People often tell me that their food doesn’t digest properly. There are various reasons why this may be, like a gut that is too leaky, low stomach acid, a shortage of digestive enzymes, or sphincter muscles that are too weak.
It can even be something as simple as not chewing enough, because of being in too much of a hurry.
Digestion is breaking food down into its constituent parts so that we can convert them to energy, or use them to build cells, hormones or enzymes.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
However, digestion isn’t the only thing the digestive system does. The small intestine is where we absorb what we have digested. The large intestine removes water, preventing diarrhoea and dehydration.
The gut should be a fine sieve, allowing food constituents to pass through into the bloodstream. It should not be a colander, that lets food through before it is properly broken down.
What restores the gut to a healthy state is Epsom salt baths, to provide sulphate, butter to provide butyric acid, coconut or coconut oil to provide lauric and myristic acids, and fish or fish oil, to provide long chain omega three fats.
Expensive supplements are not needed. Some people take large amounts of L-glutamine to repair a leaky gut, but L-glutamine readily converts to glutamic acid, which can over-excite nervous system cells to death.
Just put a cupful of Epsom salts in the bath, one day in three. It is available at garden centres. If you don’t have a bath in your home, at least use a footbath.
We make sulphate using molybdenum, vitamins B2, B5 and B6, and the oil from fish. Vegetarians and fish haters do need omega three fats. For them the best source is flax oil.
Keep it in the fridge, do not cook it, and make sure you have plenty of vitamins and minerals, in order to process it into long chain fats. You need it by the dessertspoonful.
Flax capsules will not provide enough. Beware of what a very low fat diet would do to your digestion, as every cell membrane in the body needs healthy fats.
Low stomach acid
Stomach acid is hydrochloric acid. It is involved in digesting protein, and also in killing infections. It may be too low, if we are short of sulphate, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins.
So another function of Epsom salt baths is to treat low stomach acid. It may also be low if we take anti-acid drugs, like Omeprazole.
These drugs are dangerous, because they make people more likely to pick up digestive infections, including the dreaded C. Difficile. They also cause malnutrition, because they reduce absorption of beta carotene, minerals and vitamin B12.
Often anti-acid drugs are given to people without checking that they have high stomach acid. Often the acid is low before they are given the drugs, and of course even lower afterwards.
Digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins, providing us with sugars, fatty acids and amino acids for fuel and for construction of useful molecules.
For example, we break down pork protein or lentil protein into amino acids, in order to construct cells, hormones and enzymes according to our human blueprint.
One of the things we need to make digestive enzymes is sulphate, which is best absorbed from Epsom salt baths. Have a bath to improve your digestion! As well as healing a leaky gut, and enabling the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, a bonus is that sulphate helps us make a hormone called CCK, which tells us we have had enough to eat.
Many people, especially those with tropical ancestry, are short of the enzyme lactase, which digests milk sugar, which is called lactose, into the simple sugars galactose and glucose.
The lactose hangs around in the gut undigested, and feeds unwanted bacteria, causing wind, diarrhoea, bloating and cramps.
Don’t change to “lactose free” milk, which is pre-digested by lactase, as the galactose in it is harmful. Galactose is a toxic sugar.
When it is gradually absorbed as lactose is digested, it is harmful, but when it is given already formed, it has a sudden impact, which is worse. Just use a good quality rice milk, which gradually breaks down to glucose, the least harmful of the simple sugars, glucose, fructose and galactose.
Most of the British population is deficient in magnesium. However if you take too much magnesium, your sphincter muscles may not shut tightly enough. Vitamin D and manganese help with this.
Manganese and magnesium are different minerals, and in this respect, they act in opposition to each other. We make vitamin D from the sun in summer.
Go out in the sun to improve your digestion! Leave aside the sunblock that causes vitamin D deficiency, unless you are going to be unavoidably exposed too long to harsh sunlight. Go brown gradually over the summer, rather than exposing your skin suddenly to harsh sunlight and burning it.
The inhabitants of the gut
We need good bacteria in the gut, like Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifido bacteria. They programme the immune system to fight cancers and infections, rather than causing trouble with allergy.
Antibiotics can kill these good bacteria off. Then the living space and food in the gut can be used by nasty bacteria and fungi. Antibiotics should be used rarely, but of course they are useful in treating life threatening infections.
Sadly, they have been so overused by vets and doctors that they now often fail to work. If you have to have antibiotics, then make sure you take good quality probiotic capsules afterwards. Antibiotics cause gut problems, but occasionally they may treat gut problems, if these are caused by harmful bacteria.
Keep your intake of sugars down, especially milk sugar, as sugars feed harmful bacteria.
Fructose is fruit sugar. It is also part of sucrose, the sugar extracted from sugar cane and sugar beat. It is in corn syrup, which is sometimes misleadingly labelled glucose syrup.
It is in agave syrup, which is wrongly used in some supposedly healthy foods, like milk substitutes. We can only absorb a limited amount of fructose from the gut.
The rest feeds nasty bacteria in the gut, leading to diarrhoea, and even ulcerative colitis and colon cancer. A lot of “irritable bowel syndrome,” the label given to digestive problems the doctors can’t explain, is simply due to consuming too much sugar. We can train ourselves to like food that isn’t sweet.
We all need fibre in our diets, but wheat bran is the wrong sort. Lots of people have diarrhoea after eating bran, wholemeal bread, or whole pulses like kidney beans.
These foods can also lead to arthritis later on. If you live in an area where you can buy dark green bananas, peel them with a knife, dice them, and boil them.
Mash them like you would mash potato. They make a tasty substitute for mashed potatoes, and provide good fibre. Golden linseeds, but not the dark brown ones, are also useful, as is celery, raw or cooked. In addition, if you are constipated, make sure you drink enough, and have enough exercise.
The colon removes water from the faeces, reducing the volume, so they can be easily excreted. If you have acute diarrhoea, or even chronic milder diarrhoea, you may become dehydrated.
So make sure you drink enough. If the diarrhoea is acute, you should put a little salt in the water, say the small amount you can balance on the end of the handle of a fork. If it tastes nasty, you have put too much.
A healthy digestive system needs the right bacteria, fats, sulphate, vitamins, minerals, water, fibre and protein. We should avoid having a lot of sugar. We need to chew thoroughly, and to go out in the sun without sunscreen.