I find that most of my patients who complain of GI problems are deficient in digestive enzymes. A deficiency in these enzymes prevents the body from breaking down and sufficiently absorbing food. Most digestion and absorption takes place in the small intestine and is regulated by pancreatic enzymes (digestive) and bile. The pancreas aids in digestion by releasing proteolytic enzymes, which help break down proteins into amino acids.
These enzymes break down food-stuff and allow the smaller molecules and nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The enzymes may become deficient for a variety of reasons, including advancing age, excess sugar, deficient essential fatty acids, excessive trans-fatty acids, and overeating. Eating processed food also depletes normal pancreatic enzymes.
Raw, unprocessed foods contain their own digestive enzymes. When we eat these foods, we help spare our own pancreatic enzymes. However, eating processed foods requires our body to secrete extra amounts of pancreatic enzymes. Over time, processed foods deplete a persons own pancreatic enzyme stores.
Proteolytic enzymes also help regulate inflammatory reactions by reducing the amount of kinins in the body. Kinin is a tissue hormone capable of causing severe and painful inflammatory reactions. It is triggered by allergic foods or chemicals and can cause inflammation anywhere in the body, including the brain.
Bloating, Gas, and Indigestion Protocol
Bloating, gas and indigestion may be signs of low stomach acid, deficient digestive enzymes (not able to break down and digest their food), bacterial or yeast overgrowth. Take a digestive enzyme with each meal. I recommend my patients use a potent pancreatic digestive enzyme formula that utilizes USP porcine-derived high-potency pancreatin for reliable and consistent enzyme activity.
If after one week you continue to have bloating gas or indigestion add 3 capsules of high dose probiotics (good bacteria, acidophilous, etc.). Probiotics should taken on an empty stomach. Usually one to two months of probiotic therapy is enough.
Heartburn, Reflux, and GERD
One estimate is that 40% of the US population has some degree of esophageal reflux, with 20% of adults complaining of weekly episodes of heartburn and 7% complaining of daily symptoms. Esophageal reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions, allowing the backward flow of acid, bile, and other contents from the stomach into the esophagus.
(inflammation of the stomach itself), peptic or duodenal ulcers, and chronic use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can result in reflux. A hiatal hernia and can also result in esophageal reflux.
The most obvious symptom of esophageal reflux is heartburn. It occurs after eating and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. Heartburn feels like a burning sensation in the pit of the stomach. The pain may also move up into the chest and throat. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can cause esophageal scarring or Barrett's syndrome, a chronic irritation from acid-bile reflux that causes the normal esophageal lining cells to be replaced by precancerous cells. These cells are associated with an increased risk for development of cancer.
An endoscopy test is used for the diagnosis of GERD. This test involves examining the esophagus through a flexible viewing tube, which can also take a biopsy to correctly identify acid reflux.
Conventional Treatment of GERD
H2 antagonists (Tagament, Pepcid, Zantac, and Axid) and antacids (Tums, Maalox, etc.) are usually the first line of treatment. If these fail to work, then proton-pump inhibitor drugs (Nexium, Prevacid, or Prilosec) are initiated. However, many physicians now prescribe proton-pump inhibitor drugs as a first-line therapy. These medications block the absorption of zinc, folic acid, B12, calcium, and iron.
Long-term use of these medications can block all stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). The stomach needs hydrochloric acid to break down proteins for digestion. Failure to do this can lead to all sorts of problems, including intestinal permeability, anemia, fatigue, increased allergy disorders, depression, anxiety, and bacterial and yeast overgrowth.