Digestion, a closer look by Evropej Alimi
Before you even continue reading this article, I am not a doctor, not do I pretend to be one, or am I a professional or anyone who is qualified to give medical advice. This is purely a journal of my findings and people should use the information ( summary of findings which are unique to me ) here with a grain of salt. If itís on the internet, doesnít mean itís true. With that said, there is a good moral to this story and it can help some people who suffer from digestive problems.
So here is the story. Because of my own journey through dietary issues, I have learned many things which were not clear or evident to everyone and nor does a doctor which includes gastroenterologists include in their sessions if you choose to go to one. Like most people, I went straight for a medical pill popping cure which was long, expensive and complicated with no positive long term results. The end result was that I was diagnosed with IBS ( irritable bowel syndrome, another way of doctors saying they donít know what the issue is ) and I was left with my conditions as they were.† Here are my findings that I want to share which might help someone resolve their own issues or at least help a bit.
1. The following categories affect people in different ways and in different phases of dietary recovery. Each one is also impacted by personís chemistry, background and issues. Another word, each person is an individual and might react differently or experience different things.
2. What we eat?
The content of food that we eat affects a lot of things. I have broken them down into sections.
a. Carbohydrates affect a lot of things but the one that is relevant here is fermentation. Bacteria in the stomach ferment sugars or carbohydrates. I found that bloating and gas are related to the quantity of carbs an individual takes in. So, for me, reducing carbs reduced bloating and gas.
b. Processed foods in general are not very easy on your stomach. For example cookies, cakes, snack foods all affect digestion. Consider the preservatives, food dyes, fillers and soon you realize that your digestive system is not designed for them. Give your body things it was designed to digest.
c. Deep fried foods were something that my medical doctor made me aware of and instructed me to avoid. The amount of energy required to process greasy foods for example is a lot higher than naturally occurring food groups. So for me, avoiding these food groups which include fast food was a good start and with positive results.
d. Fiber in general helps with suspending fluids and allowing the body to absorb them. Too much fiver can also increase bloating do to gas or volume. The key is to balance the amount of fiber with each meal. Try to eat meals which include fiber throughout the day. Remember, this is not a pill you take once a day.
e. Carbonated drinks have a double effect, the sugar and carbonation. The sugar of course causes gas from fermentation and the carbonation causes gas and bloating from the carbon dioxide or carbonation. I should mention one more effect is phosphoric acid which can erode the stomach lining. The stomach lining is a filter and reduces sensitivity. So, eroding this lining will cause irritation to a lot of things you eat. †
f. Acidity or Ph is something to consider. Since the body produces acid, eating too much acidic food can increase the acidity in digestion. The body can then react and actually produce less acid in response or the other way around if too much basic food groups are consumed. Having a Ph balance in your diet will help and being consistent will allow the body to normalize to the correct acid production level. Remember that the body needs a long time to adjust to eating habits, weeks if not months for some.
3. How we eat it food matters.
Do you think someone who rushes eating a meal effects the digestion? I found out that it does.
a. The first thing I found is that the amount of food you eat affects you. Why not eat until you are not feeling hungry? A small meal to hold you up or maybe just eat past that point of not feeling hungry. A small meal is easier to digest than a large meal. The amount of acid you produce and the amount of enzymes you generate will be sufficient for small easy meals which may not be the case for large meals. This I noticed is a cultural habit where everything is super-sized in this country.
b. Chewing was critical for me. Chewing introduces saliva which helps digest food. Also, chewing breaks food up so it's easier to digest. So, not chewing your food enough can cause your digestive system to work overtime and you can also swallow a lot more air. So, take your time and chew more with small bites.
c. Swallowing air is partly due to eating fast and not chewing enough. You can swallow air when eating or drinking like gulping a glass fast when thirsty. Air that is swallowed needs to be burped or it will come out the other end as gas and make you feel bloated. Moral of the story, again take your time with smaller amounts.
4. Amount we eat matters.
As I mentioned before, people think that you need to eat until you cannot eat any more. Why? Is there a food shortage? Is there a calamity coming? Why not eat what your body needs. If you donít have a lot of physical activity, do you need the extra calories?
a. Part of this discussion is also the food categories we eat. If you need to fill up on quantity, why not eat large quantities from categories of foods like fruits of veggies? These are healthier choices and have fewer calories but more importantly are easier to digest. Your body is built to process these foods and will have an easier time doing so.
b. Food quantity of certain groups will affect people in different way. Pay attention when eating your food and see which one cause side effects. For me, I found that white bread caused severe bloating and then gas afterwards. This effect will be different for different people but bottom line is pay attention to what food groups are not agreeing with you. Some foods in general cause bloating and gas like beans or cauliflower. Bottom line here, pay attention how you feel after meals and make correlations.
5. Number of times we eat is something to consider.
This goes along with amount of foods as well. Having smaller meals will result in smaller side effects even if you donít change your diet at all. Also, it will keep your digestive system running more often which will regulate a lot of internal processes.
a. Keeping meals on a schedule might make a difference and it did for me. This is like conditioning your body which will regulate bowel movements as well. Keeping things consistent can allow your body to adopt. Remember your body adjusts to your habits and if your habits are consistent, your body has a better chance of adjusting.
b. Snacking in between meals again can reduce the amount you need to eat. It can also keep your digestion going which will help with motility ( the time it takes for food to process through your body ). Pick healthy snacks, for example I have three different types of nuts on the kitchen table when I feel the need to snack. Think easy options here which will have a higher level of success.
