Digestion

Functional Digestive disorders

The digestive system is essential in helping the body break down food so that it can adequately retrieve nutrients and vitamins, and in getting rid of waste. It’s composed of the following organs: mouth and salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, colon, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, anus and rectum.

Symptoms

When something is disturbed within the digestive system, uncomfortable symptoms may be experienced.

The most common symptoms indicating a problem in the digestive system include:

Nausea and Vomiting

It can vary from an unsettled feeling in the stomach to the violent action of immediate vomiting. Some chronic nausea can occur over an extended period of time because of food allergies or problems with food combinations.

Bloating

It can result from excessive gas in the digestive system or a lack of sufficient quantities of digestive enzymes and bile acids to rapidly break down food. Intestinal gas results from food fermentation and swallowing air while eating.

Constipation

It happens when the contents of the large intestines do not move along fast enough and waste materials stay in the large intestine so long that too much water is removed and the feces become hard. When the gastro intestinal tract is slowed down, feces can accumulate in the colon creating pain and toxic reactions.

Diarrhea

This very common condition is the increased frequency of bowel movements. Muscle contractions move the contents of the intestines along too quickly and there isn't enough time for water to be absorbed before the feces are pushed out of the body.If diarrhea increases, it may result in celiac disease and if blood appears in the stool, ulcerative colitis is likely.

Abdominal Pain

It appears in different patterns and varies in intensity. Cramping occurs because of muscle spasms in abdominal organs. Severe cramping pain usually occurs from problems with strong allergic response to food.

Chronic problems such as the following could indicate health issues :

Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms

This is a chronic digestive disease, occuring when the stomach acid or bile flows back into the food pipe. This backwash of the acid aggravates the lining of the esophagus, triggering off symptoms like burning sensation in the chest, sometimes spreading to the throat.

Gastritis

It describes a whole group of conditions, which lead to inflammation in the lining of the stomach. Some of the common symptoms of gastritis include: sensation of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating or a burning ache in the upper abdomen.

Hemorrhoids

They are inflamed and swollen veins in the anus and lower rectum. It often occurs as a result of chronic constipation and is characterized by symptoms like: bleeding during the bowel movement or swelling around the anal area.

Irritable Bowel Disease

This disorder affects the large intestines and triggers off symptoms like: mucus in the stools, cramps and pain in the abdomen or a bloated feeling.

Gallstones

They are hardened deposits of digestive fluids that accumulate and form in the gallbladder. Some of the common symptoms of gallstones include: sudden and intense pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen or pain in the right shoulder.

Causes of Common Digestive Disorders

Because it is a complex system, the digestive system can be affected by many internal, external and environmental aspects. Heredity, exposure to toxins, use of drugs or stress are some of the most common factors that could lead to a digestive disorder. Poor eating habits and unhealthy lifestyle can also have a severe effect on the digestive system.

 

Treatment & Prevention

Some common digestive disorders, like indigestion or mild diarrhea, resulting in mild discomfort, get better on their own or are easy to treat. In order to prevent such problems, it is essential to follow a healthy diet and to make some lifestyle changes:

Eat More Frequent Meals

It helps boost metabolism, keeps you from overeating and prevents digestion problems. When you eat a big meal, your digestive system is overloaded and it may not be able to handle food correctly. This can cause heartburn from acids going back from the stomach into the esophagus. It may even induce gas, nausea, or vomiting. Consuming five to six mini-meals a day can thus help promote overall good digestive health.

Eat More Fiber

Fiber is a key component for a good digestive health. Soluble fiber creates a gel in the digestive tract to keep you full, facilitating the movement of the waste matter in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools, making them easier to pass, thus helping alleviate constipation.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Eating a high amount of fresh fruits and vegetables can increase the amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the body, which eases the digestive process and reduces the risks of digestive problems.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is very helpful in preventing constipation because it helps soften your stools. It also helps your digestive system absorb nutrients more effectively by assisting the body to break down food. Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day and avoid sugary drinks as added sugars can make digestion problems worse.

Eat mindfully

Chewing is the first step in the digestion process as it enables to moisten and break apart food. Taking time to chew your food enables you to avoid gulping air, which can cause indigestion, bloating, constipation, and gas. If you eat with your full attention, dedicating at least 20 minutes for it, you will suffer less indigestion and you will also be able to be more aware of your body needs, preventing overindulging. After eating, take a few minutes to relax but avoid lying down because it increases the risk of heartburn and nausea.

Avoid foods which upset your digestive system

Spicy foods, fatty or greasy foods, chocolate, and caffeine are some of the most common indigestion triggers.

Avoid alcohol

It is a stomach irritant and it weakens the sphincter - at the bottom of the esophagus - causing acid to reflux into the esophagus, leading to indigestion.

Avoid smoking

Smoking weakens the esophagus, allowing stomach acids to rise up into the esophagus and triggering heartburn. Smokers also suffer a higher risk of ulcers and Crohn's disease.

Exercice

Activity and movement encourage food to move through your body. Regular exercises support healthy digestion, prevent constipation, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Listen to your body

When you feel the urge to "go," do not ignore it. Waste materials that stay in your intestines for too long get drier and firmer, which makes stool hard to pass and can lead to straining and, possibly, hemorrhoids.

 

Herbs that contribute to a healthy digestive system

Jiaogulan

As an adaptogen, Jiaogulan has a regulatory effect on bodily functions and it helps improving and strengthening digestion. It interacts with the digestive system and corrects any areas of imbalance: If you’re overweight, it helps your body process food more efficiently. And if you’re underweight, it helps your body absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from everything you consume.

Papaya leaves

Papayas contain an enzyme called papain that aids in digestion. It is actually one of the most effective enzyme at breaking down meat and other proteins in order to facilitate the absorption of nutrients. Introducing this enzyme into a meal containing meat can therefore significantly speed up its digestion. It may also help with the breakdown of other proteins, such as the gluten in wheat and the casein in milk, that are often implicated in digestive problems.

Its anti-inflammatory effects also helps soothe the stomach when it is upset and it effectiveness has been shown in the treatment of ulcers. Papain has been shown to help in regulating irritable bowel syndrome and in relieving heartburn.

Papaya is also high in fiber and water content, which helps to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract. Eating papaya after a meal promotes digestion, and helps prevent bloating, gas production, and indigestion.

Amalaki

Working to expel excess heat from the body, Amalaki acts as a natural anti inflammatory that soothes and protects the tissues of the digestive tract. It gently detoxifies the body by facilitating digestion, regulating elimination, and easing constipation.

Amalaki gives strength to the liver, which helps in the digestion of nutrients and minerals from food and makes the body able to remove toxins from the body. It is also a great constipation relief because of its laxative property that rejuvenates the membrane lining of the digestive tract and contributes to effective cleansing of the colon, thus helping in the elimination process, without causing cramps or irritation.