Why Is Digestive Health So Important?
At Nutritional Essence we have come to understand the importance of digestive health through our years of experience with different health conditions. When one considers that the human body is a fantastically complex, sophisticated, chemically dependent machine, it is not difficult to recognise that the supply of those chemicals and the body’s ability to absorb them is absolutely fundamental to it’s functioning. It is not the amount we eat but the amount that we absorb that nourishes.
Until food nutrients are absorbed, they can be considered external to the body (they are in the digestive tract which is basically a tube ‘inside’ the body, from mouth to anus). Foods must be broken down, at each stage of digestion, to their most basic components, before they can be of any benefit to us. For example, if you do not chew your food thoroughly, you actually miss the first important step of digestion. Chewing increases the surface area of food, mashing it up and liquefying it in preparation for the next stage. Chewing stimulates saliva to be released which both softens food and provides the first enzymes for breaking down carbohydrates. Chewing also stimulates the parotid gland to release hormones, which signal the thymus gland to produce protective immune cells called T-cells. It is estimated that around 70% of the immune system is located in or around the digestive system, and the T-cells are just one part of it; they play a significant role in protecting against microscopic invaders that can easily enter with food. For this reason we emphasise ‘chew your food thoroughly at all times, and in a relaxed manner’.
Stress and Digestion
Stress appears to be the modern justification for illness and disease. We at Nutritional Essence appreciate that stress is a part of life and is indeed a great motivator for action and we, as a species, actually enjoy stress because it challenges us to find solutions and tests our stamina. When we overcome the stresses of life we experience a ‘lift’ at having ‘won the day’. We are then seeking the next stress we can be challenged by. This is very common to the Western civilised world and part of who we are.
Fortunately, the human body in good health is very capable of meeting the demands of modern living; it is a fantastic machine. Like all machines, it needs an operator (the individual himself) and the correct fuel (food), and some maintenance (sleep & exercise).
When we are faced with the stresses of life our endocrine system (hormones) produce certain chemicals that ‘assist’ the body to cope with the stress and produce the energy required to meet that stress. One thing that occurs is a shut-down of digestion. This is because our body has not quite achieved the evolutionary steps that we have, and so it responds to stress as though it is life-threatening, and therefore the need to sit down and eat is not an immediate requirement! The blood is ‘moved’ to the muscles in preparation for running away from the danger or for a physical fight against that danger. This is more commonly known as the Fight/Flight Response.
Since digestion is shut down (including the production of digestive chemicals that help us to break down foods so that we can absorb the nutrients contained within), if we eat while stressed we are placing a burden on the body that it is not equipped to handle. We therefore strongly suggest that you take the time to relax before sitting down to a meal and that you refrain from ‘eating on the go’. There is nothing wrong with placing great demands on the body, so long as you take care of it, it will serve you well.
Many people in the West develop illness/disease/unwanted symptoms because of a poor diet, use of medicinal drugs, use of recreational drugs, a lack of exercise or from eating while stressed (resulting in malnutrition).
At Nutritional Essence we recognise that addressing the digestive system has great potential to improve the health and well-being of the individual. Where we suspect some area of digestion to be inadequate, we supply our clients with full instructions of simple tests they can do at home. This is because in our experience, address to any condition, without first addressing the ability to absorb nutrients, can prove unsuccessful. In some cases we may recommend functional testing to confirm a suspected condition that requires a specific address.