December and the Christmas Season seems to revolve around food. Everywhere we go there is a burgeoning table of goodies from appetisers to desserts, the selection is overwhelming. With this great variety of high quality food it is strange that so many people are sick at this time of year. You would think that this abundance of nutrition would boost our immune system for the next three months.
Nutritionists have long held the view that good health begins in the stomach, you know, “you are what you eat”. More recent studies have confirmed this theory but expanded from “you are what you digest” to “you are what you absorb”. How true, if your digestive tract is incapable of breaking down food to extract nutrients or absorbing the nutrients in the small intestine, then the immune boosting vitamins and minerals will simply pass through your system, leaving your body undernourished and challenged to fight off viral or bacterial infections.
The most obvious symptoms of an impaired digestive system are the ones we have all experienced occasionally – indigestion, heartburn, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. When these symptoms occur frequently it is a sign of a severely imbalanced digestive system. There are other symptoms however which are more subtle and not always recognised as the effects of poor digestion and absorption. They include nutrient deficiencies, low iron, weight loss or weight gain, weakness, fatigue, depression, ADHD, migraines, inflammation, joint pain, osteoporosis, skin issues (itching or rashes) and general poor health and low immune function.
The symptoms resulting from inflammation such as arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, ADHA, migraines, gout and weight gain are often the result of undigested proteins. Symptoms such as nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, weakness, fatigue and susceptibility to colds and flu are often associated with nutrients passing through instead of being absorbed and utilized by the body.
The Mayo clinic states the time for total digestion process from beginning to end averages 53 hours. For this entire time the food you eat is center of numerous chemical reactions with multiple enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and hundreds of strains of good bacteria. No wonder there are times your stomach rumbles and your intestines churn. Those noises, the discomfort and occasional embarrassing instance of gas are signs the chemistry lab in your guts is missing a few chemicals.
As we age or experience times of stress, our system doesn’t create enough of the hydrochloric acid or the enzymes needed to function properly. This results in heartburn, acid reflux and low immune response. Some people lack the ability to produce certain key enzymes which results in improperly digested material wreaking havoc in our bodies, which is the case for those who have celiac disease or those who are gluten or dairy sensitive. Certain medications can interfere with enzyme production and antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in our bodies as well as the bad. When this occurs in the large intestine the result is often irritable bowel syndrome, or chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation.
We need to maintain the proper balance of acid, enzymes and gut flora to ensure our food is properly and totally broken down into the molecules our body can use to grow new cells, repair tissues, provide energy, nourish our brain and nervous system, eliminate toxins and fight infections and disease.
So next time your stomach is talking to you, it may be saying “I need a little help here, I’m short of some key ingredients. ” Supplementing with digestive enzymes, betaine, and probiotics will let you enjoy all your favorite Christmas treats and keep everything moving smoothly and quietly.