the food and prepare it to enter the small intestine where several various processes occur, and more enzymes are added.

Ultimately, this mixture of broken-down food and naturally occurring enzymes is liquid enough to allow nutrients to easily be absorbed by your small intestine.  The remaining mass, now largely depleted of nutrients, flows down to the large intestine where water is extracted to be reused by the body. Finally, unnecessary waste is prepared for elimination.

Most of these steps are triggered by the presence of food, the quantity of food, the acidity or alkalinity of the mixture, and your digestive tract’s sense of timing.
If you are experiencing any type of digestive discomfort, this is likely attributed to one of two types of challenges:  1. Selection and combination of foods consumed, and 2. An interfering factor to your digestive system’ s normal functions.

Let us first discuss the selection of foods.  The first factor to consider would be the quality and purity of the food.  Hopefully, as you select foods to consume you are avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMO foods), pesticide-laden foods, processed foods, and food additives and chemicals.  Sometimes, two perfectly well-tolerated foods, simply do not digest well together for certain individuals.  Once this is discovered it makes sense to consume these items only if separated by several hours or preferably consume them on different days.

The next factor to reflect upon in selecting foods could be one you have not yet considered.  Many people have food allergies or food sensitivities.  Food allergies may give violent, rapidly occurring symptoms, in which case the cause-and-effect relationship may be obvious.  On the other hand, people may have food sensitivities or incompatibilities which they do not recognize immediately, because often that sensitivity reaction is somewhat delayed.  Bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and mild skin rashes may be traced to a food intolerance, but you may need the guidance of a natural healthcare practitioner to discover these relationships.
Now we can consider interferences to the functioning of your digestive system.
If your digestive symptoms are stemming from an actual digestive dysfunction, then your diet, lifestyle, eating habits, list of medications, and many other factors may need to be considered.  When you look up a drug in the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR), it will likely have some type of side effect that involves the digestive system.  For many people, digestive discomfort is directly linked to medication side effects.

Chronic digestive dysfunction that does not seem to be diminished by improved food selection may have to do with a lack of digestive enzyme production within your own body, and may be helped by incorporating the appropriate supplemental digestive enzyme formula.  Again, you may need guidance from your nutritionist or natural healthcare practitioner.

In some cases, making lifestyle adjustments such as the conditions preceding and surrounding your mealtimes.  Some of the conditions to evaluate could include such factors as your level of stress, not taking time to chew well, drinking an excessive amount of liquid with the meal and diluting the digestive juices, or eating dinner too late at night and too close to bedtime (which may not allow the digestive process to complete its cycle properly). Any of these factors could impede the normal functioning of your digestive system.

You may also find it worthwhile to reevaluate your environment at mealtimes. Look for ways to enhance your dining experience to be relaxed and pleasant, hopefully leisurely, and truly nutritious.
If after trying all these suggestions you are still experiencing digestive discomfort, you may need to be evaluated for a lack of beneficial intestinal bacteria, which may be helped tremendously by supplemental probiotics and by regular consumption of healthful and high-quality fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut (not heat processed or canned, and not made with vinegar).  Learning to make your own sauerkraut at home is simple and rewarding.  You may want to check my website, for a wonderful homemade sauerkraut recipe.

The presence of parasites is another consideration, particularly with persistent and baffling diarrhea.  Unfortunately, laboratory tests may not identify parasites even though they are present.  Your natural healthcare provider or medical practitioner may need to help you in determining this potential issue.
If you have worked through all the preceding potential factors that might be affecting your digestive system and do still have digestive discomfort, then you may be searching for some physiological dysfunction in one or more areas of your digestive system.  The gamut of possible digestive disorders is beyond the scope of this article, but do consider searching out a natural approach and incorporate supportive dietary changes along with the appropriate supplemental enzymes, nutrients, herbs, or homeopathic remedies before opting to select a pharmaceutical drug.  You and your natural healthcare practitioner may be able to improve your situation significantly by natural means.

I wish you well on your path to digestive comfort.

Article written by Susan L. Levy, D. C.
Author of “Your Body Can Talk, 2nd Edition” and “Your Aging Body Can Talk” |

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