How did my gut get so messed up?

functional wellness Apr 18, 2024
Digestive Health

There are many circumstances that can lead to digestive dysfunction and poor gut health but for most of us, it starts with ONE overarching factor.

If you remember from my email a couple weeks ago, I discussed the concept of digestion being a “North to South” process.

 That digestion begins in the “North” (top) end of our digestive system and continues through our digestive tract to the “South” (bottom) end.

 If digestion (or our gut health) is not optimal in the North end, the rest of the digestive process will suffer.

 The question I often ask people when we're talking about digestion is “where do you think digestion begins?”

 Most people will say the mouth (which is on the right track) but it actually begins before that.

 Can you guess where?

 If you guessed the brain, you got it correct!

 The brain and nervous system start, stop, and control the digestive process.

Digestion is a parasympathetic nervous system activity.  You may have heard the term “rest and digest” before.  This is what we often say when referring to the role of the parasympathetic system.

 Unlike the sympathetic “fight or flight” system where our body prepares to fight or flee - in the parasympathetic mode our body shuttles resources to digestion and recovery.

When we get stuck in sympathetic mode, we don't get enough time in the parasympathetic mode to adequately digest and absorb our foods. 

And, what do you think keeps us in the sympathetic mode?

You guessed it… STRESS!

 Chronic stress is the ONE overarching factor that leads to most digestive problems today.

 When we are stressed our body is in the “fight or flight” mode and therefore limits resources for digestion.

 Unlike what we may have heard from well meaning health professionals, stress doesn’t cause our body to release more stomach acid, it actually restricts the flow of stomach acid.

Let's be clear... stomach acid is our friend.

We need it to break down the proteins in our food.  

If we don't have it, our proteins go undigested and a whole host of other problems occur.

 Making stomach acid (and churning our food) takes energy, nutrients and resources that our body needs to handle the proverbial tiger (aka our boss or that judgy parent at our kids' school).

 So in an attempt to conserve resources for more important matters at hand, our body will not release digestive fluids or begin the mechanical process of digestion while we are dealing with stress.

Let’s face it, most of us are in a stressed state 99.9% of the day.

 Another problem with being stressed (and stretched for time) is that we’ll eat too fast, only chewing our food 5-10 times before swallowing.

 We don’t allow our saliva enough time to pre-digest our food, and we don’t crush up the food enough with our teeth before we swallow.

 Now we have large chunks of food sitting in our stomach with no digestive juices or mechanical movements to digest (and absorb) what we have eaten.

 Our food just sits there because our body won’t let it pass until it meets certain digestive criteria (details for another day).

 Food sitting in our stomach will start to putrefy (proteins), ferment (carbohydrates) and rancidify (fats).

 The toxic stew that forms can damage our stomach lining causing irritation and can eventually lead to gastritis or ulcers.

 Poorly digested carbohydrates and proteins become food for yeast and bacteria which can lead to their overgrowth causing symptoms and overall dysbiosis.

 A damaged gut lining becomes leaky, allowing large food particles to be absorbed into the blood stream.  Our immune system doesn’t recognize the particles at this larger size so sees them as a threat and starts to mount an immune response.

 Enter --> multiple food sensitivities.

 Low stomach acid levels while eating (because stress stopped the flow) eliminates a very important defense mechanism of ours.  Our stomach acid protects us from harmful microorganisms that come in via our food or water.  Stomach acid helps us digest them. 

 If we don’t digest them, they set up a comfy little home in our digestive tract. They create damage, malfunction and toxins.

 While we don’t see the harm in gulping down a sandwich in 5 minutes (or eating it in the car) because we have to get to our next meeting, then run to the store, and then pick up our kids, it leads to a cascading effect of digestive dysfunction and resulting IBS symptoms and gut discomfort.

 All of this is why one of the first things I work on with my clients is eating hygiene and nervous system regulation practices before meals.

 We have to start on the North end of the process and improve digestive function from there.

 We want to set the rest of the digestive system up for success.

 Correcting digestive issues requires understanding the digestive process, including how it should work and how things can go wrong.

 It takes uncovering root causes and having a systematic approach to rebooting the digestive process, repairing damage that’s been done, and correcting microbiome imbalances.

 In my "Reclaim Your Health" program we start by investigating root causes and where dysfunction could be happening through symptom assessments, health history, eating habits and functional labs.

I then design a protocol, with your buy-in, to support the digestive process while healing and rebalancing your gut.

 Are you struggling with digestive discomfort and looking to resolve this problem?

Want an easier way?

I have it.  Let's connect!

 I offer a complimentary discovery session where prospective clients can share what's going on with their health and where they want to go, while learning more about my process and getting their questions answered.

 And if it's not you struggling (although most people can benefit from cleaning up their gut) but a friend or family member, please forward this email and/or my contact information to them.  I can be reached via email at [email protected] or visit my website (where they can book a discovery session).

 Thank you for continuing to read my emails and helping me to spread the word about Nutritional Therapy and taking a holistic, food-first approach to health concerns and symptoms.  

 In health,

Heather Glenn, FNTP, RWP, HHC

Nourish to Thrive


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