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Digestion

Digestive Disorders/gastrointestinal problems

Gastrointestinal problems range from indigestion, heartburn, excess flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, ulcers, IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease. These problems which affect the gastrointestinal tract cause much discomfort.  Minor problems are easily treatable and simple adjustments in lifestyle are often recommended.

Certain measures can be taken to prevent and cope with the discomfort of gastrointestinal problems and these include:

  • Increase your intake of fibre such as fruit, vegetables, bran, and whole grains (but not with ulcerative colitis).

  • Avoid foods that contribute to acid indigestion

  • Drink lots of water to help detox your body

  • Exercise regularly

  • identify which foods may incur intolerance

  • include prebiotics/and fermented foods in your diet
  • Minimize stress

  • Ensure efficient digestion by considering use of digestive enzymes and if necessary stomach acids

    Medications that can be taken to relieve GI problems include antacids and H2 blockers. Avoid prolonged use of these medications because they can alter the pH of the gut and thereby decrease vital nutrients. Antacids are necessary to avoid harmful reflux. Use of pre and probiotics can enhance gut resistance to digestive problems. Cracked linseeds and psyllium husks can stabilise guts prone to constipation or diarrhoea. High potency or specialised probiotics may be required to deal with IBS, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or SBO(small intestinal bowel overgrowth). Recent research has shown Symprove to be an excellent probiotic but good results have been found from other broad spectrum probiotics often in combination with digestive enzymes.

     Herbal and homeopathic remedies have been used for many years to provide natural support for the entire digestive system and calm gastrointestinal problems. These remedies are safe and gentle to use on the body’s system without any harsh side effects. Herbs such as Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) support ongoing health in the entire digestive system and stomach lining and also act as a tonic and a soothing remedy. In addition, Ulmus fulva (Slippery Elm}, Centaurium, or other stomach bitters  promote healthy levels of digestive acids in the stomach and absorption of nutrients.

Digestion

The proper functioning of the digestive system is vital to maintaining life; many people’s systems don’t function properly. Commonly, people can experience digestive discomfort brought on by lifestyle factors, with feelings of fullness or bloating, often accompanied with reflux or flatulence.

This complex system is responsible for absorbing and transporting all the nutrients your body needs to function. It also gets rid of most of the waste – toxins and spent matter. The nutrients from a balanced diet must be efficiently digested and absorbed by the body in order to contribute to good health.  The body produces specific enzymes to digest fats, proteins, carbohydrates and dairy foods and thus allow efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Enzyme and other supplement products can help support a well-functioning digestive system, helping to maintain good health. A favourable balance of naturally occurring beneficial probiotic bacteria contributes to general gut and bowel health and is intimately involved in producing nutrients from the digested foods.

Corrective supplements for digestive disorders can include enzymes, betaine hydrochloride (stomach acid), soluble fibres and probiotics. Probiotic supplements can help maintain the balance of gut bacteria, particularly during or after a course of antibiotics or after bowel disorders. Prebiotics and fermented foods can stimulate population of beneficial gut bacteria. Raw cabbage water and stomach bitters may encourage higher stomach eating capacity. Foods with natural antibacterial properties can reduce inflammatory conditions in the stomach.

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Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are protein catalysts produced by the body which are identified by the suffix -ase. Enzymes are responsible for the breakdown of compounds and for regulating the speed at which metabolic processes take place. In this case, the processes involved are concerned with digestion. Enzymes are also consumed with raw foods and need for full digestion and to control other processes.  Digestive enzymes are all involved in the hydrolysis (breakage of a bond with the addition of water) of large food molecules. There are 3 major types of digestive enzyme: those digesting proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Proteins:The proteolytic enzymes are involved exclusively in the digestion of proteins. Protease is found in the stomach, pancreatic and intestinal juices. Other proteolytic enzymes include pepsin, trypsin, pancreatin and chymotrypsin. In addition, there are the supplementary enzymes e.g. bromelain and papain from pineapple and papaya respectively. These enzymes work together in the body to provide units small enough to be absorbed.

