If someone once told you to chew your food 100 times before swallowing, the advice may have been exaggerated, but the principle is sound. In our fast-paced world, we often wolf down our food, try to eat on the run or simply eat too much, especially if we were too busy and missed a meal earlier in the day.
Not surprisingly, digestive disorders are on the rise, including indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when acid ascends from the stomach into the esophagus, often causing damage to the lower esophagus, heartburn, coughing and difficulty in swallowing. The worst-case outcome from acid reflux is cancer. Increasingly, younger people are falling prey to digestive disorders including acid reflux. Culprits include poor diet and exposure to food additives and toxins.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the largest component of the immune system, extends from the mouth to the anus through about 30 feet of hollow tubing. This essential passageway is the body’s first line of defense against potentially harmful toxins, germs and pollutants that often enter our body from our modern environment. In addition, most foods contain viruses, bacteria and fungi. If these germs are not killed, they can make you sick.
Fortunately, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid (HCL) to kill the nasty organisms. However, if stomach acidity is low, we will typically experience reduced growth of good bacteria in the small intestine. HCL is critical in beginning the process of protein digestion as well.
Why medications are mostly ineffective
Ironically, frequently prescribed and expensive acid-lowering drugs are, of course, designed to reduce the acid we need to digest dietary protein and kill the germs. In fact, billions are spent annually on medications to “treat” GI disorders, but these drugs often deliver little or no relief or any benefit. Moreover, the drugs can inhibit absorption of the nutrients we need to maintain good health and can cause other medical problems. Medications can interfere with absorption of iron and vitamin B12, particularly problematic among elderly people who take acid-reducing medications. Alarmingly, studies indicate that 40% of normal elderly people have a significant vitamin B12 deficiency and 80% of elderly who are chronically ill have the deficiency. Lack of vitamin B12 increases cancer risk and most people with Alzheimer’s disease are deficient in vitamin B12.
Aging brings more challenges
As we age, our body’s ability to produce enough hydrochloric acid to kill germs often declines dramatically. Not surprisingly, many digestive problems associated with aging result from diminished production of hydrochloric acid, which, in turn, can increase the likelihood of suffering from acid reflux. Also, poor digestion and utilization of dietary proteins are an underlying issue in muscle loss in the elderly. Other key points:
- Low salt diets can be a problem; they limit the source of chloride for HCL.
- Betaine hydrochloride can be helpful for digestive weakness. It may take a doctor's supervision to use betaine hydrochloride effectively, or to even determine whether you need it, but it can be helpful in improving a weak digestive system.
- For the lower GI tract, probiotics and vegetable fiber for the probiotics to grow on are very important. Getting the right balance of microflora will help with indigestion and bloating at times.
- Getting rid of heavy metals, and thus being able to effectively eliminate yeast overgrowth, may be helpful too. This also helps to balance the microflora.
How to achieve proper digestion
So, how do we do optimize digestion and good health? Returning to the first point in this article, we need to chew our foods thoroughly until they are as mushy as possible. This is particularly important for those who follow the Hallelujah Diet because raw vegetables are very difficult to digest if not broken down mechanically.
Plant cells are coated with an indigestible layer. This protective sheath—a cellulose cell wall—must be penetrated with our teeth to enable absorption of the rich nutrients inside. If this does not occur, the nutrients will cruise through the GI tract and pass through our body unabsorbed. So, think of eating raw foods in this way: the more you chew, the more you absorb the nutrients that optimize health at the cellular level.
In other words, the more nutrients reach your cells, the healthier your cells will be. Also, raw foods chewed to the consistency of mush facilitate digestion throughout the GI tract, helping to prevent acid reflux and other digestive disorders.
Enzymes can also aid in digestion
One benefit of a plant-based diet is that, when we chew raw vegetables and fruits slowly and thoroughly, we bathe our cells in living nutrients that:
- Produce all molecules essential to sustain life
- Strengthen the immune system
- Repair cells and DNA
- Generate energy
There are many different types of enzymes including those that help to break down foods and enhance absorption. According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, “There is compelling evidence that our body does not produce sufficient digestive enzymes to break down the foods we eat. As a result, we need the enzymes present in most of our foods, especially fruits and vegetables, to get the job done.” Like the Hallelujah Diet, Dr. Blaylock recommends “blenderized” raw vegetables daily. This maximizes enzyme intake and absorption. And, “Over time, these enzymes you consume will begin to digest the vegetables themselves, further aiding the stomach in processing the food.”
As people age, they often experience a decline in their ability to digest foods properly. If, after eating, you experience abdominal discomfort, pain, gas or bloating, these are symptoms of poor enzyme function. Fortunately, this problem can be relieved with enzyme supplements taken with each meal, such as Hallelujah Diet’s Digestive Enzymes. These are live enzymes designed to maximize absorption of the nutrients we need for healthy cells and bodies.
The big takeaway
Digestive health is every bit as important as eating the right raw foods. When we achieve both, we are on the path to optimizing health, well into old age.