Why It Takes Guts To Be Healthy
When I say “it takes guts” to be healthy I mean this figuratively and literally. Gut health has been known in the alternative health arena for several years, but recently the mainstream health industry has jumped on board. Matter of fact, a day doesn’t go by where I don’t see an advertisement in either print media or on television touting some miracle probiotic, or digestive health supplement. So what does it all mean? As, my loyal followers know, the health community loves to jump on trendy topics, and then confuse you to no end. All in the name of money and greed, never really your health.
When it comes to gut health, this is where the journey to optimal health really starts. But unlike those supposed health companies touting there product as a miracle to regaining your gut health, and overall health, I’m going to break this topic down into the real nitty-gritty.
Understanding Basic Digestion
Before we begin and get into your gut health in Part 2 of this article, it is important for you to understand how your food is broken down and processed. This will give some critical information so you can understand how the macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) are broken down and used in your body.
The nutrients your body needs for energy, maintenance and repair, including amino acids (building blocks of protein), glucose (blood sugar used for energy), fatty acids (building blocks of fat), vitamins and minerals must first be extracted from your food by the process of digestion.
The digestive process starts in the mouth by chewing and breaking your foods into small pieces to aid in digestion. While chewing saliva (the watery liquid produced in the mouth to aide chewing and digestion of food) containing enzymes (are biological catalysts, mainly proteins, generated by an organism to speed up chemical reactions) are released, which begins to break the food down chemically. Food combined with saliva passes through a long tube (pharynx and esophagus) that stretches down your throat and chest and into the stomach.
Food enters the stomach and mixes with additional enzymes and hydrochloric acid HCL (stomach acid that breaks down proteins and helps to destroy the bacteria found in food).
Once broken down almost all of the food in your stomach is then dumped into your small intestine (the narrow tube of the gastrointestinal tract (gut) between the stomach and the large intestine that is responsible for most of digestion), except for a small amount of alcohol, (roughly 20%) which is absorbed through the stomach. The small intestine is roughly 25 feet long and is lined with special receptor sites that absorb certain foods. The receptor sites make use of this electrical potential to carry nutrients (specific to each receptor site) into each cell. Each receptor site is specific to a particular nutrient. One receptor site transports glucose, another site transports a specific type of amino acid and so on. Additional digestive enzymes and bile (yellowish brown fluid, produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder that aids the process of digestion of fat in the small intestine) are released into the small intestine to aid in the further digestion of foods.
Once receptors in the small intestine have further digested the food it is then sent through the portal vein (a vessel in the abdominal cavity that drains blood from the gastrointestinal tract and spleen to capillary beds in the liver) to the liver for processing. From the liver, the nutrients made available during the digestive process, are transported to the blood stream and distributed to the cells to be converted into energy and to rebuild and repair cells.
Food not digested or needed is then sent to the large intestine/colon (is about six feet long and is the part of the body’s digestive system that moves waste material from the small intestine to the rectum). The large intestine produces certain vitamins and recycles useful water for the body. There are trillions of bacteria inside the colon that produce vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A and K. In addition these bacteria produce lactic acid (acid that helps movement of the colon, in order to prevent constipation). Waste materials remaining after digestion are expelled from the body as urine or feces.
Three Main Causes of Poor Digestion
Here are some of the common causes I have found over the years, when people have chronic digestion issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
- Consuming too many processed foods – I would obviously prefer that you didn’t consume any processed foods, but I also know that is unrealistic. Heck, I like to have the occasional treat of potato chips, or even a donut from time to time… shhhhhh don’t tell anyone.
Unfortunately today most American’s diets are nothing but processed foods. I would say most people today don’t even know what real food is.
The primary problem with today’s processed food is that they are so highly processed that our bodies cannot recognize them as a life giving nutrient source.
There are so many additives and chemicals in today’s processed foods our immune system sees them as invaders, and this is where the slow road to health maladies begins. If you have been a long-term sufferer of loose stools this is the bodies attempt to flush these toxins from your body.
