May 07

The Importance of Digestion

Many people make the false assumption that the food they eat is guaranteed to provide the nutrients their body’s need to function properly and create a state of good health. This assumption is usually false because most people are not getting he nutrients they need from the food they eat. The Centers for Disease Control says that only 5-10 % of the population is getting the nutrients they need every day from the food they eat. And, this lack of sufficient nutrition is the number one cause of chronic disease in this country.


I.  Why we are nutrient deficient


There are several reasons why a vast majority of people are not getting the nutrients they need to maintain good health.

  1. Soils have been depleted of key nutrients from over farming.
  2. Foods are often picked early so they don’t get smashed in transit. This causes nutrient depletion.
  3. Foods are transported long distances, which can deplete nutrients by as much as 10% for every day they are out of the soil.
  4. Foods are processed which can take from 40 to 80 % pf the nutrients out.
  5. People make very poor food choices based on taste and convenience not nutritional value.
  6. Foods are cooked or micro waved, which causes further nutrient depletion.
  7. Foods are not digested properly which can cause nutrients to not be efficiently taken from the foods for use by our bodies.


We can address the first six reasons for nutrient deficiencies on this list by purchasing locally grown organic food as much as possible and eating as many foods as we can in their raw and natural state. The final factor, digestion, needs some special attention, especially for people who are trying to prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes.



  1. The Digestive Environment


Good digestion is completely dependent on the development and maintenance of a healthy environment from the beginning to the end of the digestive cycle.


  1. In the Mouth – Chewing is the key to the beginning of the digestive process.       Some foods need to be chewed 20 to 30 times in order to ensure the food particles are small enough to be effectively digested in the stomach. Chewing also causes the release of digestive enzymes to begin the digestion of carbohydrates. These amylase enzymes must be generated through thorough chewing and be well established before entering the stomach because the acid in the stomach can disrupt the effectiveness of these enzymes.


  1. The Stomach – The environment in the stomach is very acidic mainly because hydrochloric acid is needed to breakdown difficult to digest proteins.       Protein enzymes, such as protease are also involved in this process, but HCL (hydrochloric acid) does the majority of the initial work. HCL and amylase do not like to be together at the same time.       This is precisely why protein and starches should not be eaten at the same time. Sandwiches and meat and potato dinner are actual not a good idea for many people, especially those with digestive challenges.


  1. Digestive enzymes – Sent by the pancreas to assist in the breakdown of foods. Enzymes perform several functions.


  • They break down food as part of the digestive process.
  • They help to extract vitamins and minerals from our food.
  • They help deliver nutrients to our cells.
  • They help make metabolic enzymes to facilitate bodily functions. (i.e., cellular repair, cellular replacement, hormone production )


  • They help eliminate germs, bacteria, cancer cells and other undesirable organisms.In other words, enzymes are an essential part of nearly every important bodily function and deficiencies in certain enzymes cause or contribute to almost every disease known to mankind. Deficiencies can occur for a variety of reason.
  • Some people are born with less enzyme producing capability.
  • As we age, our enzyme production declines.
  • We get some enzymes from food, but mostly uncooked food.
  • Eating too much cooked or processed foods depletes our enzymes.


  • Having overly acidic body chemistry depletes enzymes (i.e. eating meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, etc. causes this).                    Different Types of EnzymesThere are thousands of different types of enzymes, but the most well known ones are the three main digestive enzymes:
  • Proteases break down proteins.
  • Lipases break down lipids or fats.


    • Amylases break down carbohydrates


  1. The Intestines – The intestines are a virtual chemical stew of substances that play a role in the digestive process.


The main participants in this regard are:


  1. The Bacteria in Our Intestines


We have over one hundred trillion bacteria in our intestines weighing over four pounds.  It is often called intestinal flora but, in reality, it is bacteria and they have a critically important role to play in our digestive process.  There are good and bad bacteria and as long as the good guys are in control, we can be healthy and free of disease.  When the bad bacteria take over, we can suffer many different kinds of illnesses, including diarrhea, candida infections, leaky gut syndrome and many more.


There are literally hundreds of different types of bacteria in our intestines, but there are a few that are dominant and most people know them as acidophilus and bifidus.  Here are some of the benefits of these two very important groups of bacteria:


a. Benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus


  1. It prevents overgrowth of disease-causing microbes: candida species, E-coli, Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), and salmonella.
  2. It prevents and treats antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  3. It aids digestion of lactose and dairy products.
  4. It improves nutrient absorption.
  5. It maintains integrity of intestinal tract and protects against macromolecules entering bloodstream and causing antigenic response.
  6. It lessens intestinal stress from food poisoning.
  7. It acidifies intestinal tract. Low pH provides a hostile environment for pathogens and yeasts.
  8. It helps prevent vaginal and urinary tract infections.


b. Benefits of Bifidobacteria


  1. They prevent colonization of the intestine by pathogenic bacteria and yeasts by protecting the integrity of the intestinal lining.
  2. They produce acids that keep the pH balance in the intestine. This acid environment prevents disease-producing microbes from getting a foothold.
  3. They decrease the side effects of antibiotic therapy.
  4. They are the primary bacteria in infants, which help them grow.
  5. They inhibit growth of bacteria that produce nitrates in the bowel. Nitrates are bowel toxic and can cause cancer.
  6. They help prevent production and absorption of toxins produced by disease-causing bacteria, which reduces the toxic load of the liver.
  7. They manufacture B-complex vitamins.
  8. They help regulate peristalsis and bowel movements.
  9. They prevent and treat antibiotic-induced diarrhea.


