Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Digestion Part 2

Now that we know where digestion begins and the importance of chewing our food we can move onto the second stage of digestion.

Once you swallow your food it goes down the esophagus. The esophagus has smooth muscles that contract to carry the food down into the stomach. This is called peristalsis and is found throughout the digestive tract. The average amount of time it takes the food to travel through the esophagus is 9 seconds.

At the bottom on the esophagus there is a muscular ring called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. When you are not eating the LES squeezes shut to keep the stomach contents from creeping up into the esophagus. When you swallow, the muscle relaxes and the LES opens to allow the food to pass through to the stomach and it quickly squeezes tight once again.

When there is a problem with the LES you get gastro esophageal reflux or heartburn. There are many reasons one may get heartburn that are detailed here. The obvious communication that can be received from heartburn is that the body is out of balance. It is estimated that 10% of the population has heartburn at least once a week and 25% of pregnant women will experience symptoms.

When heartburn becomes severe it can lead to further complications such as inflammation, bleeding or narrowing of the esophagus. There is a condition called Barrett's esophagus where the cells in the esophageal lining change. This can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.

There are many things people can do to reduce the amount of acid reflux they experience from the foods they eat or don't eat to when to lie down after eating. Conventional medicine has medications that are given to people who are suffering with reflux. My experience with these medications is that while they do offer short term relief there are many problems associated with them.

First, they are curing the symptom of acid reflux. They do not get to the root cause of why the body is not working correctly. The body is trying to say something when it is giving symptoms and by taking a pill we are basically saying "shut up, I don't want to hear you." Guess what. If you keep shutting it up it will simply get louder and louder and send more and more symptoms until you can't shut it up anymore. Trust me.

The other problem with these medications that I have found is that they shut down the production of acid in the stomach and slow digestion. The truth is that most people who suffer from indigestion have too little stomach acid and not too much. When the antacids are taken they neutralize what little acid is in the stomach and in its effort to seek balance the body produces a surge of acid causing even more problems. It becomes a never ending circle of imbalance in the body.

Lastly, these antacids have toxic ingredients like aluminum and artificial colors and sweeteners that can cause headaches, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

One of the best ways to begin to balance the body is to work to begin to consume foods that are alkaline. The body becomes acidic when it is fed acidic foods like instant, processed foods and red meats. Alkaline foods include nuts, seeds and vegetables, especially greens like kale, parsley, wheatgrass and barley grass. Juice feasting will quickly get the body into an alkaline state by providing large quantities of green juices and natural vitamins and minerals.
MSM will aid the body in its quest for acid/alkaline balance and Digestive enzymes are a very important part of the picture when it comes to relief from heartburn and reflux. According to Laura McCready N.D. there was a study that showed 75% of antacid users were able to reduce or stop taking medication after just one week of taking MSM and enzymes.

Note: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. This is simply my experience combined with some research. If you are suffering from symptoms of reflux you should see your doctor and learn all you can about how to take proper care of youself.

1 comment:

Hanlie said...

Another very effective way to combat digestive problems (and this has changed people's lives) is to never combine concentrated foods. Either have a concentrated starch with vegetables, or concentrated protein with fruit and vegetables. It really makes a huge difference and is one of the Five Steps of The Natural Way.