Gut Health 101: What is Healthy Digestion?
Do you remember when you were in your 20s and you could eat and drink anything you want, not thinking at all about your digestion (or really caring)?
Long gone may be those days as you get older.
What we consume by eating, drinking, breathing, and absorbing as well as what our body produces on its own are all processed through our digestive system. It may have once been a well-oiled machine but with age and lifestyle it can slowly begin to breakdown. Heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating are all common digestive issues and they may be becoming more normal than you’d like.
So what is healthy digestion and can you get it back?
Digestion is the breakdown and absorption of nutrients (such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals) and the elimination of waste products (like excess hormones, metabolic breakdown toxins, bile, environmental toxins, and mitochondria by-products).
But what happens when we eat dinner or have a drink?
Let’s explore the mystery…
Following is a simple layout of stages:
Stage 1: Salivating and Chewing – secretion of digestive enzymes in the mouth in reaction to looking at, smelling, and tasting food in combination with chewing that begins the process of breaking down foods.
Stage 2: Swallowing & Breakdown in Stomach – movement of food and drink to the stomach that blends with hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) to continue to breakdown food.
Digestive muscles start to contract (known as gastric reflex) and move food to the small intestine.
Stage 3: Movement through the Small Intestine – bile from the gall bladder and liver as well as enzymes from the pancreas are excreted into the small intestine to breakdown fat and carbohydrates while acid continues to breakdown proteins.
Nutrients are extracted through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream (there are blood vessels there) that either goes to 1) the liver to be processed or 2) throughout the body to be used as energy. Eventually, the remnants are moved to the large intestine.
Stage 4: Movement and Elimination through the Large Intestine – the large intestine microbiome (bacteria) ferments fiber and produces nutrients (such as vitamins B and K) for the large and small intestine to keep them healthy, which in turn, keeps the entire body healthy. It continues to move through and eventually, is eliminate through stool.
What should stool look like?
The Bristol Stool Chart demonstrates normal and abnormal stool:
Depending on what issue you are experiencing, such as, but not limited to:
- acid reflux
- stomach distension
can determine what stage and/or part of the digestion system isn’t working properly.
For example, bloating and gas are common issues associated with the small intestine while heartburn and acid reflux can be symptoms of the muscles not working properly in the stomach and esophagus.
Bringing digestion back to normal can include a variety of treatments targeting specific organs in the digestive system such as supplements for liver support to get bile production up or acupuncture for the large intestine to get things moving out.
For specific support with digestive issues you are experiencing, please contact us at (303) 688-6698 or click here to schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Graves to talk further.
The CNMA office provides naturopathic care, testing, massage, and holistic counseling to those in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, and the greater Denver metro area. For those outside of these areas, telehealth appointments are available.