Are you one of the many people who feel worse after a meal? Do you frequently find yourself bloated and windy; or with episodes of diarrhoea or constipation; or with painful indigestion? Are your symptoms worse after eating certain types of foods? If so read on and find out how you can help improve matters without resorting to drugs.
Improper digestion can be a major contributor to many health problems and some form of nutritional intervention may be of benefit. In order for foods and nutrients to be properly utilised by the body they first have to be broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract. Some people have a lack of, or a reduction of these enzymes and therefore the food they eat is not properly broken down, which can lead to problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, wind and indigestion.
By taking digestive enzyme supplements the enzymes in the digestive tract can be aided in carrying out their function more efficiently. Digestive enzyme supplements are able to help digest food along the whole length of the gastrointestinal tract, from the acidity of the stomach, right through to the alkalinity of the small intestine, ensuring optimal digestion of all foods. People who suffer from ulcers or gastritis would be advised to avoid digestive enzyme supplements which contain protease, as this may cause further irritation.
Low stomach acid (Hypochlorhydria) may also be a cause of indigestion. As we age the amount of acid produced by our stomachs diminishes. Stomach acid is necessary for several important functions. It helps with the absorption of some essential nutrients such as iron and calcium, prevents bacterial infection and is essential for ensuring the environment is the right acidity for protein absorption. Hydrochloric acid stimulates pancreatic enzymes which are required for complete breakdown of fats and proteins. In this case supplements containing Hydrochloric acid will help.
Sensitive Gastrointestinal Tracts
Often people with very sensitive gastrointestinal tracts find digestive enzymes a little too harsh. However, they can be helped by taking supplements which have a soothing action on the intestines. Gamma Oryzanol and Marshmallow can be helpful in such conditions as gastritis, ulcers and non-specific gastrointestinal complaints. Sometimes an imbalance of bacteria can cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract. This is known as dysbiosis and occurs when levels of beneficial bacteria become too low, allowing for the proliferation of harmful bacteria and yeasts. This can cause bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and gas. Dysbiosis can be helped by taking Probiotics.
Sometimes there are other reasons for indigestion other than poor digestive processes
Most people experience “heartburn”, or indigestion, on occasion. It happens when acid from the stomach leaks back up through the oesophagus (gullet), irritating the delicate lining of the oesophagus, resulting in a burning pain across the front of the chest (acid reflux).Normally the sphincter, a muscle between the oesophagus and stomach, tightens up to stop food and stomach acid coming back up out of the stomach. Acid reflux happens when the sphincter does not work effectively, or when the stomach is very full (for example, after a large meal). When reflux occurs frequently the lining of the oesophagus can become damaged.
A number of circumstances can result in acid reflux. Smoking relaxes the sphincter, increasing the risk of getting heartburn. Similarly certain foods, in susceptible individuals, can relax the sphincter; the most common culprits are oranges and other citrus fruits, chocolate and fatty foods, while coffee and tomatoes can directly irritate the oesophagus.Acid reflux can also happen when there is a lot of pressure on your stomach forcing the stomach contents out and back up into the oesophagus; constipation, pregnancy, obesity, tight clothing and bending all cause such pressure. Some medications, including aspirin and ibuprofen, can cause heartburn.
Natural Prevention and Management
The easiest way to prevent heartburn is to avoid foods that trigger it off, which varies with the individual. Eat slowly in a relaxed manner and eat smaller, more regular meals if you are susceptible. Do not eat on the go. Do not lie down or exercise soon after food and try not to eat or drink within 2-3 hours of going to bed. Some more difficult and long term preventative measures include losing weight and avoiding stress.
Some people may find reducing acid forming foods helps; these include eggs, meat, fish, coffee, yoghurt, cranberries, plums and prunes. Some foods associated with heartburn (notably oranges and chocolate) are in fact alkaline forming. It is important to remember that there are two types of reflux, where the stomach contents are too acidic you get acid reflux, where stomach contents are not acidic enough (too alkaline) you get alkaline reflux.