a new dynamic in healing

a new dynamic in healing

chronic illness recovery through mind • body • spirit balance

Recent Posts

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functional nutrition • foundational healing

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous LayerPhoto credit: Beth Phillips

 

All disease begins in the gut. ~ Hippocrates

 

If you want to heal anything, start with the gut. I’m sharing the basic blueprint from my nutritional therapy practice for healing digestion, because everyone should know the basics of gut healing.

Our bodies use nutrients for rebuilding and maintenance. A lot of nutrients. That means that the foods we eat every day are our best tool for healing from the inside out. If we can’t break down and absorb the nutrients we take in, we can’t function properly no matter how well we eat or how many supplements we take.

Eat a nutrient-poor diet (even while taking a multivitamin) and/or have poor digestive health and your body will starve in the midst of plenty.

Sometimes supplements can help to bring the body back to nutrient sufficiency but don’t empty your pockets and take every recommended supplement you come across. Been there. Done that. Got very frustrated. The supplements I suggest throughout the series are very basic ones that support foundational gut healing for most people. Use them only as a jumping off point.

 

Conditions Connected to Poor Gut Health

 

  • Adrenal fatigue (HPA axis dysfunction)
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Mental disorders including agoraphobia, dyslexia, dyspraxia
  • Motion sickness
  • GERD
  • Heartburn/reflux
  • H. Pylori overgrowth
  • Stomach/duodenal (small intestine) ulcers
  • Gut flora imbalance
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss

I could go on for days here… The entire symptom and syndrome list is extensive.

 

What Came First?

 

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer
Photo Credit: Cheeseslave

Are you sick because of bad digestion or do you have bad digestion because you’re sick?

Did the chicken or the egg come first?

No matter where it began, eat a nutrient-dense diet, digest and absorb the nutrients in your food, and you WILL improve your health. The results are usually dramatic when we combine that with removing unseen allergens (food stressors). In my practice (and at home with my kids), I see incredible changes within the first 30 days of a client protocol.

It’s incredibly nerdy exciting to watch every time.

Eat a diet full of processed (dead!) foods and combine it with something like leaky gut syndrome and you have a classic recipe for dysfunction, my friend. Do you know how I got rid of adult acne, arthritis, almost all of my many allergies, irritability, and PCOS symptoms? I started with healing digestion.

 

 

How Digestion Should Work

 

There are two main ways the digestive process causes dysfunction: 1) by allowing large and undigested particles of food into the intestines and bloodstream causing an immune reaction, and 2) by not fully breaking food down into usable nutrients.

 

Did you know digestion begins in the brain?

As soon as you see or smell food, the brain sends out the order to get the wheels turning. It also switches the nervous system from sympathetic mode (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest, digest, and heal) if we’re doing it right (try this deep breathing technique if you find it hard to eat slowly and calmly). We need this process to happen for the rest of the digestive process to work right. Digestion is a north to south process, so, if things up north are out of whack, anything south gets jammed up.

Your body makes saliva even before your first bite. Breaking food down by chewing and mixing it with saliva (the bolus) is the first part of creating the stomach’s ‘soup’ (chyme). I always tell my kids that their stomachs don’t have teeth so chew well to avoid a tummyache.

Saliva carries some pretty important things in it for digestion like salivary amalayse, a digestive enzyme that breaks down starches and lysozyme that kills bacteria.

If you wolf down a burger in the car or a frozen meal standing in the kitchen, the digestive process has already hit some major roadblocks. There’s no way things are going to right themselves further down. Your stomach is now filled with chunks of partially chewed food, too little liquid or solutes (the good stuff) from saliva, possibly too much soda or coffee diluting your stomach acid, and no live enzymes thanks to the processed (dead!) food. Plus, your stomach doesn’t even get a heads up that food is on its way!

All of your parents’ or grandparents’ scolding to slow down and chew your food well was dead on. Go grandma.

 

Moving South

This is where most of us think digestions starts. Your stomach’s job is to create an acid soup, called chyme, from the food you swallow. It does this by producing hydrochloric acid (HCl), some enzymes, and other solubles and also by squeezing and tossing the food around. Chew your food or it can’t break apart into individual nutrients.

Now, much of the enzyme action happens in the small intestine.

As soon as the chyme reaches the right consistency, the stomach signals the duodenum to open its valve and let the ‘soup’ through.

The duodenum, the first part of the intestine, quickly raises the pH to neutralize that acid soup. This stage needs to be alkaline. Bile from the gall bladder, bicarbonate, and digestive enzymes from the pancreas all dump in to finish turning the food into usable nutrients.

