"All disease begins in the gut.”
Hippocrates said this over 2000 years ago and now research is showing gut health is imperative to our overall health and wellbeing.
Our Digestive System is solely responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients, which essentially fuel your body. Without it, we wouldn't have the fuel to perform daily functions, including how we think and feel.
Upper Digestive System
Why is upper digestive health important?
Let’s start by looking at the upper digestive system. The upper digestive system is what we consider the top of the digestive chain and refers to the mouth, stomach and beginning of the small intestine. The main function of the upper digestive system is to break down foods so we can absorb essential nutrients.
“The main function for the upper digestive system is to break down foods so we can absorb essential nutrients.”
The stomach plays an incredibly important role because it makes and releases hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is highly acidic, dropping the pH of the stomach down to 1.5. This strong acid breaks down food into individual proteins.
Our stomach acid is what allows food to move into the small intestine, stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes, bicarbonate soda and bile. The bicarbonate soda neutralises the stomach acid, making these fluids very alkaline.
Why is strong stomach acid so important?
When you think about it, the stomach acid is responsible for setting up the rest of the digestive tract by creating the perfect pH. If your stomach acid isn’t at the right pH level, it won't be able to break down the proteins in your food and digest them properly. And without proper digestion, we cannot properly absorb nutrients.
“Without proper digestion, we cannot properly absorb nutrients.”
Signs that your upper digestive health needs support:
- Feeling full soon after eating little food
- Recognising food in stools
- Bloating around the belly button
- Gas production up or down
If there are problems occurring in the stomach, you’re more likely to experience unhealthy symptoms/signs later down the digestive tract.
How can you support your Upper Digestive System?
By eating right for you and ensuring you’re getting essential nutrients, you are supporting the production of your digestive enzymes. However, due to poor diet choices in the modern world, nutritional deficiencies, especially zinc deficiency, and the process of ageing, many people are not naturally producing the optimal level of digestive enzymes required for healthy upper digestion.
As we get older, our body isn’t able to produce as many enzymes as we did when we were younger. This means that our digestion tends to struggle. The decline in digestive enzyme production is due to nutrient deficiencies as well as a natural decline in the function of our pancreas. It’s also been found that this decline in digestive enzyme production starts as early as age 20.
We recommend supporting digestive enzyme production by:
Increasing zinc levels. The parietal cells that make our stomach acid are zinc-dependent which means low zinc status makes it hard for the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid.
- Including extra vitamin D support. Our pancreatic enzymes are vitamin D dependent. Without good vitamin D levels, we won’t be able to effectively make enzymes which are required to break down our food.
“As we get older, our body isn’t able to produce as many enzymes as we did when we were were younger. This means that as we get older our digestion tends to struggle.”
- Relaxed eating. Ideally, we need to be relaxed when eating which allows our ‘rest and digest’ nervous system to be dominant, and this enables better production of our stomach acid.
- Starting the day with apple cider vinegar/lemon water to stimulate gastric acid
- Adding in regular digestive enzyme support that includes good levels of hydrochloric acid and beneficial enzymes to increase your levels before each meal.
“Digestive enzymes are essential for our upper and lower digestive system to function optimally.”
Digestive enzymes are essential for our upper and lower digestive system to function optimally. Someone who is lacking in digestive enzymes is also more than likely to experience issues in both their upper and lower digestive tract.
Lower Digestive System
Why is lower digestive health important?
We’re are now looking at the latter half of the small intestine and mainly the large intestine, which makes up our Lower Digestive System. Our large intestine is home to most of the bacteria that live in or on the body and in fact, there are approximately 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells.
"I often say to clients that we are more bacteria than we are human!"
Why our bacteria is so important?
The beneficial bacteria living in our gut are hugely important because they help us by breaking down our food further, giving us access to extra nutrients. Beneficial bacteria even makes some important nutrients for us, including vitamin K2 and biotin. Clever bacteria!
You may have heard of the microbiome, a collection of both beneficial and often non-beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. We rely hugely on these beneficial bacteria to produce neurotransmitter precursors, that we need to function on a daily level and which is essential to how we think and feel. Probiotics are supplements that contain a collection of beneficial bacteria.
Non-beneficial or unfriendly bacteria come from external influencers such as food, environmental toxins and even stress. Non-beneficial bacteria can cause havoc to our health if we allow them to make our digestive tracts their home. This is because the bacteria living in our gut that makes up our microbiome is completely integrated with our immune system and our DNA.
Signs that lower digestive health needs support:
- Bloating around the belly button
- Gas production up or down
- Constipation. We like everyone to move at least 30cm of faecal matter per day
- Gut problems or a diagnosis such as IBS, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's
How can you support your lower digestive system?
Unfortunately, the modern diet and modern environment have impacted our microbiome in a significant way leaving out digestive tract lacking in the diversity or the numbers of bacteria that we need to live in optimal health. We then find ourselves in trouble, as the balance of our good bacteria and bad bacteria are out of whack.
We recommend supporting your lower digestive system with the following:
“Unfortunately, the modern diet and modern environment has impacted our microbiome in a significant way leaving out guts lacking in the diversity or the numbers of bacteria that we need to live in optimal health.”
Fermented foods - Fermented foods help restore the correct balance of bacteria by feeding the good bacteria. Fermented foods include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir.
- Eating a nutrient-rich wholefood diet - By eating a wholefood diet you eliminate bad bacteria thriving off processed sugars and releasing cravings within your body to make you give them what they want.
Bone broth - Bone broth contains healing compounds such as glutamine, collagen, proline, glycine and gelatine. These are essential amino acids and trace minerals that work within the intestines to help seal the gut.
Stay hydrated. Water is essential to a healthy lower digestive system but it often overlooked!
- Taking a probiotic daily. Probiotics are bacteria that have a known health benefit. Research shows the promotion of diverse beneficial gut bacteria with a quality daily probiotic is essential for supporting digestion, nutrient absorption and ultimately our health and energy status.
Lower digestive health is absolutely imperative to your overall health and wellbeing. Nourishing your lower digestive system will ensure you have a good balance of bacteria in your gut. This is essential to absorbing nutrients that are vital to functioning optimally on a daily basis.
Food is not only essential to the nourishment of your body, but it also presents by far, the biggest potential threat to our immunity. By taking a closer look at what you’re putting in, you can start to navigate which foods really serve your gut health and in turn your overall health and wellbeing.
Together the upper and lower digestive systems play an essential role in the absorption of the nutrients that we need to function on a daily basis. Support your digestive health by adding in digestive enzymes for proper function of the upper digestive tract. This ensures that you are able to break down foods completely. When the upper digestive tract is functioning optimally the lower digestive system is set up for smoother sailing.
For optimal functioning of the lower digestive tract, nourishing the microbiome that lives in your gut is key. An advanced daily probiotic will ensure you're adding the beneficial bacteria you need for proper absorption of nutrients to nourish your body.