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NOTE:   All the studies we will review are tagged with citation numbers like this:   [2]
If you “click” on that red number, you will be transported to the actual study.
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The Digestion Blues


Every form of life, from bacteria to human, have developed amazing chemical strategies for dismantling and absorbing their foods, drawing energy and life from the nutrients they contain.   In humans this process involves a complex interaction between our stomach and intestines (the gastrointestinal, or GI tract) and a combination of organs and tissues, including the salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and the pancreas all play their parts.   [2]

Before any food-bound nutrient can enter your bloodstream, they must first be broken into smaller molecules.   If this process begins to falter, a vicious cycle begins, because poor absorption of nutrients leaves one less able to function or to heal.   Digestive disorders, when left unchecked, tend to deteriorate, and may slowly destroy health and well-being.

Digestive disorders can also be quite unpleasant, and are awkward to discuss in “polite society”.   This social stigma leaves people isolated, suffering from bloating, intestinal discomfort, flatulence, and declining health.



What Is Food?

The great bulk of the organic molecules found in our food (90% of its dry weight)
consist of the 3 macronutrients:   Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates
.

These 3 provide for all the energy needs of the body, and they also supply us with the building blocks for cell repair and replication. [3]

The remaining 10% of food contains the equally important micronutrients,
which include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, water, and indigestible roughage
(better known as fiber).   [3]

The 3 primary macronutrients are actually gigantic macromolecules, constructed from hundreds to tens of thousands of smaller building blocks, bound together by powerful atomic bonds.   Because these bonds are so strong, molecules like water (H2O) or salt (NaCl) are incredibly stable in Nature. [4]

Even so, our digestive system routinely dissects these complex molecular bonds, so that we can capture metallic ions to strengthen our bones, and concentrate hydrogen ions (H+) to form the stomach acids that help us to digest our food.

Our intestines cannot absorb macronutrients the way they are found in out food.   They must first be rendered back into their component parts by complete digestion.

Our digestive tract is actually a magical Cuisinart, which can provide us with all the building blocks of health, when we eat a balanced and nutritious diet.



The 3 Primary Building Blocks of Health

Proteins make up about 50% of the dry weight of every cell.   There are numerous different protein structures, but all of them are constructed from the same 20 amino acids (AA).   Most proteins contain between 200 to 400 different AAs.   Nine of the 20 aminos are considered essential, because they must be provided by our diet.

Carbohydrates provide the day-to-day energy needs of the body.   “Carbs” are constructed from long chains of simple sugars (glucose, fructose or maltose).   Complex starches may contain thousands of glucose molecules.   The salivary glands and the stomach produce enzymes (amylases) to render them back into “free sugars”.

This is why the Glycemic Index is so important;   it’s a measure of how QUICKLY a particular starch will convert back into simple sugars.   A FAST rating (anything above a 50 score) is considered bad, because it will flood the bloodstream too quickly with sugar, straining the pancreas to over-produce insulin, so as to pull-down your blood sugar levels.


Dietary fats are Nature's most concentrated form of energy.   Fat is made up of long chains of fatty acids (FAs).   There are 2 essential fatty acids that we must obtain directly from our diet.   They are the Omega-3 and Omerga-6 groups.   These polyunsaturated fats differ significantly from the less healthful saturated fats found in meats, margarines, and processed foods.

Fats (the essential fatty acids) are also the central building block of the nervous system.
By weight, the brain and our nerves are almost 60% fat.

Fats are used to produce hormones to regulate many bodily functions, including blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, and the inflammatory response (which is triggered by injury or infection). [5]   Every one of your cells is surrounded by a cellular membrane, constructed mostly from fat.   This is why at least 20% of caloric intake MUST come from healthy fats.


The 3 Levels of Digestive Disorder

If the stomach fails at unwinding proteins, or breaking down certain sugars, it puts a huge strain on the intestines.   Let’s follow the path our food takes, as it passes through the GI tract, and review the different ways that the process may begin to fail.

   The First Digestive Failure:   Acid Imbalance   

The stomach is an acid-filled cauldron, where the three-dimensional proteins are unraveled, exposing the long strings of amino acids to enzymatic action.   [6,   7]   If there is either too much (hyper) or too little (hypo) stomach acid, the digestive process will begin to falter.

Occasionally, even a healthy gut might experience acid-indigestion, from eating a spicy food or an emotional upset.   For those occasional experiences, Shaklee’s Stomach Soothing Complex (20601) provides a combination of ginger and peppermint oil, which is very soothing to the stomach.   It’s also especially helpful for reducing the nausea associated with motion sickness or the morning sickness of pregnancy.   [8]


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Frank M. Painter, DC

HealthQuest Newsletter
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Alternative Care
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