Digestive System– How digestion works & where things go wrong
Do you constantly have digestive system issues like bloating, gas, abdominal pains or diarrhea? In this video I give a basic overview of digestion and where …
Why do you have so much gas, loose stools, bloating or abdominal pains?
And why isn't that prescription medication or that probiotic working out for you?
Well today i'm going to talk about the major steps in digestion and where things
frequently go wrong and hopefully I'll
give you some steps that you can take to
get your digestive system working better.
What's up everybody? CW here from
Consider-It Health where I consider some
of the big topics in health today.
And today's topic is digestion.
So many people have problems with their
digestion whether it be
the occasional heartburn or the chronic
loose stools and bloating.
Now, many digestive issues fall into one
of two categories:
problems with digestion and
problems with absorption.
Today we're going to be talking
specifically about problems with
digestion and we'll save the absorption
for another video.
But what's the major difference?
Digestion is the breakdown of nutrients
like fats, carbs, and proteins into a small enough size
so that your body can actually absorb them.
Absorption, on the other hand, is actually
taking those broken down nutrients
through the intestinal lining into
circulation where your body's cells can
actually utilize those nutrients.
Now one of the most common mistakes that
patients and clinicians even make
is that they oftentimes start too far
downstream. So for example, someone with intestinal bloating
oftentimes may benefit from probiotics.
But they may only see limited benefit
because the major problem is actually
higher up; for example, in the stomach
or even in the mouth. So speaking of
mouth, let's begin there.
The mouth is where digestion actually
begins and is so often overlooked.
The mouth is unique in the sense that it's the only part of digestion where it's under your voluntary control.
After you swallow your food, in a sense,everything's almost automatic.
Now, the major players in your mouth include your teeth, your salivary glands and your tongue.
Now we normally start digestion by
mechanically breaking down our food
by chewing with our teeth. This also increases surface area where
coat and actually start breaking down
our food chemically as well. Now, the salivary glands secrete an
enzyme that starts breaking down our
and our tongue also makes an enzyme that
will get activated later on the stomach
that starts breakdown
of fats. So let's pause there to discuss
some of the common problem areas
with the mouth, starting with the teeth.
Now if you can't or don't chew your food well
you're already putting your digestion at
Those salivary enzymes I just mentioned: if
they can't properly coat and start the
breakdown process chemically, the rest of your digestive
system further down is going to have to
work that much harder to break down
those food particles. So if you have problems with your
dentition, you're missing teeth, or having
try to get that taken care of by a
dentist if you can because it's going to
affect your digestion.
Now what if you don't chew your food well?
Now there may be multiple reasons
but one big reason is people
just tend to eat too fast. They tend to
bite and then just swallow and inhale their food.
There's some studies
that show that the average
person only chews 6 to 10 times per
bite of food.
That's not much. The ideal may be closer
to about 30 to 40
bites per food, of course depending on
what the food is.
So chew your food well. Now there's
oftentimes when people tend to eat too
fast or inhale their food is that they
tend to swallow more air.
Now this can already cause problems with
more bloating and even reflux.
Then there are issues with saliva. There
are medical conditions or medications
that tend to give people more dry mouth,
and of course this will impair the whole
So products that help moisten the mouth
may be a benefit here.
And if you haven't already clicked that
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a lot. So once you swallow the
involuntary part of digestion begins.
The food moves from your mouth through
your esophagus and into your stomach,
where it's highly acidic.
The stomach makes hydrochloric acid
which not only kills microbes but also
unfolds proteins so that another enzyme
which the stomach also makes, called
breaking down those proteins into
smaller chunks. Now that other enzyme I
mentioned earlier, lingual lipase, now is
in the stomach and that starts breaking
down the fats. Your stomach itself
also makes an enzyme that starts
breaking down fats. So there's one more
role the acidic environment of the
stomach plays and that is
the stimulation of the flow of bile and
which are so important and which one
you're going to see very shortly.
So what often goes wrong here in the
stomach? I'll say one of the most
common is alteration of the stomach's pH,
or the stomach's acidity.
If you're one of the millions who
regularly takes antacids like Tums or
Rolaids or prescription ones like H2
or PPIs, unfortunately you are altering
your digestion and impairing your
digestion. And you've heard me say earlier how
acid is actually for denaturing proteins
and pepsin, which actually breaks down
is actually inactivated at a higher pH,
so by throwing
antacids in there you may actually be
impairing your digestion.
