Most of the information in this blog post comes from a lecture I listened to by Keri Brooks, FDN.
Digestion is heavily effected by our emotional state. Stress that brings us into a fight or flight state releases more Cortisol into our system. Cortisol slows down digestion. So when you are going to eat a meal please take time to relax and take a few deep breaths before beginning to eat your food. Also, digestion starts in the mouth. When we chew we release Amylase which is an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates. So carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth, so remember to slow down and chew your food well. I recommend chewing your food 20-30 times. Which is a lot more than most people do!
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach is responsible for the breaking down of our food, especially protein and fat. It also plays a role in the absorption of many important fat soluble vitamins — D, A, and E. In addition, all B vitamins are bound by proteins so you have to break down the proteins in order to utilize vitamin B. And without enough HCL your body is unable to absorb minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron. If our food is not broken down properly this can lead to many problems including constipation, bloating, gas, acid regurgitation, mood problems and more. Things that can deplete your HCL are stress, age, proton pump inhibitors, over the counter antacids like Tums, bacterial infections such as H. Pylori infection, and more. Drinking water with your meal can dilute the HCL so it is best to avoid drinking water with meals.
One way to help stimulate your HCL production is to grate a whole ginger root, add the juice of a lemon to it, add sea salt and mix it all together. Keep it in the refrigerator and take a small spoonful of this before each meal and chew it up in your mouth. You don’t have to swallow the pulp of the ginger but the juice will help to stimulate the secretion of HCL.
Also, increasing sea salt intake helps the body produce HCL because it increases your chloride levels which is a building block of HCL. Sea salt has high quality minerals which helps with constipation by helping with electrolyte balance. Especially magnesium, which is one nutrient that is very difficult to get just through diet. Magnesium helps release the food from the stomach into the intestines. And it helps with regularity. Taking epsom salt baths with 1 cup of epsom salt and 1 cup of baking soda and soaking for at least 20 minute helps your body detoxify and build up your magnesium stores in the body.
Taking a digestive enzyme 30 minute before you eat will help you digest your food properly. Do not take digestive enzymes with food.
Probiotics are important to repopulate the intestines with friendly bacteria. Look for a probiotic that has 10 different strains of Lactobacillus/Lactobacillus bifida and at least 25 CFUs. It is good to rotate different types of probiotics.
Some fiber products can cause stool to get too bulky and create more problems. Chia seeds can be a good option. Chia seeds are one of the best sources of omega 3, they are anti-inflammatory and they are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Put 2 tablespoons in a glass of water and let them soak over night. Drink the water in the morning. This can help with overall stool regularity.
In the case of acute constipation:
Drinking a glass of carrot juice with cod liver oil in it can get thing moving.
If you really need to move the bowels you can do a vitamin C flush. Use a powdered vitamin C and start with 2500 mg. If you don’t have a bowel movement after 1 hour take another 625 mg. Don’t increase the amount of vitamin C too quickly or you could cause gas build up and that is very painful.
Acid regurgitation is mostly caused by intra-abdominal pressure that cause the lower esophageal sphincter to open. Intra-abdominal pressure is most commonly cause by low HCL in the stomach because the food is not digested properly and begin to putrefy and ferment in the stomach and intestines and causes gas which in turn causes intra-abdominal pressure. Other things that can cause this are hiatal hernia, pregnancy, and abdominal obesity. Foods that relax the lower esophageal sphincter and should be avoided in cases of acid regurgitation and heart burn are: acidic foods, fatty foods, chocolate, alcohol, and regular or decaf coffee. Foods that exacerbate intra-abdominal pressure are foods high in carbohydrates, sugars, additives, and preservatives. These foods feed bad bacteria in our stomachs that lead to excessive gas. Examples are: pizza, crackers, cookies, and whole and processed grains.