Digestion and the Body

Whole Grains and Digestion

Whole, natural grains are all the rage these days, and they deserve every bit of the attention. These superfoods of the carb world contain all three parts of the grain, whereas refined grains only have one. Left with their natural components, whole grains are packed with fiber, B vitamins and hundreds of potentially healthful plant chemicals still under investigation. They’re also good news for your digestion, keeping you regular and preventing chronic illnesses in your digestive tract. To benefit, get at least half of your grains from whole sources.   Digestion Benefits Whole grains contain more insoluble fiber than any other food, combating constipation and hemorrhoids. This type of fiber binds water, carrying it through the digestive tract to soften stool while adding bulk. Fiber also helps prevent diverticulosis, a condition in which small sacs develop in your colon. These sacs trap food particles, causing gas and bloating and sometimes infection. Although fiber is also found in fruits, vegetables and most other plant foods, grains provide the most digestive benefit.   High-Fiber Grains Although all grains contain fiber, some are more potent than others. Bulgur wheat and barley top the charts with 2.9 and 2.8 grams of fiber, respectively, per 16-gram serving. Aramanth contains a healthy 2.4 grams per serving, while rye and triticale each have 2.3 grams. Whole wheat has 2 grams of fiber per serving, while brown rice trails with just 0.6 grams.  

Sleep Positions to Improve Digestion

  The Mayo Clinic advises that you should refrain from eating at least two hours before you head to bed. If you do eat during this time period, it should be light fare only. Eating before bed can cause problems during sleep and prevent you from resting comfortably. If you eat fatty or spicy foods, you may experience heartburn that causes you to stay awake. If you do eat before heading to bed, choose a sleeping position that helps prevent heartburn and other sleeping interruptions.   Elevate Your Head If you suffer from heartburn, The Mayo Clinic recommends that you elevate your head by 6 to 9 inches. You can do so by inserting a wedge between your box spring and mattress, or by using pillows to prop up your head during sleep. This position uses gravity to decrease the pain and discomfort associated with heartburn. It prevents stomach acid from flowing into your esophagus, which is the primary cause of this condition.

Symptoms of Poor Digestive Health

Your digestive system can malfunction for many reasons, so you’ll need a correct diagnosis to put your symptoms into perspective. You may suffer from slow digestion and difficult bowel movements, or food may pass too quickly through your intestines for healthy digestion. A nutritional deficiency can display specific symptoms related to a diet low in vitamins or minerals. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a lack of adequate fiber is a common reason for poor food digestion symptoms.   Constipation Constipation often indicates a dietary imbalance or nutritional deficiency. This symptom occurs when the colon absorbs too much water during digestion, resulting in hard stools that your body has trouble eliminating. You may have fewer than three bowel movements a week, straining during elimination and bloating in the periods in between. According to the National Institutes of Health, too much dietary fat, a lack of dietary fiber, pregnancy or surgery can initiate constipation.   Vomiting Your stomach may fail to pass food along to the intestines at an efficient rate, causing digestion to pause or halt. Delayed stomach emptying, or gastroparesis, can create vomiting symptoms; you’ll regurgitate undigested food particles several hours after eating. The American College of Gastroenterology notes that you can distinguish this symptom from vomiting associated with a virus when it recurs or is associated with a sensation of feeling full soon after eating. Symptoms of nausea and bloating may also indicate poor digestion.   Diarrhea Malabsorption of nutrients triggered by a food intolerance or nutritional disorder may cause several types of diarrhea or otherwise abnormal stools. As the Merck Medical Library states, poorly digested sugars can cause explosive diarrhea, while poorly digested fats can result in unusually light-colored stools.   Weight Loss Unintentional weight loss, especially when eating a healthy […]

Natural Improvements to Digestion

Digestive issues are a common complaint. Regardless of the underlying cause, there are several things you can do to improve your body’s digestion. 1. Chew more: We often eat while talking, driving, or doing something else. In those moments, much of our food is swallowed before it has been completely macerated by our teeth. If we rush this step the digestive process is compromised from the start, since the enzymes in our saliva help break down carbohydrates. Try to chew your food at least 15 times per mouthful before you swallow it. 2. Stress less: Take a moment before you engage your plate. Sit. Breathe. Relax. Stress inhibits the production of gastric acid, the bitter sludge in our stomachs that helps to break down food so that we can absorb its nutrients. Eating while stressed is a recipe for digestive problems. Try to wait a few moments before digging in. 3. Get bitter: The taste receptors in our mouth sense five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. Bitterness is the most sensitive and may be perceived as unpleasant, sharp or off-putting. But interaction between bitter constituents in foods and our bitter taste receptors stimulate the production of gastric acid in the stomach. This helps prime the stomach for the food it is about to encounter. Coffee is the most common bitter in our culture these days, but there are others: unsweetened cocoa, beer (due to hops), olives, citrus peel, and many plants in the Brassicaceae family, including dandelion greens, wild chicory and escarole. In traditional cultures bitter herbs were used as a digestive aid. Bitter herbs include chamomile, gentian and scutellaria. 4. Keep a diary: A diet diary is simple a piece of paper for recording […]