The production of B vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12 are extremely important to the breakdown of food into the nutrients needed by our bodies.  These are called the methylation group and are crucial to the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters required by the brain.


These intestinal flora breakdown food into particles small enough that they can pass through the intestinal lining to be carried to our cells and our liver where many nutrients are stored for later use.


Intestinal Flora Summary– Friendly bacteria, such as acidophilus and bifidus, breakdown the food into smaller particles and perform the following tasks:


  • Produce more enzymes for digestion
  • Produce vitamins A, B and K
  • Produce lactic acid to keep a healthy acid level
  • Keep any bad bacteria in check (the correct balance is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad)
  • Produce organ acids to help with fecal elimination
  • Produce short chain fatty acids to supply energy to the intestinal cells.III. Good Digestion Starts with Good NutritionA vast majority of digestive issues begin with the selection of the wrong foods to eat. The human body is designed, and has evolved over the years, to eat certain foods. More changes have occurred in our diet during the past 50 years than happened in the previous 10,000 years and our bodies have not been able to adjust to these dramatic changes. That is why over one-third of our entire population in the United States has some type of digestive challenge and an equal number are on their way to having a problem. The most fundamental principle that everyone should follow is to eat live foods instead of dead foods.Live foods include:

–  Fresh fruit (uncooked)

–  Fresh vegetables (uncooked)

–  Nuts and seeds (except peanuts)

–  Spring water

–  Whole grains (mostly uncooked)

–  Cold pressed oils

–  Herbs

–  Sea greens (kelp spirulina, blue green algae)


Dead foods include:


–  Processed foods

–  Cooked foods

–  Genetically modified foods

–  Irradiated foods

–  Micro waved foods

–  Junk foods (most)


The reason these foods are dead is that the enzymes in them have been destroyed and/or the nutrients have been partially or totally removed or destroyed.  Without enzymes, the food cannot be properly broken down into nutrients and delivered to the cells.  The body makes some digestive enzymes but needs more from the live foods in order to have enough to digest all foods.  Cooking, processing or altering foods in any way destroys enzymes, as well as many vitamins and minerals.


A diet of only live (raw) foods may be unacceptable to most people who have become accustomed to eating cooked foods.  Here are the possible exceptions to the raw food diet:

  • Milk from plants and seeds (rice, soy, almonds, etc.)
  • Vegetables lightly steamed, baked or grilled
  • Eggs that are soft boiled or poached
  • Whole grains that are cooked (rice, oats, bailey, etc.)
  • Whole grain cereals (still in their shells)
  • Whole grain breads (still in their shells mostly)
  • Organic chicken or turkey
  • Grilled, boiled or poached deep-water fish (salmon, sardines, etc.)
  • Nut butters (almond, cashew, pecans, walnuts)
  • Protein power drinks (whey, rice, egg, soy)
  • Natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses)These are still whole foods with plenty of nutrients in them, but not as many enzymes as there should be. That is why most people should take a digestive enzyme supplement with each meal, especially as they get older (over the age of 40).

As a general rule, it is highly desirable to get 50-60% of our calories from live, uncooked foods in order to maintain a healthy digestive system and get all of the nutrients we need.  Even with this approach, it is virtually impossible to get all of the nutrients we need from the food we eat.


. Foods generally not good for any digestive problem

–  fried foods               –  dairy products

–  junk foods                –  red meat

–  soft drinks                –  corn

–  shellfish                    –  chocolate

–  coffee                       –  spicy foods

–  alcohol                     –  margarine

–  processed foods       –  peanut butter


IV    General Eating Guidelines for Good Digestion


  1. Food selection – Good digestion begins with selecting the best foods to eat in the first place. The following food choice guidelines are favored by a vast majority of progressive nutritionists, doctors and scientists:


  1. Choose organic fruits and vegetables if possible.
  2. Eat eggs from free-range chickens.
  3. Buy high heat canola or sunflower oil.
  4. Choose organic low fat meat and dairy products if you must eat these items. Avoid them if possible.
  5. Buy stevia or products made from stevia, such as Truvia instead of sugar.
  6. Eat whole grains and avoid all refined flour.
  7. Favor gluten-free grains, such as brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat.
  8. Make fresh juices instead of drinking canned or bottled ones.
  9. Buy spring water with minerals. Avoid tap water.
  10. Avoid all hydrogenated oils. Use cold pressed, unsaturated oils, such as olive, flax or borage.


