You may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or it may be affecting someone you know. You may have been told that IBS is something that you will have to live with, its just you – the way your body works; its your genetics. Well, you probably don’t believe that explanation. You know that drugs only suppress symptoms or possibly you are searching for natural solutions. By understanding how the digestive system functions normally, you will have the knowledge to effectively use natural treatments.
The digestive system is a complex of organs with multiple functions:
- Digestion – the breaking down of food into its basic nutrients.
- Absorption – the taking up of necessary and specific nutrients into the body. It is a barrier that prevents unwanted substances and infections from getting into the body.
- Immunity – essentially a warning system that tests and prepares antibodies that act against foreign particles like viruses, bacteria, and other parasites.
- Biotransformation – which means taking a toxic substance and making it water soluble so it may be eliminated from the body.
- Elimination of Waste Products of Metabolism and Toxins.
The Digestive System
The digestive system can be broken down into three areas: upper, middle, and lower.
1. In the upper section of the digestive tract, there is the mouth and esophagus. In the mouth, teeth begin the process of digestion by crushing food. Saliva is secreted containing an enzyme that breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, and the tongue mixes the food with saliva before sending the food down the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that prevents food or water from entering the body. But, much more is happening. While you are chewing and mixing, your nervous system sends a signal to the stomach to start make hydrochloric acid, a very strong acid.
2. The middle section has multiple organs: the stomach, pancreas, liver and gall bladder. Once the softened food travels down the esophagus, it enters the stomach. While the lining of the stomach continues to secrete an acid, the stomach squeezes and churns the food so the acid continues to break down protein into smaller strands called polypeptides. Again, no food or water will enter the body in this middle section.
This liquid slurry of partially digested food is squirted into the small intestine, and it is here that some very interesting biochemistry takes place. The acid in the slurry stimulates the pancreas to release more digestive enzymes to further digest proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The pancreas also releases hormones that stimulate the gallbladder to squeeze its contents, called bile, into and mix with the food slurry.
Bile is a substance that is produced by the liver and contains the the by-products of biotransformation. This is a biochemical process that occurs predominantly in the liver. Bile is like a soap and breaks-down fat molecules so they may be absorbed. The acidic slurry also stimulates a hormone in the intestine that is secreted into the blood, travels back to the stomach and like a switch, turns-off the production of acid in the stomach.
All functions of the digestive system except biotransformation take place in the lower area of the digestive system where there two major organs.
The Small Intestines and the Large Intestines
Once food is completely digested in the small intestine. The amino acids, simple sugars, fats, minerals, and vitamins are allowed to be absorbed into the body through the barrier. Unless there is a breach in the barrier, only those nutrients are absorbed. As the slurry continues through the large intestine, water is reabsorbed into the body as the stool is formed and ultimately eliminated through the anus.
Lining the small intestine is a protective layer of mucous that contains trillions of bacteria cells. These bacteria provide nutritional and immune support. It is estimated that there are 10 times more bacterial cells in the intestines than the entire human body. Some of these bacteria are replenished with food, but the majority of the bacteria are anaerobic, meaning they can’t survive in an oxygen environment. The anaerobic bacteria originate in the intestines when they are passed at birth from the mother and are cultivated and grown as we age. These anaerobic bacteria are not replaced with food and are depleted with stress, toxins, drugs and antibiotics.
Also lining the length of the small intestine are tiny glands called Peyers Patches. These glands are the guardians of the immune system constantly testing the digestive system for viruses, bacteria and parasites. They make antibodies that amplify the immune system when foreign substances breach the barrier.
The Autonomic Nervous System is the way the Digestive system communicates with its environment. When the nervous system perceives stress whether imaginary or real, emotional or physiological, it turns on the sympathetic nerves.
When these nerves are firing, all three sections of the digestive system stop functioning. For this reason, it is so critical for healing irritable bowel syndrome to monitor and alleviate stress from whatever source.
The natural solutions and treatments for IBS are five interconnected strategies:
- Emotional trauma and conflicts,
- Food allergies and sensitivities,
- Quality of Diet (such as when the diet is too Acidic and contains too much Protein),
- Hormone imbalance, particularly Cortisol since it stimulates the previously mentioned sympathetic nervous system thereby reducing levels of stomach acid and enzymes while slowing or stopping motility,
- Toxins (pesticides/herbicides, organic pollutants, food coloring and preservatives in food and water, antibiotics).
It may be necessary perhaps for a relatively short period of time to replace digestive enzymes and stomach acid until the digestive system is back in balance.
3. Probiotics: While adding fiber and probiotics to cultivate beneficial bacteria, repairing the gut provides nutritional support for regenerating the barrier function.
Finally, it is very important to identify and change negative patterns of emotional stress with positive thoughts and affirmations. Negative mental patterns contribute to a catabolic or breakdown metabolism while positive thoughts shift the metabolism to one that is anabolic and rebuilding.
CAM Wellness Institute – Irritable Bowel Solutions
Knowledge is empowering, and it is our mission at CAM Wellness to provide you with natural solutions and treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Please sign up for our periodic emails that will provide you with new research and solutions. Also, follow us on social media where you will find new blog posts and interview with other CAM practitioners. CAM Wellness Institute is located in Fairfield County Connecticut 1 hour from New York City.