Alcohol Can Slow Down Digestion

People can be reassured that while alcohol may slow down digestion after a rich calorific meal, enjoyed by many during the Christmas season, it will not cause indigestion symptoms such as heartburn, belching and bloating, finds research in the Christmas issue published in the British Medical Journal. In order to determine the effects of alcohol on the digestive system when rich meals are consumed, investigators at the University Hospital of Zurich, led by Dr Mark Fox now at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham, studied 20 individuals who either drank wine or black tea with cheese fondue followed by cherry liqueur or water as a digestive after the famous Swiss dish. Fox and colleagues say that while they concentrated on fondue the results of their research “can be generalised to address the wider issue of alcohol’s effects on digestion and digestive comfort after any large, rich meal of the kind we all enjoy over the festive season.” Twenty healthy volunteers (14 male and six female) aged between 23 and 58 took part in the study. None of the participants had a history of alcohol misuse or stomach disease. They had an average body mass index (BMI) of 23.6 and none were taking prescription medicine. The participants were tested on two days at least one week apart. Half of the group drank white wine with their fondue and the other half drank black tea. This was followed by a cherry liqueur digestive (schnapps) or water 90 minutes later. The research team used established scientific breath tests to assess the effects of alcohol consumption on the digestive system. The results show that the process of digestion was much slower in the group that drank alcohol with their fondue. However the results also […]

Digestion In Depth

Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breaking down of food into smaller components, to a form that can be absorbed, for instance, into a blood stream. Digestion is a form of catabolism; a break-down of macro food molecules to smaller ones. In mammals, food enters the mouth, being chewed by teeth, with chemical processing beginning with chemicals in the saliva via the saliva glands. Then it travels down the esophagus into the stomach, where acid both kills most contaminating microorganisms and begins mechanical analysis of some foods and chemical alteration of some. After some period of time; the results go through the small intestine, through the large intestine, and are excreted during defecation. Other organisms use different mechanisms to digest food. Digestive systems take many forms. Some organisms, including nearly all spiders, simply secrete biotoxins and digestive enzymes; into the extracellular environment prior to ingestion of the consequent “soup”. In others, digestion can be conducted to a vesicle or a sac-like structure, through a tube(stomach), or through several specialized organs aimed at making the absorption of nutrients more efficient. In most vertebrates, digestion is a multi-stage process in the digestive system, starting from ingestion of raw materials, most often other organisms. Ingestion usually involves some type of mechanical and chemical processing. Digestion is separated into four steps: 1. Ingestion: placing food into the mouth (entry of food in the digestive system), 2. Mechanical and chemical breakdown: mastication and the mixing of the resulting bolus with water, acids, bile and enzymes in the stomach and intestine to break down complex molecules into simple structures, 3. Absorption: of nutrients from the digestive system to the circulatory and lymphatic capillaries through osmosis, active transport, and diffusion, and 4. Egestion: Removal of undigested materials from the […]

Probiotics and Lowered Diarrhea Risk

Antibiotics can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract, and one of the most common and dangerous results is infection with C. difficile, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, colitis and even death. Now a review of studies has found that probiotics — beneficial microorganisms introduced into the gut — can reduce the risk. Researchers, writing online this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, pooled data from 20 randomized controlled trials that compared a course of probiotics with a placebo or no treatment on the incidence of C. difficile-associated diarrhea. The studies used several types of the probiotics Saccharomyces and Lactobacillus, and the doses varied. Compared with placebo or no treatment, higher and lower doses of these probiotics were more effective in preventing diarrhea in both adults and children. Ingesting more than one species at a time produced an even greater benefit. Over all, the researchers found, probiotics reduced the risk of C. difficile-associated diarrhea by 66 percent. Preventing C. difficile-associated diarrhea in this population, he continued, might require more than hand-washing and surface-cleaning. To learn more, please click here.

The Liver and Digestion

Your liver is the largest internal organ and is vital for detoxification. There are hundreds of functions of your liver, such as filtering blood, production of bile to aid in digestion, processes nutrients in your body, and breaks down potentially toxic substances helping make them harmless so that your body can use or excrete them.   Taking up nearly the entire upper right section of your abdomen, the liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. Even though your liver plays an important role in your overall health and well-being, few people give any thought about the organ when making their daily decisions on food or drink intake and lifestyle choices.  Damaging your liver is easier to do than one might think. Many people ingest or take in any number of toxins through food, air, water, or products that are applied to the skin, such as lotions, sunscreens, or even perfumes.