Q: Hey boys, my digestion has changed over the years. I can’t tolerate certain foods like I could when I was younger. Is this normal? Are there any remedies or ideas you guys might have?
A: Wow, this is such a common question we get all the time and certainly is an issue as we all move thru life! From what we read and study and what we see in real life, day in and day out in our customers, digestion definitely changes. It is important to know this seems to be normal and to adapt to it. We should listen to our bodies and change as they do.
Some facts: Our stomachs normally produce an amazing variety of enzymes (proteins that digest all food groups). Also, our bodies produce and secrete hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). In a normal and healthy state of being, we don’t even think about this amazing bodily function that operates 24/7 as we move through our day. As we age however, things do change in many areas of life, as we all know! This article will deal with some ideas and remedies that may help with normal digestion. Listed and discussed below are several very common and affordable dietary supplements:
1. Digestive Enzymes
•Amylase (helps break down sugars),
•Protease (proteins), Lipase (fats), Cellulase (insoluble fibers),
•Lactase (Lactose or milk sugar), Bromelain (protein), Legumase (legume sugars), Bile Salts (fats), Papain (protein), as well as others.
Available are “broad spectrum” enzyme blends that cover all or most of the food groups, or many of these are available individually for specific food groups. For instance, if you’ve had your gall bladder removed and are having trouble digesting fats, you may want to take Bile Salts. This helps emulsify fats for proper digestion and elimination. Lactase can help with dairy digestion. For general poor digestion, a blend would cover all the foods you are eating. Enzymes should be taken at mealtime. Of course, if you have issues w2. ith a known food group, you should obviously minimize consumption of these. If that bowl full of Breyer’s Ice Cream wakes you up at 3am with intestinal cramps, maybe eat a smaller portion next time!
2.HCl (Hydrochloric Acid)
This word sounds a little scary, but thankfully we have it! Proper digestion depends on a low pH (measure of acidity/alkalinity). Normal pH in our stomachs is 1.5 to 3.5. This assures digestion and assimilation of all foods. As we age, acid production can decrease also. Supplements are available that can add acidity to our stomachs. Many broad-spectrum digestive blends also contain Betaine HCl. Betaine is an amino acid group that is used to bind and stabilize the HCl. Also, Betaine HCl is often mixed with Pepsin, another proteolytic (breaks down protein) enzyme. Do not take HCl if you have bleeding gastric ulcers or have gastritis. It can aggravate the condition.
Friendly bacteria live in our guts from top to bottom. Its function concerning digestion is to help facilitate proper assimilation of food. Also, beneficial bacteria produce necessary nutrients as a healthy by-product.
One important point is the use of acid-reducing drugs that are prescribed for heart burn, gastric reflux, gastritis, gastric ulcers, etc. Examples are Prilosec, Nexium, Tagamet, Zantac, etc. Short term use seems to be very effective in helping with these issues. The controversy is with long-term use. Long-term acid reducing therapy may be tied to degenerative issues such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer Disease due to changes in nutrient absorption. This is a theory and not proven, so check with your doctor if you have concerns.
For simple digestive issues, we like to recommend a simple idea.
Try a digestive enzyme with each meal. If things improve we can assume you are not producing and secreting enough enzymes any more! Or try a probiotic and see what happens. These are very safe items so the risk is low.
The best thing to do is always check with your doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Sometimes pharmaceuticals are necessary, but often these natural remedies can support and alleviate your conditions.
Chronic acid reflux can be a very serious problem with long-term damage issues, so don’t ignore it. Poor diet, stress, tobacco, and spicy foods can all aggravate this. Lifestyle changes can often correct many healthcare issues.
As always, relax, balance work and play, hang with friends and family, put down your cell phone for a while, exercise, hydrate, breathe deep, laugh a LOT more and BE WELL!
Bill and Mike