I feel bloated all the time.
I get stomach pains after eating.
I have a history of IBS.
I’m constipated and have to take laxatives…
These are a few of the health complaints that we hear from clients that start working with us at Enterprise Fitness.
The gastrointestinal (GIT) system is involved in so many aspects of the body and having it perform correctly is vital in achieving optimal health, feeling awesome and also getting those abs out that everyone craves.
This first blog post is an introduction to how the GIT functions and following articles will go through disorders of the GIT and how to support these health issues.
Terminology headlight- Gut and GIT (gastrointestinal tract) are the same thing and either word will be used throughout the article.
There are 4 prime actions the GIT (gastrointestinal tract) is involved in, AKA. “The Gut”:
Lets start with number 1, digestion.
This is where we munch on foods and hopefully have the time to chew our mouthfuls into smaller pieces instead of inhaling whole foods and giving us terrible indigestion or producing offensive gas. Mastication, another word for chewing is important as it breaks down the foods into smaller building blocks available for absorption and makes it a lot easier on our small intestine. When food enters the small intestine undigested its broken down by bacteria that is present in the small intestine which is why sometimes you may get a lot of gas when eating certain foods or eating too fast.
Of course flatulence can also be caused by eating high carbohydrate foods that are difficult for your gut to break down, candida and food allergies.
When food enters into the gastrointestinal tract you produce hydrochloric acid (HCL), mucous and pancreatic enzymes to help you to absorb your foods. HCL is controlled from your Endocrine system and your CNS (central nervous system) which is why if you’re feeling very stressed and anxious while trying to eat you often end up in stomach cramps.
If you’ve been hanging around anyone that loves their supplements then you’ve probably heard the word HCL more then once.
So what is HCL?
HCL is an abbreviation for hydrochloric acid. It’s produced in the stomach by gastric acid and is needed to absorb important vitamins from your foods or even other supplements that you’re taking, e.g. B12, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc and Vitamins A and E. As you can see these vitamins are quite important in detoxification as well so if you’re deficient in these you may end up accumulating toxins in your body.
Because HCL maintains a level of acid in the GIT it also helps to protect the gut from bacterial parasites and pathogens that it comes in contact with.
HCL is also important for breaking down and absorbing proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It does this by initiating the secretion of pancreatic enzymes and bile into the small intestine.
The pancreas is an accessory organ that plays an important role in digestion by stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats and also by regulating blood sugar levels through secreting insulin. If you get a lot of bloating and constipation after eating red meat then you may be deficient in enzymes.
The gallbladder is another accessory organ that is important in breaking down and excreting fats. It contains electrolytes, bile salts, fatty acids and bilirubin.
The majority of mineral absorption, fatty acids and amino acids occur in the small intestine. We want proteins to be broken down into amino acids before they hit this phase as whole proteins can be very toxic and dangerous to the GIT.
If you’ve ever been to one of Marks Eat your Way to Abs seminar or listened to his podcast on Gluten, he talks about the microvilli in the small intestine and the impact that gluten and inflammation has on these tiny little hairs.
Think of the microvilli as a caterpillar that uses its hairy surface to protect it from pathogens or harmful bacteria. When this defense system is down the little hairs atrophy or die, which leaves the cells open and very susceptible to whatever harmful microbes or whole proteins comes in its way.
The intestinal tract is also said to have its own brain or central nervous system. Neurotransmitters that are commonly known in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and catecholamine’s are also present in the gut. There is research that explores depression, anxiety, ADHD and other child learning disabilities with gut disorders. So when people say “I have a gut feeling” its actually neuro-peptides!
The large intestine absorbs mainly water and electrolytes and stores poo or faeces, ( to be more appropriate) ready for excretion. The colon has a large amount of good bacteria in it and these bacteria also have the ability to produce B vitamins- B1, B2, B12 and Vitamin K.
Having daily bowel movements is just as important as making sure we are having correct daily nutrition. As the food is digested and made ready for excretion it is then considered a waste product. So imagine all those toxins just sitting there and our bodies not getting rid of them on a daily basis. This could potentially cause us health issues.
There are a few basic rules which I’m sure we’ve all heard once or twice in making sure we go to the toilet daily but lets review:
Correct nutrition: Funnily enough most people do notice that when they eat crap foods that it affects the way they go toilet but of course they ignore it and tend to eat whatever they fancy. The elimination process can go both ways. If you’re lucky it will come straight back out of you the next morning. I’ve found this usually happens to people that eat well 95% of the time so the body goes into an inflammatory shock when eating foods that contain gluten or high sugary content. Scenario number 2, your body holds onto it because it is too much for it to break down and get rid of and the elimination process becomes a little slower.
If you’re a newbie to health and fitness and this is the first time you’ve visited the Enterprise Fitness site, there are truckloads of articles that Mark has written on what foods to include in your diet for optimal health and increasing aesthetic results.
Adequate hydration. This means a minimum of 2 liters of water daily, and if you’re exercising that quantity goes up.
Including fiber in your meals, this is fresh vegetables, leafy greens and seeds. We’ll discuss different fibers used for constipation in further blog posts.
Exercise: Yes folks for those that aren’t too inclined to get up and shake that booty you must move! Exercise increases peristalsis of the bowel which means the bowel contracts to push the food down till it wants to come out.
Other important factors that affect bowel motility is stress, hormone imbalances and thyroid disorders. Again those interactions will be discussed in a further blog post.
That’s the first taste tester for our gut function series. Stay tuned for further articles and learn how you can increase optimal health in your body.
For any questions related to your health contact Kristine from Enterprise Fitness’ Functional Health services via email: [email protected]
Functional Health Practitioner/ RN DIV 1