Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous LayerPhoto credit: Beth Phillips

Click on the following links to read the other posts in this series:

Healing Digestion: Part 2 – Digestive Tonics
The Dangers of Acid Blockers: How to Heal Heartburn Naturally {Healing Digestion: Part 3}
3 Essential Facts about Probiotics [Healing Digestion: Part 4]
Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]


Healing chronic symptoms begins by healing digestion even for those without obvious digestive disorders.

Our bodies use nutrients to rebuild and maintain proper function. Without proper breakdown and absorption of those nutrients, it cannot function properly no matter how well we eat or what supplements we take.

Eating a nutrient-poor diet and improper digestion can both cause your body to starve in the midst of plenty.

Conditions Connected to Maldigestion
  • adrenal fatigue
  • allergies
  • anxiety
  • autism
  • ADD/ADHD
  • chronic infections/syndromes/illnesses
  • depression
  • mental disorders including agoraphobia, dyslexia, dyspraxia
  • motion sickness
  • GERD
  • heartburn/reflux
  • H. Pylori overgrowth
  • stomach/duodenal (small intestine) ulcers
  • gut flora imbalance
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss

The entire symptom and syndrome list is extensive.  

What Came First?
Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer

Photo Credit: Cheeseslave

Is your condition causing digestive issues at a cellular level or is lack of nutrients and poor digestion causing your condition?

This concept is a bit of the ‘chicken or the egg’ debate.

No matter your view, eating a nutrient-dense diet along with digesting and absorbing those nutrients will improve health and can do so dramatically.

An inadequate diet and improper breakdown and assimilation of nutrients is a classic recipe for body system dysfunction from the subcellular level to the organism as a whole.

Two very famous protocols that demonstrate the body’s ability to heal with nutrients are the GAPS diet and Gerson therapy. Both have shown great success in reversing terminal illnesses and both focus on nutrition as a main pillar of their healing protocols.

Overview of Digestion

There are two main ways incomplete digestion causes dysfunction: 1) by allowing undigested particles of food into the intestines and bloodstream (engages the immune system causing inflammation and food allergies), and 2) by not fully breaking food down into its usable forms (not able to absorb nutrients).

A quick digestion overview will show you that digestion actually begins in the brain.

As soon as you see or smell your food, the brain sends out the order to start the digestive process and, if you are not stressed, switches the body to parasympathetic mode. This state of the body is required for all parts of the digestive process to work.

Your body begins to produce saliva even before that first bite. Breaking food down thoroughly by chewing and mixing it with saliva is the first part of creating the stomach’s ‘soup’.

Saliva contains important solutes like salivary amalayse, a digestive enzyme that breaks down starches and lysozyme that kills bacteria.

If you wolf down a burger in the car or a microwaved, frozen meal at your desk or standing in the kitchen, the digestive process is already compromised. The stomach receives large chunks of food, little liquid or solutes from saliva, no live enzymes from the processed, dead food, and doesn’t even get a heads up that food is on its way.

All of your parents’ or grandparents’ scolding to slow down and chew your food completely was dead on.

Your stomach’s job is to create an acid soup, called chyme, from the food you swallow. It does this by chemical and mechanical means – producing hydrochloric acid (HCl), enzymes, and other solubles and also by squeezing and tossing the food around.

The stomach has no teeth, so, if the food isn’t masticated by chewing, it has little chance of breaking down thoroughly during the next stages. Each stage is designed to break down a different product.

Much of the enzyme action happens in the small intestine.

As soon as the chyme reaches the right consistency, the stomach signals the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum, to open its valve and let the chyme in.

The duodenum immediately begins to lower the pH to neutralize the acid soup and dumps bile from the gall bladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas to finish turning the food into its usable parts.

The rest of the small intestine is used to absorb nutrients directly into the bloodstream, and the large intestine is used to reabsorb the extra water needed for digestion after its job is complete.

The bacterial layer, or intestinal flora, in the large intestine work on the very last stage of breaking down the food particles that we don’t use into their food sources. In the process, they create vitamins that we can use.

Then, waste leaves the body via the colon.

This is the healthy workings of a digestive system. If the process doesn’t begin correctly, then the dysfunction compounds as it works its way through the digestive system and we start to see things like holes in the intestinal lining, inflammation, undigested food that feeds the wrong yeasts and bacteria.

This causes havoc on many levels and is a good example of how important it is to have holistic medical care. The individual parts cannot be successfully treated without addressing dysfunction of the body as a whole.

Part 1: Restoring the Mucous Layer

It’s likely that the protective lining of the stomach is not optimal if you are dealing with chronic symptoms.

The first step to a properly functioning stomach is by healing the protective layer so you can then ramp up the acidity of the stomach. If you think you already have too much stomach acid, be sure you read part 2. I’ll explain why the mainstream medicine and pharmaceutical industries have it wrong.

Stomach pH has an ideal range of 1.5-3.5 or acid enough to burn through your floor. Mucosa is the mucous membrane of the stomach and what protects the stomach lining from that extremely acidic environment that we require to break down our food.

Healing the Stomach Lining

The mucosa can often be healed in just a few days because the turnover of new cell growth is so rapid. For those with ulcers, bacterial overgrowth, and significant damage, this process can take longer and should be monitored by a qualified health professional.

The fastest way to heal this lining is by removing irritants and introducing healing compounds. Irritants can be spices, grains/nuts/seeds, dairy, high fiber foods, or food allergens.

  • Focusing on a diet of gut-healing meat stocks, meat and vegetables well-cooked in stock, and eliminating processed foods during this time is key to a quick turnaround.

Long-cooking, mineral-rich bone broths are wonderful nourishing foods, but do not have the same healing components as a meat stock and the abundance of minerals can be hard on a stomach that already has compromised digestion.

  • Many people will also benefit from removing raw fruits and vegetables during this time. Raw animal products like liver, egg yolks, and fish eggs are generally well digested.

This restricted style of eating can usually heal the stomach lining and allow it to regenerate in 3-4 days, though for some people, it can take up to a month. A properly functioning mucosa also allows for a healthy layer of the cells that produce stomach acid. We address that function in Part 2 of healing digestion.

The GAPS Diet

The GAPS Introduction Diet: Stage 1 has a very thorough example of some foods that promote fast healing if you need an example to follow. The entire intro diet is difficult for many people to follow and can cause further health problems, so I don’t recommend following it to the letter unless you are working with a qualified holistic health professional skilled in the GAPS Diet and gut healing.

Each person’s bioindividuality needs to be addressed and supported when following any health protocol.

Some people may need a small amount of grains and starch from the beginning. Many people need to heal the stomach lining and restore proper stomach digestion before beginning a probiotics program. Other factors also need to be considered.

[If you are embarking on GAPS intro, feel free to use this GAPS Intro Quick Guide for easy reference.]

Healing Digestion: Part 2 will discuss how heartburn and GERD are actually caused by low stomach acid and begin to focus on improving stomach acid production naturally.

These are general recommendations and not meant to diagnose or treat a condition. Because of our bioindividuality and individual circumstances, full healing protocols will vary.

If you are not comfortable treating your own condition, please see a holistic practitioner who practices nutritional therapy. If you would like to work with me as a distance client, please contact me here.

Sources

[Note: I earn a small commission to help maintain this website if you make an Amazon purchase through the links provided - learn more here.]

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedsci(neurology), MMedSci(nutrition)

Introduction to the Human Body: The Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology by Gerard J. Tortora and Bryan Derrickson

Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux and GERD by Jonathan Wright

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