The rest of the small intestine absorbs nutrients directly into the bloodstream as the soup moves through. Then, the large intestine absorbs the extra water from earlier in the digestive process.

 

The Final Steps

Our beneficial bacteria, or intestinal flora, in the large intestine work on the very last stages of breaking down the parts of food that we don’t use. In the process, they create vitamins that we can use.

After that, waste finally leaves the body through the colon.

Phew! That’s a lot work and a long process, but it’s how a healthy digestive system needs to work. If it doesn’t go through all the stages, then small problems become bigger ones as they as they roll down through and we start to see things like holes in the intestinal lining, inflammation, and undigested food that feeds the wrong yeasts and bacteria.

 

Part 1: Restoring the Mucosal Layer

 

The mucous layer is the protective coating that covers the GI tract (the tubes and pouches that make up our digestive system). Without a thick enough layer, you can have gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, infections, inflammation, and a whole lot of pain. You may also have no obvious symptoms but see new allergies crop up.

Practice getting yourself into a calm, parasympathetic state (with this deep breathing exercise I mentioned earlier), and you can help heal your mucous layer with every meal. I outline the method below.

Stomach pH has an ideal range of 1.5-3.5 and enough acid to burn through your floor. Without that mucous layer, we break down the stomach lining while we break down our food. That’s how ulcers form.

 

Healing the Stomach Lining

This mucosal layer can usually heal completely in just a few days because new cells grow so quickly. If you have ulcers, bacterial overgrowth, are still eating allergens (usually undiagnosed ones), or are under massive amounts of stress, this process might take longer. If you’re not finding a lot of luck DIYing it or would like help, let’s try a targeted bioindividual functional nutritional therapy approach.

The fastest way to get through step one is to remove ‘irritants’ and introducing ‘healing compounds’. Irritants can be spices, grains/nuts/seeds/beans, dairy, gluten, high fat or high fiber foods, or food allergens.

 

THE METHOD

  • Focus on a diet of gut-healing meat stocks, meat and vegetables well-cooked in stock, and eliminate processed foods. It’s key to a quick turnaround.

Long-cooking bone broths don’t have the same healing components as a meat stock and create extra histamine. With gut issues, we usually have more than enough histamine swimming around.

  • You might also benefit from removing raw fruits and vegetables right now. Raw animal products like liver, egg yolks, and fish eggs are usually easy to digest.

One of the healing compounds I like to add are tummy pills. I created them as a sore throat remedy, but we discovered what a gem they are for soothing tummyaches and speeding up this first layer of healing.

Stick with it for a few days, sharpen your willpower, and focus on healing foods without slip ups, and you can often restore the stomach lining in 3-4 days. It may take up to a month for some people. if that happens, shorten it with extra support from a protocol designed specifically for your needs.

The mucocal layer also allows for a healthy layer of the cells that produce stomach acid. We address that function in Part 2 of healing digestion. See how each layer builds onto the next?

 


The GAPS Diet

The GAPS Introduction Diet: Stage 1 is a good example of some foods that promote fast healing. GAPS intro made our health problems worse, so I don’t generally recommend following it to the letter. We did find the ideas helpful once I learned to tweak it, but I prefer to create my own protocols.

We’re all special little snowflakes. Some people may need a small amount of grains and starch from the beginning. Many people need to wait to start a probiotic program. Lots of other factors also need to be considered like stress levels, sleep, budget, and lifestyle.

[If you are embarking on GAPS intro, feel free to use this GAPS Intro Quick Guide for easy reference.]


 

Healing Digestion: Part 2 will discuss how heartburn and GERD are actually caused by low stomach acid and begin to focus on improving stomach acid production naturally.

 

Click on the following links to read the other posts in this series:

Healing Digestion: Part 2 – Digestive Tonics
The Dangers of Acid Blockers: How to Heal Heartburn Naturally {Healing Digestion: Part 3}
3 Essential Facts about Probiotics [Healing Digestion: Part 4]
Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]

These are general recommendations and not meant to diagnose or treat a condition. 

If you are not comfortable treating your own condition, please see a holistic practitioner who practices nutritional therapy. Click here to work with me via distance or in person (metro Detroit).

 

Sources

[Note: I earn a small commission to help maintain this website if you make an Amazon purchase through the links provided – learn more here.]

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedsci(neurology), MMedSci(nutrition)

Introduction to the Human Body: The Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology by Gerard J. Tortora and Bryan Derrickson

Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD by Jonathan Wright