The Small Intestine & Pancreas
Last week we talked about today’s increasing problem of producing an inadequate amount of hydrochloric acid. The effects of this deficiency are not only seen in the stomach but also in the next step in the digestive process, the small intestine and pancreas. From the stomach, the partially digested food, called chyme, continues on to the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. This is where most of the nutrients from food are absorbed into the bloodstream. But before assimilation can occur the food must be broken down int even smaller parts. This process is facilitated by digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas. These enzymes, help disassemble larger food molecules into smaller parts that can cross the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream.
Your pancreas was designed to produce these enzymes in adequate amounts to digest all the classes of food provided in a balanced diet. Some enzymes digest protein, others carbohydrates, and still others help break down fats. However, when the diet is regularly overloaded with a particular class of food the pancreas can have difficulty producing adequate amounts of the enzymes needed to digest it. Consequently, when these foods are not properly broken down, not only are they poorly assimilated but they also can create problems in the digestive tract as well as creating other metabolic problems. In our current dietary culture of excess carbohydrate consumption, many people have gastrointestinal issues (IBS) along with type II diabetes, both indications of pancreatic overload and dysfunction.
Although poor ole’ genetics often gets blamed for these conditions, the fact is that they are rarely caused by inherited genes but are mostly caused by lifestyle choices (which may in fact cause genetic changes!). Digestive enzymes can be a good short term fix for IBS but if you need to take them on a regular basis this could indicate that an underlying issue needs to be investigated. For most people this means taking an honest look at the food you are eating an making some changes. This doesn’t necessarily mean going ON a diet, but rather adjusting the amount or types of foods you eat most.
Tune in next week when we talk about the benefits of probiotics.