We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat” and while that is certainly true and a cornerstone of our Authentic Human philosophy, it is not the whole picture. As important as good, healthy food is to good health and vitality – there is more. So, to rephrase that popular adage – “You are what you eat, what you digest, metabolize, assimilate and what you don’t excrete.”
Bearing in mind another other old adage – “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” – there are five basic steps in the digestive process and each step can either be functional or dysfunctional:
Ingestion is the initial intake of food and drink.
- Includes our appetites and tastes for foods, which influence food selection. These are usually influenced by our culture.
- A healthy, balanced body will support instincts we need to make the right food choices, and a calm, balanced appetite that assures good, sensible eating habits.
- An unhealthy body will have a deranged appetite and food choices, and manifest either as poor appetite or as a sudden, ravenous hunger and cravings that induce binge eating and discourage sensible eating habits.
Digestion is the breakdown of food into its constituent nutrients.
- Functional digestion proceeds smoothly and efficiently.
- Dysfunctional digestion can result in bloating, gas, distension, colic, discomfort or pain.
Metabolism is all biochemical reactions or transformations of nutrients.
- During the metabolic process some nutrients components are kept and used, some are cast off as unusable and by-products are released to be eliminated.
- Functional metabolism results in efficient transformation of nutrients and facilitates optimal body weight and wellbeing. Dysfunctional metabolism leads to metabolic disorders, emaciation or obesity, illness or disease.
Assimilation is the absorption or incorporation of nutrients into living organs, tissues and bones.
- Functional assimilation results in efficient transport of nutrients for use by the body.
- Dysfunctional assimilation food sensitivities or allergies, deficiencies, disorders and degeneration of the body.
Elimination is the final step. Elimination occurs on a micro level from cells, organs and tissues and on a macro level which is what we see.
- The importance of this step in assessing the health of the whole process is evidenced by the charts we see these days showing the various prducts of elimination as having personalities like the “poopie policeman” we tell our daughter to strive for.
- Functional elimination results in a brown, perfectly formed end product that has no offensive odor.
- Dyfunctional elimination results in a variety of odoriferous, discolored and malformed end products ranging – view a poopie line up.
In keeping with our “human as individual” theory, there are individual differences in the digestive process.
Slow & Steady: When functioning well, digestion is slow but steady. When not functioning well, digestion becomes sluggish producing bloating, lethargy, drowsiness after meals, heavy head and limbs and cravings for sweet. Foods which contribute to sluggish digestion are sweets, starches and for some, dairy. Hot, pungent spices can be helpful in reducing cravings.
Solid: When functioning well, stools are solid, bulky, well-formed and may be slightly soft – the perfect “poopie policeman”. Intestinal transit time tends to be slow. When dysfunctional, stools can be excessively soft or loose and in extreme cases there may be remnants of undigested food in the stool. This can lead to weight gain, and obesity due to low metabolic rate and residues from inefficient metabolism and assimilation. These residues can lead to cellulite, lipomas or soft nodules as the body tries to store them away.
Balanced & Relaxed: The most balanced and relaxed digestive type will generally be unproblematic as long as good, sensible eating habits focusing on light, easy to digest foods are followed. What is easy to digest can vary from person to person. This type can be prone to overeating and when doing so can overwhelm the digestion with an over too much sweet, rich, creamy, fatty food. This will result in digestion becoming too sluggish and intestinal putrefaction and liver congestion may follow. Overeating can cause it to become too relaxed, even sluggish.
Nervous & Variable: Shows fluctuations with emotional and mental states, being slow with moodiness and depression but fast with nervousness or agitation. Digestive dysfunction produces colic, gas, distension, bloating, flatulence and irritable bowel. Often characterized by intestinal flora imbalance and poor intestinal immunity which may result in autoimmune conditions. Mental state during ingestion can be key to managing the variability. Make meals stress-free and enjoyable. For this person it will be counterproductive to worry about what and when they are eating so a “diet” will do more harm than good if it results in stress and anxiety. Certain foods can also be problematic – astringent foods, nightshade, beans, soy, nuts, and certain others. Spices can be helpful – particularly those with pungent, sweet aroma. Erratic digestion can also result in nutritional deficiencies leading to anemia, hypoglycemia, dehydration and mineral imbalances. Likely to crave sweets or starches starches for the quick energy or mood boost. Stools aree usually hard, compact alternating with diarrhea when irritable bowel is present.
Tips to support your digestive process:
- Never eat when you’re tired, angry, upset or worried – fatigue or negative emotions can impair proper digestion. Try to eat with enjoyable company, to make meals a happy time.
- Don’t eat if you’re not hungry – if you are not hungry your body is not ready to receive a new supply of food.
- Eat until you are comfortably full but not overfull. It is best not to overeat or eat too little. Think of your stomach as a washing machine. It needs a little air around the contents to really work effectively.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food thinking about how it is delicious and nutritious for your body. Chew well – digestion begins in the mouth. Your foods need to be reduced to small pieces and mixed with saliva. Don’t eat on the go.
- Chew your food thoroughly until it is liquefied.
- Try not to eat your largest meal at dinner – lunch is best, or breakfast is okay too.
- Try to eat dinner 3-4 hours before going to sleep.
- A little light exercise before meals can stimulate your appetite and aid digestion.
- Try to only sip a little water while you eat – drink most of your water between meals.