November 8th, 2012 — Ask yourself, is your digestion healthy? Is what is normally occurring in your body healthy?
In Naturopathic medicine, we spend a lot of time emphasizing healthy digestion. Why? The answer is simple. We are what we eat. A healthy digestive system is very important to the functioning of your body and your overall health. If you are going to strive to make healthy choices and put good foods into your body, you want to be able to absorb and use the nutrients to the best of your ability, in order to feel your very best.
â€śNormalâ€ť in terms of digestive health may not be your â€śnormalâ€ť. Believe it or not, bowel movements should occur 1-3 times per day, be formed and be easy to eliminate. â€śNormalâ€ť digestion does NOT include gas, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, bloating, fullness, constipation, diarrhea, mucus, cramping or pain. Some or all of these symptoms may have become your â€śnormalâ€ť, but these symptoms are not normal and do not illustrate a healthy digestive system. Any of these symptoms indicate that your digestive system could use a tune-up.
Your digestive system explained. Digestion actually begins in the senses. When we smell food, see food, talk about food, we begin to salivate. Saliva is an important fluid to our digestive system. It contains enzymes to help our body breakdown starches. We produce about 1.5L of saliva daily! Chewing helps us to break our food down into tinier, more absorbable pieces. Chew your food! As the food moves through your esophagus down to your stomach, it further mixes with saliva. The stomach is the only part of the body we want to be acidic. We want the stomach to be acidic for two reasons. Firstly, to kill off any bacteria which may come in on our food. Secondly, the acid ensures the food gets broken down into tiny, tiny pieces. Next, the food enters your small intestine. The small intestine is designed to absorb the nutrients from your food, so it is very important that the food bits be small enough to be absorbed and that the small intestine be healthy enough so as to be able to do its best job. Next, it is the job of the large intestine to absorb the water and electrolytes. We are fairly efficient beings, but anything that is left will exit as feces. This whole process, known as â€śbowel transit timeâ€ť, takes about 17 hours. With optimal digestion, a bowel movement should occur after each meal.
What? My body does not function like this! If your body is not functioning like this, your body is simply giving you a message. Whether you choose to listen is up to you.
There can be many reasons why your digestive system may not be functioning as described. If it is not, one thing is probable. You are likely not feeling your very best. The effects of poor digestion can be felt throughout your body and are not limited to symptoms typically associated with digestion. Other symptoms of less than optimal digestion may include: headaches, fatigue, sinus symptoms, skin rashes, itching skin, body aches and pains, irritability, and frequent illness.
A naturopathic doctor is a trained medical professional who is adept at putting together the pieces of your health picture. The cause of why your digestion is not functioning optimally can vary. To figure out how you may improve your digestion, visit your local ND today.
Dr. Carolyn Sterchi, BA, ND practices at the Enfield Naturopathic Clinic. She likes to help people of all ages understand and optimize digestion. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Association of Naturopathic Doctors (NSAND) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND). For more information, please call: 883-3838 or visit: www.enfieldnaturopathic.ca.