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Proper Digestion: A Major Problem in This Country

If we were eating the right foods in the right way, we would not have to rely on gallons of the pink stuff, scores of antacids or acid inhibitors, or enormous amount of laxative medications. In other words, we need chemicals to help us digest our food, assimilate its contents and eliminate its waste byproducts. It is rather ironic that we have been designed with magnificent digestive systems that far surpass the most efficient machine ever created by man, but we still suffer from mechanical breakdowns such as abdominal cramping, inordinate amounts of gas, sluggish colons and an overall lousy feeling after ingesting a meal. Red flags go up everywhere and many of us still remain oblivious to possible problems.

Clearly, we are not eating the right foods. We consume an incredible amount of soda, drugs, caffeine, and alcohol, which impede normal digestive processes so that when we do eat, we suffer the consequences. Adding stress and eating on the run creates a combination of factors which can lead to heartburn and indigestion and may develop into ulcers and colon disease. Simply stated, the process of digestion includes chewing our food and combining it with saliva which contains enzymes designed to begin breaking down starches. Food then travels to the stomach, an expandable pouch which secretes hydrochloric acid and other biochemicals designed to break down proteins. In the stomach is where the food is broken down into a mixture called chyme. The chyme then proceeds to the small intestine, the scene of additional digestion, absorption and the transportation of nutrients. Pancreatic and liver secretions are brought into this portion of the intestine to augment the process. It is here that the majority of nutrient absorption takes place.

Malabsorption results when part of the small intestine becomes impaired as a result of disease, injury or infection. The pancreas supplies vital enzymes which make the digestion and absorption of nutrients possible. The large intestine or colon is responsible for the absorption of water and electrolytes and provides a holding tank for waste storage until elimination. This reservoir of waste provides the perfect habitat for bacteria and can either serve to enhance our health or contribute to its breakdown. (Its important to remember that not all bacteria are bad.) Surprisingly, many of us suffer from a lack of both hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes, which causes us to poorly digest our food and worse yet, to poorly assimilate its nutrients. In addition, our low-fiber diets have created a veritable colon crisis where constipation and poor elimination are the rule rather than the exception.

How much fiber do we need?

A good diet should include 25 to 35 grams of fiber or at least one ounce of dietary fiber each and every day. Some health practitioners are recommending up to 50 grams of fiber per day. Two thirds of that fiber should be insoluble. Adding wheat bran to your diet is the easiest way to boost your fiber intake. The average American eats from 9 to 13 grams of fiber per day. The ideal barometer of determining if youre getting enough fiber is whether you have a good bowel movement at least every 24 hours. Your transit time is very important. Unless you suffer from certain bowel conditions like Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis, some experts believe that you cant get too much fiber. Note: Make sure youre not hypersensitive or allergic to grain and certain high fiber legumes. An intolerance to gluten can result in gas, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping, which can result in celiac disease and malabsorption of nutrients.

The Neglected Role of Digestive Enzymes

As mentioned earlier, pancreatic enzymes are responsible for the proper digestion and absorption of our food. Pancreatic juices which are transported to the small intestine make it possible for us to utilize the life-giving nutrients found in the food we

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