Whether you grow your vegetables or buy them from the grocer, the quality of your food directly affects how well you digest and metabolize it. About 80% of Canadians have poor digestion, meaning they’re not able to utilize all the nutrients in their meals.
Here is how your digestive tract operates:
- In the mouth, food is broken down into smaller pieces. Chewing exposes a larger surface area so that natural digestive enzymes can break it down more easily.
- The first portion of the stomach is responsible for stimulating the release of stomach acid and digestive factors. Enzymes found in the food are released, and protein and fat digestion begins here; this stimulates several actions within the body, including the production of bile in the liver.
- Depending on meal size and contents, the stomach begins dumping its contents into the intestinal tract. It then starts its journey down 22 feet of small intestines, where most of the available nutrients are absorbed.
- Fats from the grains, seeds, nuts, and/or meats signal the gall bladder to release stored bile, which emulsifies the fat molecules. The body must be able to use the fats from our foods for activation and storage of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K).
- Whatever is left of our meal is ushered through the large intestines (colon) and eventually out of the body.
Any interruption in this system leads to poor assimilation of nutrients, and eventually nutrient deficiencies. Food processing and/or over cooking, for example, deactivates digestive enzymes. Sometimes food is pushed through before it can be used. Absorption also is affected by fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones etc.; because these remain in our foods after production, utlization is slowed because our body tags them as toxins and starts the detoxification process.
Studies show that the standard Western diet leads to a steady decline in digestive factors. In addition, our stomach acid production declines after the age of 40. The result is an aged society with major nutritional imbalances that can potentially be at the root of most disease states.
A nutritionist can assist you in selecting which food items to buy and which ones to leave behind. This will help to increase your digestive abilities and the effectiveness of the available digestive enzymes in the foods you are about to eat. Changing your diet can help with the elimination of gas, bloating, heartburn, fatigue and increase your energy.
Garry van Dijk, CNP, ROHP
Garry is at Hooper’s Pharmacy, 2136 Queen St. E. one Saturday each month.