In order to digest food properly, our bodies produce an array of enzymes, each designed to target a specific type of food. The enzymes help break down the food, digesting it into particles that are small enough to be absorbed and used by the body. The production and efficiency of these enzymes may be affected by a number of factors, including nutrient levels and certain disorders, such as an overgrowth of gut yeast. If a client is struggling with digestion, I will include recommendations and suggestions to help this process.
Digestion actually begins in the mouth, so it is very important to properly chew food and allow it to become thoroughly mixed with saliva.The stomach then mechanically mixes the food, releasing substances that chemically break it down, such as hydrochloric acid (HCl). Hydrochloric acid, often called stomach acid, plays a key role, helping digest proteins, fat, vitamins, and minerals, maintaining the acidity of the stomach, and helping to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
One specific enzyme that the stomach produces to digest protein, is pepsin. Pepsin is secreted as pepsinogen, which is inactive until it mixes with the hydrochloric acid, so you can see how important a sufficient level of stomach acid is. About 2-3 litres of gastric fluids are released into the stomach daily, so the stomach wall secretes protective mucus to prevent the stomach from being attacked and digested by the hydrochloric acid and enzymes it contains.
Digestion of course continues with other enzymes in the stomach and in the small intestine,but it is the production of hydrochloric acid that I particularly wanted to highlight today. The body slows in its ability to produce hydrochloric acid as we age. This is affected by stress, but also a lowering of specific nutrients. So this is another benefit of receiving a nutritional supplement programme as part of your consultation. This programme will include the nutrients that are essential to support the body in producing hydrochloric acid.
When someone experiences indigestion they may very easily purchase over the counter antacids to help, thinking that they have an excess of stomach acid. Unfortunately, it is frequently the opposite that is true, the stomach is struggling to digest a protein meal since, due to stress or the ageing, it is producing too little hydrochloric acid to activate the digestive process. If you feel this may represent your own digestion it may be helpful to book a consultation where we can discuss and explore this more fully.
As my last post outlined, it is essential that we include sufficient protein in our meals to support health, but if you find that digesting protein is an uncomfortable process it may be that you could do with some extra support. Contact me to arrange a consultation to discuss this.