The Digestive System Simplified
Up to 50% of the population suffers from some kind of serious digestive complaint.
Interestingly, most of these are listed in medical textbooks with ‘Cause unknown’
With epidemics of obesity, metabolic disease, and the related causes of death around the world, looking at improving gut health logically seems to be the best place to start.
Digestive disorders at epidemic levels
Up to 50% of us have poor digestive health and suffer from a metabolic condition associated with digestive imbalance.
Chronic constipation, Indigestion and Acid Reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Crohn’s disease are very common.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services each year the following number of people are affected in the USA alone. (5)
- Prevalence: 63 million people
- Ambulance visits: 4.0 million
- Hospitalizations: 1.1 million
- Mortality: 132 deaths
- Prevalence: 20 percent of the population
- Ambulance visits: 8.9 million
- Hospitalizations: 4.7 million
- Mortality: 1,653 deaths
- Prevalence: 15.5 million people
- Ambulance visits: 669,000
- Hospitalizations: 358,000
- Mortality: 2,981 deaths
- Prevalence: 15.3 million people
- Ambulance visits: 1.6 million
- Hospitalizations: 280,000
- Mortality: 21 deaths
- Prevalence: 359,000 people
- Ambulance visits: 1.1 million
- Hospitalizations: 187,000
- Mortality: 611 deaths
Add these together and you get nearly 50% of the population of the United States! I think you get the picture, and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digestive disorders. Often these complaints come in combination, and one can lead to another. This begs the question “What is going wrong?” nearly 50% of the population may have constipation, acid reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel, or Crohn’s disease, and we haven’t even talked about Celiac disease, food intolerances, hemorrhoids, gallstones or colon cancer which are also very common digestive disorders.
You can imagine the total number affected by all of these combined.
Herbs for intestinal health
Herbs are well known for their effectiveness in treating digestive complaints. Many herbs have a long tradition of use, which has now been scientifically proven. Combining a prebiotic, whole-food diet with digestive herbs has got to be the ultimate gut-health protocol. Read more about the herbs I recommend by clicking the links below.
This is my favourite formulation for balancing general gut health over the long-term. It’s a product I developed personally for my clients in the late 1990’s and the results are wide-reaching in terms of gut health.
Click the ingredient names for more details on each:
4 Capsules daily is recommended.
The Digestive Tract – A Quick Look?
The most complex system in the human body, the digestive tract starts at the mouth, goes through the esophagus into the stomach, small intestine (includes ducts in from the pancreas and gallbladder) then into the large intestine or colon. It is far to complex to even begin to understand in detail but I will make a grand statement that may explain the basics.
Your digestive system works in a similar way to your home garden compost heap. You throw your scraps on your compost and a little while later you have a nice pile of fertilizer come out the other end. The difference with your gut is that there’s a permeable membrane that filters out the good stuff, the nutrients that your body needs, and what is left behind become the compost.
The process of digestion largely involves acid, enzymes, and bacteria of which there are literally trillions of. These micro-organisms exist in a subtle balance with each other and have to compete with thousands of unhealthy parasitic organisms, bacteria, worms, yeast, mold, and fungi. If our health organisms become deficient, then the unhealthy varieties move in for the kill.
A very important point to remember about what you eat relates to this simple fact. Don’t eat anything that you wouldn’t throw on your compost heap because it simply won’t digest properly. For example, most factory-processed foods are preserved with chemicals and these will upset your digestion.
What we want to eat are foods that break down naturally like unprocessed fruits and vegetables. These feed the good varieties of microbes and are called prebiotics.
Dysbiosis – What is it?
It refers to the microbial imbalance on or inside the body. The most common form reported is in the Gut – a number of diseases can be associated with it and they include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Weight gain – Obesity
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
What are the symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis?
- Bloating, belching and flatulence:
- Indigestion, constipation, diarrhea:
- Acid reflux:
- Chronic Fatigue: and
- Gastrointestinal pain or discomfort.
Prebiotics were originally defined in 1995 by Gibson and Roberfroid as “a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health. (7) Quite simply Prebiotics are indigestible food ingredients that stimulate the maintenance and development of good Gut microorganisms.
None of the microbial species that are normally in our Gut are bad overall. Some yeasts and bacteria can get actually help get our gut back in shape.
Probiotics introduce good bacteria into the Gut whilst prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that are already there. These agents have great potential to improve or maintain a balanced intestinal microflora (microbiome) to enhance Gut health and general well-being. (3)
Prebiotics in fiber can be soluble or insoluble and can be found in lots of fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble Fiber – It goes into our bodies and pretty much comes out the same! It doesn’t dissolve water and goes through us pretty much intact. It provides bulk and stimulates the bowel wall to move. You can find these fibers in vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains and the skins on apples.