Fats: The enzymes that are used for the digestion of fats are called lipases. These help to break down fats into their components - fatty acids and glycerol. These end products of fat digestion are absorbed in the small intestine and enter the body via the lymph system. These enzymes normally depend on the release of bile from the gall bladder.

Carbohydrates: Amylase is the main enzyme used for the breakdown of carbohydrates. It is produced in the mouth and is therefore present in saliva. Amylase is also secreted into the pancreatic and intestinal juices. In addition to these basic digestive enzymes, there are other complementary enzymes needed, including lactase for the digestion of milk sugars

Digestive disorders:Some people experience disorders because of upsets to the system, or because of the impacts of medicinal intervention. Food sensitivities can be a challenge to very young children before their gut system has matured. Disorders can cause a range of minor or major problems. These can result with increasing age or after major surgery. Supplements providing a mixture of the major digestive enzymes may help to reduce these symptoms and also help to digest the dietary components into fuel for the body. Digestive enzymes may help increase healing time of bruises and mild athletic injuries.

Probiotic Supplements

Within our intestinal tract trillions of health-promoting friendly bacteria naturally reside. These are collectively known as probiotics, meaning for life, and are essential for our digestive health and immune system.  Over 400 types of bacteria exist in the human gut amounting to typically 3 to 4 pounds in weight. If our diet does not provide us with enough prebiotics (food to generate new bacteria) then we may feel the need to take a prebiotic or probiotic supplement. Probiotics maintain digestive health and comfort by digesting particular substances in the diet and enabling efficient nutrient and mineral absorption. A normal healthy gut has a good balance of friendly bacteria over bad bacteria ( which typically exist in minor quantities in the gut); however, this balance is fragile. Factors such as stress, dietary habits, medication (especially antibiotics) can all have an adverse effect.

There are many different probiotic supplements available, reflecting the range of the more useful bacteria known to populate the intestines. The most common of these bacteria is Lactobacillus Acidophilus and will be found in almost all probiotic supplements. L.Acidophilus is able to survive the gastric acids and bile salts in the stomach and therefore reaches the intestines where it is needed. Part of its function is to protect the intestinal lining.

Bifidobacterium supports the production of antibodies, promotes detoxification and maintains resistance to undesirable, bad bacteria. B.Bifidum also supports the intestines to assist transit, promote comfort and optimise a healthy frequency and regularity of bowel movements. Prebiotics work to support large intestine bacteria and ensure good functioning of the colon.

All of these probiotic and prebiotic supplements can be found in powder, liquid and capsule form. Probiotics can also be found in live natural yoghurt, though nowhere near as potent as as you would get from taking a probiotic supplement which may range typically from 1 to (say)50 billion bacteria per dose.  Please note, obtaining your daily dose of probiotics from many of the yoghurt drinks on the market is not considered by many to be an appropriate way to achieve a healthy balance of good bacteria. Many of these products contain sugars which is a key food to bad bacteria. Medical studies show that replenishing the intestines with probiotics is a natural way towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle because of the major impact on natural immunity as well as transfer of vital nutrients. Disorders in the gut can lead to autoimmune problems that manifest in other disorders in the body, for example eczema or asthma or arthritis. Infant children require very specific bacteria and cannot tolerate many adult strains until about 3 or 4 years of age.

Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora by producing organic compounds—such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid—that increase the acidity of the intestine and inhibit the reproduction of many harmful bacteria. Probiotic bacteria also produce substances called bacteriocins, which act as natural antibiotics to kill undesirable microorganisms. Antibiotics and prolonged use of antacids may radically interfere with this system of acidic control and hence have consequences for health. There are many strains of these fundamental bacteria as well as bacteria such as e-coli which can have beneficial as well as adverse effects.

Bacteria which have protective functions exist elsewhere in the digestive tract and on other skin surfaces.