A good friend of mine once said “Duct tape solves all problems”, and over the years, I’ve laughed at how correct she was each time the oh-so-strong and sticky, silver tape has come to the rescue in situations where reaching for duct tape would not normally be anyone’s first choice. But even so, duct tape solved the problem.
Turning to our health, while duct tape may not solve the problems that range from annoying skin rashes to debilitating depression, there is one solution that, like duct tape, we should consider more often. When it comes to our bodies, properly balancing digestion can be like like duct tape for our health, solving all, or nearly all, problems…. including many that you might not think are related.
Poor digestion can take many forms, but one of the most common imbalances that we face is LOW stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria. This may seem counter-intuitive given the rampant widespread symptoms of heartburn in the population and subsequent bombardment of acid blockers in the media, but stick with me here. Stomach acid is responsible for breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into their component parts, of amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars respectively. Without enough stomach acid to break them down, they sit undigested in the stomach for an extended period of time, fermenting and causing burping, which opens the valve up to your esophagus and brings your acidic stomach contents with it. It’s not quite acidic enough to break down the foods, but more acidic than your neutral esophagus, which is why you experience heartburn with low stomach acid.
Other problems you wouldn’t think are associated with hypochlorhydria, but are commonly related, are:
- Regular susceptibility to colds and viruses since the acid is not low enough to kill invaders upon contact
- Mood swings
- Hair loss
- Hormone imbalances, affecting fertility
- High cholesterol
- Weight problems
- Cardiovascular disease
Another common digestive problem, with far-reaching and seemingly unrelated consequences, is a relatively common condition called leaky gut syndrome. While this condition can be caused and/or exacerbated by a number of issues, including food intolerances like gluten, blood sugar imbalances, the overuse of antibiotics, or an excess of stress or toxins, hypochlorhydria again plays a profound role. In the stomach, proteins get broken down into their component amino acids, but without proper stomach acid to break them apart, they will eventually enter into the small intestine undigested, irritating the intestinal walls, and eroding the structural barrier between the small intestine and the blood stream. Imagine what would happen if sandpaper brushed through the same opening meal after meal, how it would eventually compromise the integrity of that space. Eventually, the undigested proteins can break through the small intestine and into the bloodstream to result in leaky gut syndrome.
When these undigested proteins leak into the bloodstream, the immune system thinks there’s a foreign invader, and initiates a full immune response, leading to additional symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to digestion:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurological disorders
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Bloating, diarrhea, constipation
- Allergies to food and pollens
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Celiac disease
- Eczema and other skin rashes
There are so many symptoms that plague our population on a daily basis, and we tend to turn to pharmaceutical drugs to mask their impact on our daily life. If, however, we would look to a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to balance our digestion, many of these problems can be significantly decreased. So while duct tape may not solve all problems in life, balancing digestion may be just what it takes to solve the rest.