Soluble Fiber – It turns to a gel by taking in water. It slows down digestion and the uptake of nutrients. Through this process, soluble fiber stops a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and they make us feel full. Some examples of soluble fiber include linseeds, slippery elm, psyllium hulls, chia seeds, lentils, strawberries, beans, nuts, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
Psyllium is classified as a mucilaginous fiber due to its powerful ability to form a gel in water. This bulking fiber acts as a sponge, absorbing water and waste material in the bowels. Psyllium husks significantly increase the level of stool moisture and both wet/ dry stool weight, this is why it has such a great effect on relieving constipation and improving bowel health.
An important factor in the positive effect of prebiotics is colonic bacterial fermentation. This allows the positive gut bacteria to thrive. Easily gut-fermented foods include apples, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, chicory root, garlic, leeks, onions and oats. (7)
Probiotics – Good bacteria
There is a lot of talk about probiotics and for good reason. With our processed food diets, we have become deficient in the healthy bacteria and other organisms that should be alive in our Gut.
Billions of microorganisms live in our digestive systems – they live in an antagonistic/competitive way of fighting against one another constantly. Most of these organisms have a win-win relationship with us. The digestive system makes a nice warm environment for them as well as feeding them. In turn, we get benefits such as:
- Improved Bowel Motility – the ability to move spontaneously and actively, consuming energy in the process;
- Get Nutrients – such as folate (needed for healthy cell reproduction), vitamin K for blood clotting, B12 which helps make DNA and red blood cells, biotin for cell growth and fatty acids which help maintain healthy cells in the bowel wall;
- Development and maintenance of a healthy immune system and bowel wall;
- The production of chemicals that hinder the growth of other types of bacteria;
- The breakdown of the complex carbohydrates that our digestive systems can’t digest – such as cellulose and starches; and
- Facilitates the breakdown of cancer developing carcinogenic substances that enter the bowel. (1)
These microorganisms mainly come from our birth, as the baby comes in contact with intestinal flora and the mother’s vagina. Unfortunately, this does not occur in a Caesarean section and can make a big impact on the type of organisms that settle in the intestine in the babies early life. This may have an effect on the immune system. (2)
Probiotics for Immunity
We mentioned the development of healthy immunity above. It is well recognized that breast milk has a powerful effect on building the immune system of the baby, but lesser known is the effect of good prebiotic and probiotics in the diet can also go a long way towards improving the immunity of adults and even the elderly.
Some examples include:
- Probiotic supplementation has been shown to enhance natural killer cell activity in the elderly (8)
- Another study demonstrated that dietary consumption of probiotics can enhance natural immunity in healthy elderly subjects, and that a relatively short-term dietary regime (6 weeks) is sufficient to impart measurable improvements in immunity that may offer significant health benefits to consumers. (9)
- In a 3-week trial consumption of lactose-hydrolyzed low-fat milk powder supplemented with probiotics promoted an increase in immune killer cell activity of 147%. (10)
- One study showed that consuming 300g/day of yoghurt containing B. lactis and L. acidophilus strain for 5 weeks significantly elevated the percentage of granulocytes and monocytes showing phagocytic activity from 92 to 95%. (11)
Papaya and pineapple are two of the richest plant sources, as attested by their traditional use as natural “tenderizers” for meat. Papain and bromelain are the respective names for the protein-digesting enzymes found in these fruits and these are included in the Herbal DETOX and BodiTune DETOX ‘n SLIM products to assist in the digestive process.
A study, called the largest of its kind, has found that organic foods have more nutrition than conventional foods, including more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues. (4) Eating a wide variety of foods, especially whole foods that are unprocessed, organic or as minimally processed as possible. Eat more washed and raw fruits and vegetables. Raw organic foods contain lots of bacteria and fiber to feed and nurture the natural Gut bacteria. These bacteria are also Prebiotics along with fiber as we discussed above. Read More.
A diet high in fiber provides more prebiotics for the good gut micro-organisms, plus fruit and vegetables are our primary source of digestive enzymes. Research also shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index (BMI), lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. Read More.
The Ultimate Herbal Detox program contains all of these herbs except Gymnema (which is the Satisfed product) and provides your digestive system with a complete cleanse, balance and restoration process. It is simply one the best things you could ever do for your intestinal balance and general health.
What Are the Benefits of doing the Ultimate Herbal Detox:
- A good Colon Cleanse with Psyllium, Cascara bark, Turkish rhubarb;
- A good Parasite Cleanse with Black Walnut, Cloves, Goldenseal and Wormwood;
- A Liver detox with Milk Thistle 7000mg Daily, Dandelion, and Barley Grass;
- A Heavy Metal DETOX (with both Cilantro and Chlorella) Heavy Metal Detox herbs have been added to assist in the removal of metallic toxic substances from the body. Metals such as Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury can build up over time and negatively affect your health. The new Detox will assist in the removal of these toxic substances; and
- Pre-biotics – Chia seeds, Aloe Vera, Slippery Elm and many more. This gives the colon a much more gentle bulking soluble and insoluble fiber and gentle laxative effect while providing protein, mucilage prebiotics and a broad range of nutrients to support a healthy colon.
I highly recommend completing a Herbal Detox program once or twice a year to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Remember “You are what you eat” or even more accurate “You are what you absorb”
Brett Elliott ®