6. Exercise and health in general will impact a lot of things.
Exercise helped me tremendously and I cannot emphasize the importance enough.
a. Cardio exercise will increase your metabolism. Your body will want to process food on a regular basis which will cause you to be hungry. This will then trigger the creation of enzymes and acid to help in digestion. Again, consistency helps a lot here. Exercise also flushes out a lot of things from your system. For example, running can cause you to burp a lot of expel gas which leaves you feeling much better after words.
b. Anaerobic exercise can help with increasing muscle mass and reducing the overall size of the abdomen. Muscles in general consume energy and having more will consume more of the fat and energy which is created in the abdomen. This for me reduced abdomen size, reduces fat in the area and promotes better blood flow. You will look good and feel great both physically and mentally. †
7. Medical reasons can the cause why some people might have dietary issues.
This should always be considered and a professional should be consulted ( it doesnít hurt to get the information even if they donít find anything, your mind will be at rest ). Remember that medical reasons with habitual eating habits can compound your issues. For example, not absorbing nutrients will cause your situation to worsen. I found out that if vitamin E is not absorbed for a long period of time, it will be even more difficult for your body to absorb them later on even if consumed. For me, absorption had to be done through liquid form through the tong until my levels rose to the point where my digestive tract could actually absorb them. Here are some things that I was checked for.
a. Acid production either not enough or too much can cause all kinds of problems. Acid helps in digestion and not having enough will cause food not to be digested correctly. Too much acid can cause ulcers and irritate the esophagus.
b. Enzyme production is the secondary process which breaks food up and allows the digestive tract to absorb the nutrients. I myself produced enough enzymes but then again the exact amount and types might not be well understood by medicine. I will also say this here, this field is not well researched so donít blame medicine or the people who practice medicine like doctors for not knowing exactly what is going on. Consult many doctors and ask your doctor many questions.
c. Flora is the bacteria in the stomach. This is a new field of study for gastroenterology. I can tell you that pasteurized foods donít have any and your body is depleted of these little bugs. Eating unpasteurized dairy and fruits could be a good source but there are other options like probiotic pills you can take. Be careful here because taking these can cause access bloating to occur from over growth of these little buggers in the beginning. A balance in the flora doesnít come over night, in fact everything digestive for me was in months. What I will say though is that not having healthy bacteria in your stomach allows unhealthy bacteria to flourish. So this is a numbers and types games. If your grass if healthy, weeds have a hard time taking root sort of speak.
d. Motility is the rate at which food passes through your system. To fast can cause stools to be loose since the body doesnít have enough time to absorb the fluids. Too slow can cause constipation and other problems or complications. Eating often and small meals with a balance of fiber can reduce this.
8. The following are things which I think caused my dietary issues.
There is literature out there as well which gives the medical reasons behind each one. Google can be your friend but then remember that itís just information just like this article you are reading. For me, it was partially motivated by a doctor and the rest by education.
a. Antibiotics are good and bad. Antibiotics are sometimes needed for example bacterial infections but keep in mind that they affect the flora in your stomach. By affect I mean kill a lot of it. So, after your antibiotic treatment, you can be left with an opportunity for bad flora to take over. Taking multiple sessions of antibiotics in a short term is even more risky. Ask your doctor if you really need to take antibiotics and they will usually tell you if you do or do not. I always ask myself because I grew up with a heavy usage of this treatment which I believe affected my health big time.
b. Food choices can affect your digestion. Heavy use of soda can erode the stomach lining and make your stomach sensitive. Heavy use of dairy products can cause your body to produce extra acid which can cause ulcers or acid reflux. Lactose is a sugar which most people canít process so it ends up going to the large intestine for fermentation. Heavy uses of greasy food can have the same effect. Lack of food choices can also cause lack of nutrition which can affect body organs which produce enzymes. Bottom line, garbage in is garbage out. Your body is a temple, treat as such.
c. Health choices include exercise. Having a healthy body in general will promote healthy digestion. Exercising for example can increase blood flow which keeps all your organs healthy and nutrients flowing. Watching what you eat and making sure you eat proper nutrition is important. Your body needs certain vitamins, fluids, and so on. Not providing these can cause problems.
d. Eating habits are also responsible for digestive issues. Eating super late can cause acid reflux for example. Other points, I crave carbs and I eat them for example. But, when that happens, I work out even harder to burn them off. Again, itís not about abstaining but rather balance and being aware.
9. Big picture.
At the end of the day, I found that pill popping did nothing for me. From over the counter, to the general practitioner, to the gastroenterologist, they all failed. What worked were education and a healthy life style changes.
a. Educate yourself. Use all your resources such as friends, doctors, the internet, books and such. Do research about foods such as which cause gas or which are easy to digest.
b. Natural diets usually produce the best results. Things that come from plants are typically easily digested. This is not an option for everyone but just remember to make the right choices when you can. Protein, meats and such are usually the best or at least for me. I can eat a steak and find that I am neither bloated nor gassy. Make these choices when appropriate.
c. Medical help should be considered. I left this for last because doctors can find things which can be fixed. Enzyme produce is one of them or acid over production. Ulcers are another issue combined with irritated esophagus. See your doctor, ask your doctor a lot of questions, you are paying them so use their time well. Try to describe your symptoms as much as possible. The more information they have, the better they can treat you. When I went to my specialist, I told him I was sensitive to certain foods, certain times of day and how they made me feel. Saying you felt bad means nothing to them and it is useless. I told him that I was bloated at first and it felt like upper gastro bloating. Then I described my motility and consistency. If there was pressure, I described where the pressure was and for how long. Symptoms are what doctors use to diagnose your problem. If your description sucks, the diagnoses will suck as well no matter how good your doctor is, the treatment will suck as well. Again, garbage in, garbage out.
If you find anything useful, please send me an email because I would love to hear that this made a difference. If you find something that could be written better, please provide suggestions. My goal is to spread awareness and maybe make someoneís life a little better.