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Most people who are trying to improve their digestion tend to focus on their diet. This is probably because they’ve been told, by all kinds of well-meaning ‘experts’, that there is one perfect diet for everyone. In our experience, this is not really the case, as everyone is different.

When you try one of these diets, you might feel better for a while. But usually, the diet is either too difficult to stick to, or it doesn’t really resolve your digestive issues.

There are a lot of potential problems that a person may have (many of which have a Genetic component) that can interfere with healthy digestion, but to understand the causes of your digestive issues, and how to resolve them, you need to understand…

The 6 Stage Digestive Process

1 - Your Mouth

Digestion starts in your mouth when you chew food into smaller pieces, plus enzymes in your saliva also start to break down food (particularly Carbohydrates).

2 - Your Stomach

Once you’ve swallowed the food and it reaches your stomach, an extremely strong acid further breaks down the food into smaller pieces.

Providing your stomach is working properly, the acid will also kill the vast majority of bacteria and other potentially dangerous pathogenic organisms.

This stage of digestion is especially important to break down Proteins into amino acids, which is necessary to absorb Proteins in foods.

This is also the starting point of the absorption of nutrients and some key vitamins and minerals. The stomach has a tendency towards Inflammation and (most commonly), a lack of stomach acid. Of course, an excess of stomach acid is also possible, and this can lead to a Peptic Ulcer.

Most people who have digestion problems like Indigestion and Acid Reflux have a lack of stomach acid. Turmeric can really help to reduce inflammation in the stomach, while Ginger helps to stimulate stomach acid production. This is why traditionally, especially in the east, this combination of ingredients has been used as a tonic to strengthen digestive fire for thousands of years - as found in our Turmeric with Ginger Premium Formula.

3 - Your Liver and Gallbladder

From your Stomach, the broken down food travels to your Duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), where it is sprayed with a substance called bile, by the Gallbladder, an organ that is connected to the Liver. This bile specifically helps with the digestion of Fats and Proteins, and also further helps to kill any pathogenic organisms that survived the acid in your Stomach.

When bile isn’t moving freely from the Gallbladder, it is not able to sufficiently remove pathogenic organisms from the food, which can proliferate (increase rapidly in number) and cause issues in the Small Intestine like Gastrointestinal Infections, Gut Inflammation and Leaky Gut (gaps in the intestinal walls that allow food, bacteria and waste products to flow directly into the bloodstream).

There can also be Genetic Tendencies towards Gallstones, where the bile becomes too thick and isn’t able to efficiently move out of the Liver, through the Gallbladder and into the Duodenum. This can create a whole host of ‘downstream’ problems such as not being able to absorb Fat or fat soluble vitamins, as well as having detrimental effects on Peristalsis, which is the contracting and relaxing of muscles that causes movement in the intestines and pushes food along (like a snake), which causes Constipation.

Gut Microbiome Diversity is also adversely affected when there's not enough stomach acid and/or bile. This means we have less (and usually fewer varieties) of the good, helpful bacteria we need, and more of the pathogenic, unhelpful bacteria that are harmful to digestion.

For your Liver and Gallbladder, we recommend our Liver Support Formula due to its Milk Thistle content, which is well known for its powerful “liver protecting” effects and is commonly used as a complementary therapy by people who have liver damage [1].

Our Liver Support Formula also features nutrients like Choline that help to prevent bile stagnation [2], and herbs like Artichoke extract [3], Dandelion [4] and Burdock [5] that promote the secretion and movement of bile out of the liver, through the Gallbladder and into the Duodenum. This movement of bile helps to digest food and protect your intestines f rom pathogenic organisms. Our Liver Support Formula also includes Chanca Piedra, which can help break down Gallstones.

4 - Your Pancreas

The pancreas also acts on food while it’s in the Duodenum, by spraying it with different types of Digestive Enzymes to help break down the food further. The Pancreas also releases a very alkaline solution (made mainly of water and sodium bicarbonate) to neutralize the strong acid from the stomach that would otherwise burn the Small Intestine.

Over time, your Pancreas can struggle to make enough Digestive Enzymes to effectively digest food. If you suspect this is something you struggle with, it would be beneficial to support your digestion with a good combination of Digestive Enzymes that will aid the breaking down and absorption of Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats - as found in our Digestive Enzymes Formula.

5 - Your Small Intestine

The broken down food then proceeds to the Small Intestine - a long, thin tube that is 30 ft long and features 150 bends. The inside walls of the Small Intestine is covered with Villi (small, finger-like extensions) that reach down into the Small Intestines to absorb nutrients. The majority of nutrients are absorbed in the Small Intestine.