Also, like i said, it mlay also impair your
pancreatic flow and
bile flow later on because of the more
alkaline pH of the stomach.
But you might say: "CW, I have really bad
heartburn or GERD so I have to take
I totally sympathize with that and
hopefully in the future I'll make a
video on GERD itself and talk about a
better way and more holistic way of
a condition like that. But you may say,
"Hey none of these
situations really apply to me." Well just
keep in mind that as people age
oftentimes our stomach acid may actually
decrease over time so your digestion may
actually be impaired.
So in all these cases there are times
when someone may actually need
supplemental Betaine with hydrochloride
You can actually supplement that or
So after a few hours the food exits the
stomach and enters the first part of
and this is where the gallbladder and
the pancreas come into play.
The gallbladder releases bile and this
emulsifies fats, which means it breaks it
up into smaller globules
so that the digestive enzymes can
actually work on it by the digestive
enzymes that are released by the pancreas.
releases these enzymes that break down
not just the fats, but also the carbs and
the protein. So what can go wrong here?
Surprisingly to a lot of people this is
actually one of the most underlooked
areas in digestion, which is gall bladder
sluggishness or gallbladder sludge,
and this affects certain populations
more than others,
especially women in their child-bearing
years, that are heavier set
and from certain ethnicities. But it can
affect people from other demographics as
well. So what happens, if you can imagine, the
gallbladder's bile is basically
thickened or kind of gunked up
so basically the flow is not as good and
what can happen then
is because the fats are not digested as
then you'll have more symptoms like
diarrhea. Now many people may have had
their gallbladders removed and told "
It's not really going to affect your
digestion later on because what's really
making the bile is not the gallbladder.
The gallbladder is just a storage tank.
The liver is the one that actually makes
the bile and that gets stored in the
gallbladder, and then of course the
gallbladder squeezes when
the food comes down." But the problem is
even if the gallbladder is removed
the coordination now between the liver
and the when the food coming
into the small intestine sometimes isn't
exactly as good as it was when someone
had a gallbladder,
and so some people can still experience
a lot of digestive symptoms without
So when someone's digestive issues
pertain to the gallbladder
there may be appropriate times where
supplements like turmeric
and d-limonene and ox-bile extract
actually may be helpful for
cases like that. How about the pancreas?
Well actually a big subset of our
population may have some degree of
Those with diabetes, which is a chronic
condition in our society today,
up to 40 percent of the Type 1 and Type
have some degree of impaired pancreatic
And this of course can cause digestive
And you can just imagine if your
pancreas isn't working well
what can happen if you can't break down
your food: your fats, your carbs, your
Then downstream you're going to have
more likelihood to have bloating
and have diarrhea and things like that.
It's not just diabetics. This includes
others with Crohn's disease, Celiac
those with heavy alcohol use. So this is
something to be aware of as well.
And in those cases oftentimes there may
supplements like digestive enzymes that
may help, but of course you always want
to address the underlying issue
as well. And last but not least we come
to the small intestine itself.
Now at this point most of the digestion
has already happened,
and some absorption has also been going
on as well.
But the small intestine itself- along the
walls have what they call brush border
and these help break down sugars like
sucrose and lactose
so that your body can absorb them. And
there's even some breakdown of protein
products as well.
So what can go wrong here in the small
in essence anything that damages the
small intestinal wall
will have effects on your digestion
downstream. So we have our usual culprits
like Crohn's disease and Celiac disease
and those things affect the gut microvilli.
But we also have
common issues like leaky gut, also known
as intestinal permeability or intestinal
in the literature, and that basically
again damages the small intestinal
lining. So imagine if that very last bit of digestion is not occurring very well, you can have
again a lot of those
symptoms including the bloating the
chronic diarrhea, the abdominal pains and things like that.
And one other factor that can affect the
small intestinal wall is gut dysbiosis,
or bacterial imbalance and this
oftentimes can damage the small
intestinal walls. And i think this is where oftentimes
probiotics may be of help,
even though probiotics typically more
target the large intestine than the
But that is a factor as well. And whew!
We made it through digestion. Hopefully
you were able to digest that material I
told you and absorb some of it.
Now i know I raised a lot of issues
today and if you have any questions
leave me a comment below so I would love
to try to answer that for you.
But until the next time, be well!