The flip side is, if your body’s immune system does not react properly and flush these toxins you may then suffer from constipation. The high amount of sugars in today’s foods can cause the body to slow digestion and elimination.
It is very common with the clients I work with to suffer from bouts of constipation followed by loose stools or diarrhea. This is a very common sign that you are consuming too many processed food items.
For more information on the negative health consequences of consuming processed foods, check out my book The Simple Life Guide To Optimal Health.
- Dehydration – In order for you to have proper and regular digestion, you must consume enough liquid, primarily in the form of water. Remember that caffeinated drinks actually act as I diuretic, which means they will cause you to excrete fluid by more frequent urination.
How Much Water?
According to most sources, your daily water intake should be about 12 cups of water (96 ounces) per day. This doesn’t mean you should force down a jug of water right now. Instead, on average you will consume four cups of water (32 ounces) through the water-rich foods you eat (such as fruits and vegetables), which leaves eight cups (64 ounces) that must come from fluid intake.
Using my favorite analogy of prehistoric men and women, in my Primal Power Method Health Series of books. Would they have been able to consume 64 ounces of water outside of that which was already contained in their everyday foods on a consistent basis? Maybe, maybe not! Obviously hydration is important, but running to the bathroom 15 times a day is not. Use your best judgment and listen to your body.
An easy way to estimate the amount of daily water you require is to divide your weight in half and then drink that number in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you need 75 ounces of water (which includes the water content of the foods you eat) each day. Obviously this is less than the recommended “text book” amount previously stated. However, I prefer the second, weight-based guide since it is less generic and more individual-specific.
Be cautious not to drink too much water; a range of five to eight cups per day should be sufficient. Of course, on days that you are more physically active you will need to consume additional fluids and salt, (since salt is also lost through sweat) to maintain proper hydration.
How can you tell if you need to drink water? Your urine will be bright yellow and smelly. If you are properly hydrated, your urine will be pale and practically odorless. There is one exception to this observation. If you take a daily multi-vitamin your urine will appear yellow and have a strong odor in the first hours after you take it, since your body excretes any vitamins and minerals it does not need, making your urine darker and smellier regardless of hydration. This is normal, and your urine will become clear if you are properly hydrated as the day continues.
The most common symptoms of dehydration include constipation, diarrhea, dry and itchy skin, acne, nose bleeds, repeated urinary tract infections, dry and unproductive coughs, constant sneezing, sinus pressure and headaches. If you suffer from one or more of these, try drinking more water and see if that alleviates the problem.
- Stress – It is no secret we are bombarded with stress today. Stress has many negative effects on our health, to also include poor digestion.
Stress interferes with digestion by activating the sympathetic nervous system, (fight or flight response) which inhibits our ability to activate our natural digestive process. When in fight or flight mode our body doesn’t want to waste vital resources to digest food, but to kick in our primal survival system.
The common stress response involves the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline from your adrenal glands. The common reaction these hormones trigger is an accelerated pulse. They also cause changes in the digestive system, such as heartburn, nausea and stomach pains. Stress also causes inflammation throughout the entire body to include your digestive system, which leads to aggravation of the digestive tract and affects the absorption of nutrients. Over the long term, stress can cause chronic digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers.
Throw in the fact that you are more in likely eating the average American diet (pure garbage) and your digestion becomes more and more challenged with time. Through my professional experience I have found culmination of poor eating habits, high stress levels peaks at around age 35-40, and it is usually in the form of massive digestive issues.
I cannot put this any more simply. You can control everything in your life to be healthier, but if you don’t control your stress levels most of it will not have anywhere near the effect than if you control it.
We have all heard it, “stress is a killer” and trust me it is. The entire concept of my Primal Power Method philosophy is to simplify your life, and to drastically drop your stress levels.
I have a simple saying: “Control your stress, control your life!”
See my blog post on Simplifying Your Life Here…
Make sure to check out part two of my “It Takes Guts To Be Healthy” article.
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