  1. Food preparation and cooking – Good digestion also depends on how you cook or don’t cook your food. Preparation can determine how well your body handles certain foods.


  1. Do not deep-fry any foods.
  2. Do not heat unsaturated oils like flax or olive oil and use oils designated “high heat” only.
  3. Cook with purified water.
  4. Clean all fruits and vegetables with a veggie wash solution.
  5. Never cook in aluminum.
  6. Avoid Teflon and cook with “green cookware” where chemicals are stable to 10,000 degrees. Iron, steel or glass cookware is also acceptable.
  7. Do not cook in microwave ovens.
  8. Do not over cook foods. Light steam vegetables.
  9. Cook with sea salt, not commercial table salt.
  10. Soak seeds and grains in water over night


  1. Eating Guidelines – How we eat is perhaps more important that anything else, although eating the wrong foods correctly is not a good idea. Follow these eating guidelines:


  1. Eat at least 50% of your food uncooked (fruits and vegetables). This preserves the enzymes necessary for proper digestion.
  2. Chew most foods 20-30 times or until they are almost liquid.
  3. Eat in a relaxed setting with family if possible.
  4. Eat slowly and deliberately without rushing.
  5. Do not combine proteins and starches when eating. Follow the guidelines on the following diagram:






  1. Limit beverage consumption with meals, as this dilutes your digestive   enzymes.
  1. Take a digestive enzyme 5 minutes prior to eating, especially if you are over 40 years of age.
  2. Eat until you are 80% full. It takes 15-20 minutes for the body to tell the brain you are full. If you eat until you feel full, you will eat about 20% more calories than you should.
  3. Do not eat when you are stressed, if possible.
  4. Do not engage in physical activity within 30-60 minutes of eating, if possible.
  1. Other important good digestion guidelines


  1. Eat 5 or 6 small meals each day, every 3 hours if possible. Our bodies prefer this approach.


  1. Lubricate your colon with supplemental essential fatty acids, such as fish, borage or flax oil.


  1. Regular aerobic exercise helps move food through the intestines, as well as stimulate lymphatic flow. The lymph glands hold toxins for gradual release.       A small trampoline session every day is the best exercise. Walking is also very good.


  1. Drink at least 1/2 ounce of water for every pound of body weight everyday. Dehydration is one of the main causes of constipation.


  1. Stress management is crucial to good digestion.       Yoga, mediation and deep breathing are good methods to help improve digestion. Stress can change acid levels in the stomach, impede muscle activity in the intestines and consume too much vitamin B, which is needed for the processing of nutrients.


  1. Medications often have a negative impact on digestion, especially antidepressants, pain medications, antacids and diuretics.       Seek out natural alternatives to these and any medications as much as possible.


  1. Avoid any foods with chemical additives, as these chemicals are difficult to break down in the stomach, the intestines and the liver.


  1. Avoid eating raw fish due to the possibility of consuming parasites or bacteria, which can cause major problems for the digestive system.


  1. Be sure to consume about 40 grams of fiber everyday and consider using a fiber supplement if you feel you are not getting enough fiber from your food.


Try to keep a proper pH balance in your body.  Use pH strips to test your acid/alkaline balance in the morning upon wakening.  About 7.2 for urine is ideal and is excellent for good digestion and overall health.


  1. Supplements that help digestive problems


Many people, including many people with diabetes, have digestive challenges. It may be necessary to take therapeutic levels of certain nutritional supplements in order to help correct these challenges. This list provides some basic information about the nutritional supplements that have been scientifically proven to help resolve various intestinal problems. It is always advisable to seek the assistance of qualified health practitioner when using supplements of any kind to address a health issue.


  1. Digestive enzymes before every meal
  2. Essential oils (fish, flax, borage) with meals
  3. L-glutamine supports intestinal villi
  4. B vitamins for new cell development
  5. Vitamin C reduces toxins and inflammation (be careful with diarrhea)
  6. Vitamin K supports a healthy colon
  7. Zinc builds stomach lining and fights toxins
  8. Garlic destroys harmful bacteria
  9. Colloidal silver destroys harmful bacteria
  10. Kelp replaces minerals lost from diarrhea
  11. Potassium to replace lost potassium from diarrhea
  12. Acidophilus/bifidus to balance intestinal bacteria
  13. Iron for people with chronic bowel inflammation
  14. Vitamin A for protection of mucous membranes
  15. Glutathione for repair of intestinal cells
  16. N-acetyl-glucosamine to build mucous membranes
  17. Magnesium to help support intestinal muscles
  18. Betaine HCL replenishes stomach acid
  19. Aloe vera soothes and heals digestive tract
  20. Olive leaf extract effectively fights infections
  21. Oregano has antibacterial, antiviral, ant parasitic and antifungal properties
  22. Ginger tea for cramps and abdominal pain
  23. Slippery elm soothing to digestive tract
  24. Peppermint aids in healing and digestion
  25. Milk thistle supports the liver