God has provided us with an abundance of natural substances to help support all aspects of the digestive process.
Your digestive system, along with your immune system, is a first line of defense against harmful agents in the world around you. It is therefore crucial to maintain gastrointestinal health and protect your body from attack in this area.
Your digestive system actually encompasses four major processes, which can be thought of as the "DEAN" of digestion.
• D – digesting food
• E – eliminating waste
• A – absorbing nutrients
• N – normalizing the bacteria
All four processes must be operating successfully to prevent or treat gastrointestinal disorders. See The DEAN of Digestion for a complete explanation of each process.
There are three main categories of natural compounds that support the digestive system in its digesting, eliminating, absorbing and normalizing functions.
You are what you eat, but only if your body can absorb it! Enzymes break down the food that we eat so it can be absorbed by our body. There are key enzymes that are crucial to maintaining digestive health, because between them they make the nutrients from all four major food groups available to us. These include:
• Amylase enzymes, which break down carbohydrates
• Lipase enzymes, which break down fats
• Protelytic enzymes, which break down proteins
• Lactase (an amylase enzyme), which breaks down lactose in milk
• Cellulase (an amylase enzyme), which breaks down various vegetables
The above enzymes are produced by our body, but often not in adequate levels to accommodate the 21st century diet.
There are also enzymes found in fruit, such as bromelain (from pineapple) and papain (from papaya) that aid in breaking down proteins.
There are two types of dietary fiber – soluble and insoluble – and both are needed for digestive health. Soluble fiber binds to blood cholesterol and delays glucose absorption, while insoluble fiber speeds the transit time of food passing through the GI tract.
Fruits (such as apples, prunes and dates) and grains (such as oats) provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. These fibers create bulk for healthy elimination and regularity and also promote healthy blood sugar levels. A fiber complex containing these substances can supplement what is taken in through the diet.
Glucomannan is a soluble fiber that can absorb two hundred times its weight in water. This means that a very small amount produces very big results, eliminating the need for large glasses of fiber powder solutions.
By traveling through the intestines with so much absorbed water waste, glucomannan acts as a stool softener ; hard stools are what leads to constipation. Glucomannan also creates a feeling of fullness in the stomach as it expands.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
There are additional fibers and fiber-like substances that actually fall into the prebiotic category. These nutrients feed probiotic organisms and help them thrive in your intestinal tract.
Indigestible starches and certain types of fiber contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS); they are not digested by humans, so the oligosaccharides remain in the digestive tract and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Arabinogalactan is another fiber that promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Probiotics (meaning "promoting life") are beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract. They are the first line of defense against unwelcome foreign invaders of the body and are vital to proper development of the immune system.
These good bacteria also aid in the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients and assist in the production of the lactase, one of the enzymes listed above. Another function of probiotics is to help keep yeast levels under control. Two of the most common probiotic strains are bifodobacteria bifidum and lactobacillus acidophilus.
For more information on the types and functions of these beneficial compounds, see Spotlight on: Probiotics and Prebiotics.
Digestion Support is a natural product that contains all of the enzymes, fibers, and pre/probiotics mentioned above, as well as the herbs ginger root and Chinese hawthorn fruit extract, which have long been used as digestive aids. With consistent use, all four of your digestive processes – DEAN – can be supported as God had intended.