As mentioned earlier, Small Intestine issues tend to be caused by Inflammation, perhaps due to an excess of pathogenic organisms, and a disturbance to the optimal microbiome balance. Nutrients like Omega 3s have been shown to be effective at reducing inflammation [6], and Probiotics help to reduce pathogenic bacteria while increasing good bacteria in your gut [7], as well as supporting optimum Peristalsis of the digestive tract to reduce and prevent Constipation.

6 - Your Large Intestine

Next, the food passes through to the Large Intestine which is shorter and a lot wider than the Small Intestine. Mainly water is absorbed here (as well as some additional nutrients) and the leftover solid waste matter is then transported out of the body.

Our Colon Sweep Formula is a great product to help move any stuck and decaying food through and out of the Intestines. It contains Bentonite Clay which is famously used for its ability to soak up a wide variety of toxic materials, to prevent them being absorbed back into the bloodstream [8]. Colon Sweep Formula also contains Psyllium that moves through the intestines like a brush to encourage waste that may be trapped to move on, as well as herbs like Rhubarb Root, Gentian, Cascara Sagrada, and Aloe Vera that can help to stimulate Peristalsis.

Optimal levels of Serotonin are also essential for Peristalsis, and studies have shown Serotonin to play a crucial role in digestive health [9]. 5 HTP is a great way to increase your Serotonin levels.

Digestive Issues Influenced by Your Genes?

Problems can arise with digestion when any of the systems just reviewed don't function properly. For instance, if a person does not chew properly or has a problem with their levels of stomach acid (or other disturbances in the stomach) then they may have Acid Reflux, Indigestion or the development of Peptic Ulcers.

There is also a Genetic Tendency relevant to all of these problems, as well as how much H.Pylori will affect you (one of the few bacteria that can actually live and survive in the extremely acidic stomach environment). It’s extremely important to support your digestive system if you have any of these issues, or have a Genetic Tendency to any of these problems, which you can find out by taking a Genetic Insights Test.

Immunity, Allergies and your Gut

As we talked about in a previous article, around 70% of your immune system lies in your Gastrointestinal System, so when any of these problems develop, there is also a tendency for the immune system to stop functioning optimally. This can show up in different ways for different people (due to their Genetics) - some may be more susceptible to issues like Appendicitis (usually caused by an infectious issue), H.Pylori (largely a stomach issue), C. Difficile Infection (intestinal issue) or other Gastrointestinal Infections.

Another situation that can arise from the problems mentioned in this article is that your immune system can become overly reactive and again, different people have different Genetic Tendencies. Some people have more of a tendency to general Allergies, but others may develop Celiac Disease (a full blown allergy) or a less serious Gluten Sensitivity which can negatively impact their quality of life. Other problems that may occur are Egg Allergies, Dairy Sensitivity, Lactose Intolerance, Lectin Sensitivity, Histamine Intolerance, or other kinds of Food Allergies.

Get the right Balance of Protein, Carbs and Fat for your Unique Genetic Type

The last consideration for Digestive Health is knowing what kind of macronutrients suit you best. Different people have different capacities to process different macronutrients well. For instance, some people will do better eating a higher Protein diet, like Atkins, while others may do better eating more Fat (e.g. Ketogenic Diet) or a more Carbohydrate based diet (e.g. Fruitarian). Again, there is a Genetic component to all of these tendencies, so be sure to check out Genetic Insights reports on your ability to process Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat to discover what suits you best.

How Chronic Stress Hurts Your Digestion

One of the main factors that helps to promote optimal digestion (in all parts of the digestive system) is the ability to be relaxed, especially while eating, but also the first 2 hours after eating, when food is still in our stomach. If we are in a sympathetic, stressed state (fight or flight) our body does not think it is a good time to eat and we won’t be able to digest effectively. In order to promote proficient digestion, we need to be in a parasympathetic, relaxed state (rest and digest).

Some of the nutrients and herbs that can help bring you back into a parasympathetic state are 5 HTP, Serenity Anti-Stress Support for its Lemon Balm, Rhodiola and Passionflower content, and Ashwagandha, which is extremely effective at helping to reduce Stress [10]. If Stress is something you struggle with, we’d highly recommend checking out our Stress and Anxiety page.

As well as staying relaxed, there is evidence Melatonin can support in reducing indigestion [11] Gut and Inflammation [12] through its mechanism of helping the body relax and antioxidant properties.

Lastly we’d recommend Magnesium supplementation for optimal digestion. If you are lacking in Peristalsis (have constipation) then our Magnesium may help, but unlike most Magnesium supplements - ours will not have a laxative effect, nor will it overstimulate Peristalsis. Magnesium is essential for the utilization of food for energy, and good energy levels are essential for optimal digestion.
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Scientific References