Some of the most common complaints I get from patients centers around their digestive issues, especially in my over 40 patients. Seems things they used to be able to eat just don’t sit well with them anymore, or they are frequently bothered with constipation, gas, cramps, acid reflux, or bloating. As I tell my patients, these can all be signs of poor digestion health that can start to occur as early as the age of 30, but really occur more frequently as we get beyond our 40s.
You may think that poor digestive health just affects your intestines, but in reality your intestines are literally the seat of your immune system and your overall natural health. It’s the place where all the food you eat is processed, nutrients absorbed, and distributed through your blood stream to nourish your entire body. How well you digest and absorb your food is crucial to keeping your immune system, and your overall digestive health, in top form. As a bonus, healthy digestion also keeps another important organ, your skin, functioning well, looking clear, glowing, and young!
Let me share with you what I tell my patients about how to keep your digestion optimally working so that you can derive the most benefits from your food.
Digestion and Your Health
Like my patients, you likely can look back to a time in your youth when you could eat or drink anything without problem. Then as you passed 30, you started noticing that some things you used to eat without issue are suddenly coming back up on you and/or causing a lot of bloating and discomfort. The reason for these digestive disorders is fairly simple.
As we get older, our digestive enzymes and amount of hydrochloric acid in our stomach decreases with each passing year. Less of these agents hamper our ability to digest our food as well – especially heavier animal fats, meats and spicier dishes. Suddenly those slices of pizza dripping in cheese, peppers, anchovies, pepperoni, and whatever else, are lying like lead weights in the bottom of our stomachs.
To make matters worse, the acid from the tomato sauce usually causes us to burp hot acid back into our throats keeping us awake most the night. So, what can you do to quickly remedy a situation like this? Here are some natural health treatments, which I recommend to stop both the burn, and help get food out of the stomach and digested faster:
- Vitamin C. Really? Yes, the ascorbic acid in Vitamin C helps break down heavy fats and digest them faster so they move out of your stomach. I have one patient who takes a 500 mg tablet of Vitamin C along with her food whenever she eats meat or anything with heavier fats in it. It helps her digestion and her food doesn’t come back up on her later.
- Drink Lots of Water. Water helps dilute and take the burn out of the stomach acids burping back up into your throat. This also helps prevent damage to your throat and mouth tissues and the possibility that stomach acid may aspirate, or “burp”, into your lungs and cause an upper respiratory infection.
- Antacid. Although drinking a lot of water should take the majority of the burn sensation away, some people may find added benefit taking an over-the-counter antacid that are found in most pharmacies.
- Green apple. Don’t have any antacids or Vitamin C on hand? If you have some green apples, they can work as well. They contain a lot of malic acid which give them their very tart taste. They help neutralize acid and burning symptoms and help digest fats.
- Exercise. Don’t lie in bed burping up acid. Get up and move around the house, walk up and down your stairs a few times, while you’re drinking your water and taking other measures mentioned above. This can help stimulate your digestion so that food moves out of your stomach faster and you feel more comfortable to get back to sleep!
While those are some immediate “fixes” in a digestive disorder crisis, I recommend more proactive, preventative natural health measures that you do every day for better digestive health such as:
- Digestive enzymes. These often contain hydrochloric acid (like our natural gastric juices) and ingredients like bromelain (from pineapples!), lipase, amylase, that assist in breaking down the food we eat, especially animal fats, carbohydrates, and meats. They can be found in pharmacies and health food stores. Take one when you eat heavier foods containing animal fat, meat.
- Probiotics. Probiotics contain good bacteria, the kind that are naturally present in our digestive tracts in the millions, but may be decreased due to medications, like antibiotics, we’ve taken, or illness. These can include acidophilus, bifidobacterium longum, Pediococcos adidilactici, Aspergillus niger, etc. Yogurt and kefir (a yogurt-like drink) also contain probiotics. Be sure the brand you choose says “active live cultures” on its label. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chee, miso also contain probiotics.
- Watch your diet: You may find if you eat “trigger foods” like tomato, chocolate, spices, in smaller quantities that you can enjoy them on occasion rather than cutting them out altogether. Try to eat more raw fruits and vegetables, or lightly steam them, to get the natural enzymes they contain that actually help digest them and other foods you eat.
Digestive disorders can be a little trickier when you get older and you may have to plan ahead to eat the foods you want to enjoy. However, if you pay a little closer attention to maintaining your digestive health, you’ll go a long way in keeping yourimmune system functioning optimally which will reward you with good health long into your golden years!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.