The gut, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is the foundation of good health or disease. This has been a healthcare staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and even more so with Ayurveda, India’s ancient medicine. But somehow, modern medicine has strayed from this premise.
We have to take responsibility for nurturing our own digestion, or as the ancient Asian practices assert, ignite our own digestive fire. Protein foods need to be broken down into amino acids, fats need to be broken down into fatty acids, and carbohydrates need to be broken down into glucose.
Digestion involves the whole GI tract, from top to bottom (literally). It’s not just the stomach that handles it all. The digestion train begins in the mouth, then the stomach takes over churning the food with gastric acids.
The small intestines handle nutrient absorption into the blood stream with enzymes from the pancreas, and the large intestine contains most of those friendly gut bacteria that aid digestion and support the immune system throughout the body.
So you may be able to see a little bit now why digestion is so important for overall health and well-being.
7 Tips to Help Provide Good Digestion
- 1. Take antibiotics only if there is no choice, otherwise, avoid them. Antibiotics destroy friendly gut bacteria in the small intestines that are vital for maintaining a functioning immune system. So if you’re in a compromised situation and forced into taking antibiotics, make sure you take a strong probiotic an hour or two after each dose to restore the good guys.
- 2. Don’t drink cold liquids while eating or just before or afterward. This literally dampens or cools your digestive fire, according to TCM and Ayurveda.
- 3. Chew slowly. Enzymes are vital for digestion. They are catalysts for chemically converting foods to nutrients without becoming parts of the nutrients themselves. In addition to grinding up the food to make your stomach’s job easier, saliva that’s created as you chew also contains enzymes.
- 4. Realize the importance of having sufficient stomach acid. Some recommend a tablespoon or two of organic unfiltered apple cider just before meals. There are also hydrochloric acid (HCL) supplements. Betaine HCL is the least expensive and most commonly available.
- 5. Protect your pancreas by taking in enzymes. If you rely totally on your pancreas to provide the enzymes in the GI tract’s small intestinal phase, the pancreas can burn out. Then you’re really in trouble. Preserving your pancreas helps keep proteolytic enzyme or protease production up. They are the only enzymes that can break open cancer cells, which exist randomly in all bodies, before they colonize and clump together as tumors. It’s not necessary to be a totally raw vegan, but ensure you mix in some uncooked fruits, vegetables, and salads every day. Adding enzyme supplements is also helpful for preserving your pancreas.
- 6. Ensure your large intestine has a large probiotic population. Probiotic bacteria should outnumber pathogenic bacteria and fungi with an 80 – 85 percent to 20 – 15 percent ratio. Besides taking probiotic supplements while using antibiotics, it’s wise to include fermented foods and kefirs, especially if home made, in our daily diets.
- 7. Finally, fiber foods and sufficient hydration are necessary to ensure proper elimination. Whole grains and legumes, especially purchased dry, should be consumed often. Drink whatever is necessary to prevent mild dehydration.