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Digestion And Herbs

Digestion And Herbs

Herbs For The Digestion System

Digestion is the process of breaking down large food molecules into smaller readily absorbable units so the body can used them.

Here is a quick overview of what happens during the digestive process…..

Chewing breaks down food particles and mixes them with saliva. Saliva contains the starch-digesting enzyme amylase and a slippery protein called mucin that helps to lubricate the food particles for easier swallowing.

As food is swallowed, it enters the oesophagus and is moved downwards by wavelike muscular contractions called peristalsis. At the end of the oesophagus, the food empties into the upper portion of the stomach.

The lining of the stomach produces gastric juices that contain protein-digesting enzymes. Peristaltic movements of the stomach wall mix and churn the food with the gastric juices. This action further breaks up the food particles, forming a milky fluid known as chyme.

At the bottom of the stomach, a muscular valve controls the release of chyme into the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. The duodenum is only 25 cm long, but most of the digestion takes place in this region.

Also opening into the duodenum are ducts from the pancreas and the gall bladder. These allow enzyme-rich pancreatic juice and bile to be released and mixed with the chyme. Chemical breakdown of carbohydrate, protein and fats into smaller absorbable molecules takes place.

The next section of the small intestine is the jejunum, about 2.5 m long. Folds in the wall of the jejunum greatly increase its surface area, allowing for ready absorption of the products of digestion.

The inside of the jejunum and ileum are lined with tiny finger-like projections called villi. These increase the surface area of the small intestine. They play an important role in absorbing the breakdown products of digestion.

Each villus has a rich blood supply, allowing nutrients to be readily absorbed and transported to the liver. Also present is a system of vessels known as a lacteal, which absorbs fat nutrients and carries them to the circulatory system.

At the end of the ileum, a muscular structure controls the release of undigested material into the first part of the large intestine – the caecum.

From here, peristaltic movements push the undigested material down the large intestine and allow it to mix with the large bacterial population present.

The bacteria are able to ferment some of the undigested material, producing short-chain fatty acids. These are used as an energy source for the bacteria and the cells lining the large intestine. Other important chemical compounds such as vitamin K are also produced by this bacterial action. As the material slowly moves down, undigested material is compacted and absorption of water and electrolytes takes place.

Undigested and compacted material enters the rectum for temporary storage before being eliminated through the anus.[1]

Throughout human evolution, our food has been our medicine, ensuring that the healing properties of the food and herbs we consume have a positive and direct effect on our digestive system. Food and herbs affect digestive system function not only through absorption and metabolism of the whole range of plant chemicals but also through direct actions upon the tissue of the gut.

A lot of digestives issues in today’s society are due simply to abuse through poor food choices. A lot of the products on supermarkets shelves today were unheard of 30 or 40 years ago. Today’s average diet contains an over reliance of processed foods, high sugar content, bad fats, high content of chemical additives, low in fibre and lacking vital healthy fats, mineral and vitamins.

The digestive tract is subject to a constant onslaught of chemical irritation from alcohol, carbonated drinks and smoking.

It is east to see why herbal remedies can be so helpful when treating inflammations in the digestive tract, the direct soothing action of demulcents, healing properties of astringents and general toning of bitter herbs have much to offer a person. Herbal medicine can bring about dramatic improvements in digestive system problems but the potential to maintain these benefits long term rests in the hands of the person seeking treatment.

To succeed the healing process must incorporate lifestyle changes to change poor dietary habits, incorporate new ones as well as reducing stress.

The whole process of eating and assimilating food is notoriously prone to stress related problems. Peptic ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Colitis are some conditions that don’t react well to stress. Find out more about Herbs For Stress Here

Poor digestion leads to an inability to properly break down food into usable nutrients leading to symptoms like pain, gas, bloating, cramping and/or heartburn. This is usually due to a deficiency of stomach acid or digestive enzymes. When poor digestion becomes chronic and severe it can lead to weightloss and fatigue. Often a good first step is to stimulate the body’s natural digestive secretions by using a Herbal Bitter Digestive Tonic. Find out more about Digestive Bitters Here

Herbal bitters help increase the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and bile from the liver which help with the digestion of heavy fats and protein. Ideally drink 15-20 mins before meals to trigger the flow of digestive juices. They can also be taken after a meal to settle a stomach and relieve indigestion and dull acid burning. Bitter helps you breakdown food better so you can absorb more nutrients from you food. They can be slightly laxative so help with moving old food waste and help with peristalsis.

Constipation is another problem that affects many people. Contrary to common belief, constipation is not a disease but a symptom of some underlying problem.  Herbal remedies are a very safe and  effective way in the treatment of constipation. For more on how herbs can help with constipation Read This Article: Herbs To Treat Constipation

There are many classifications of herbs for the treated herbalist to choose from when making up an individual herbal remedy for a person with digestive issues. You have Bitters, Demulcents, Astringents, Carminatives, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, Nervines, Hepatics, laxatives, and so on……..

Some of the conditions that respond well to herbs, lifestyle and dietary changes include:

  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • Reflux
  • Gastritis
  • Poor Digestion
  • IBS
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Liver issues

If you are concerned about your digestion system and would like to discuss further you can contact Michael in the clinic on 085-2157479. Michael will look and your current symptoms and diet and put a corrective plan in place for you which may include Herbal Remedies, Dietary Changes and Lifestyle Changes

[1] Digestion Of Food. Webpage: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/videos/814-digestion-of-food

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