Digestion and Gut Health 

By Daniel Rocha 

Digestion begins in the mouth, where we physically break down foods with saliva and by chewing. Saliva is a watery fluid that contains mucus and a few enzymes, including lysozyme, salivary amylase, and lingual lipase. Food then travels to the stomach through the esophagus where the acidic stomach digests its (gastric) juices, which are mucus, hydrochloride acid (HCI), intrinsic factor, pepsinogen (protein breakdown), gastric lipase (fat breakdown), gastric (stimulates stomach motility and gastric gland activity). Food becomes chyme, leaves the stomach, and enters the small intestine, which is made up of the duodenum (acidic juices from pancreas and gallbladder), the jejunum (digestion and nutrition absorption occurs), and the ileum (more nutrient absorption occurs). Here digestive enzymes from the small intestine and pancreas are added. Chyme will then enter the large intestine, where undigested matter is collected.  Salt and water are absorbed, and then the waste is eliminated. 

These enzymes aid in the digestive process by binding to receptors that help it match with the specific macronutrient. Enzymes aid in biological and chemical reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes break down macronutrients so that the body can utilize them. These enzymes come from the salivary glands, the stomach, the intestines, and the pancreas. 

Bile is formed in the liver and passes through hepatic bile ducts, creating a single tube. This tube carries bile to the gallbladder, where it is stored. Food in the stomach stimulates the gallbladder to release the bile. The common bile duct continues to the intestines and is joined by another duct from the pancreas. The bile and the pancreatic juice enter the intestine and together aid with digestion.

”The seven categories of food enzymes and their activities:

  • Amylase: breaks down starches
  • Cellulase: breaks down cellulose
  • Lactase: breaks down lactose (milk sugar)
  • Lipase: breaks down fats
  • Maltase: breaks down maltose (malt sugar)
  • Protease: breaks down proteins
  • Sucrase: breaks down sucrose (table sugar)”
  •      (McNutty 2020) 

    Gut health and alkalinity are vital for a healthy body. If the alkaline blood chemistry is so low, healing will be deficient and lead to organic disease. Nutritional sources or breakdown of the glands are responsible for blood balance. Some manual therapy modalities, such as naprapathy, believe that irritation can be cleared through stretching and fascia release. But when it comes to nutritional sources, a high stomach pH can inhibit the absorption of certain transition metals like iron. The body requires the mobilization of metals, transport into cells, and transfer of metal where the cell actually needs it. With the body alkalized, transition metals like iron can be absorbed appropriately in the small intestine, where it forms with transferrin for immediate use or stored as ferritin. 

    The immune system begins within the gut, and therefore a healthy amount of bacteria is necessary to combat disease and strengthen the immune system. Here are the three main takeaways from the article referenced. 

    Gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease, IBS, parasites, and Crohn’s disease directly correlate to the perturbation of the bacterial microflora. Probiotics are utilized clinically to help restore normal bacterial microflora and promote proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Their use in the treatment and prevention of disease is why nutritionists must note their importance and implementation in a clinical setting.

    Efficacy of probiotic compounds is shown in gastrointestinal diseases, including gastric ulcers, IBS, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Lactobacillus GG alone, or in the combination of Bifidobacterium bifidum and Streptococcus thermophilus, is effective in the treatment of Clostridium difficile. Probiotics can prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea and help combat gastrointestinal diseases. Each strain has a different effect on the microbiome and offers clinical improvement for IBS, ulcerative colitis, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, parasites, and SIBO with minimal risk or adverse side effects. But more research is needed to evaluate which strains provide these GI combative benefits. Natural microbes are found in foods as well as supplements. 

    (Finley et al. 2018) 

    The use of probiotics for maintaining genitourinary health in males and females is a cost-effective alternative treatment for those suffering from a variety of recurring genitourinary infections. For women, most Lactobacillus strains applied topically and containing more than 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) are adequate for most bacterial vaginosis and Candida infections. In men, gut microbiota and prostatitis are now being studied. VSL#3, combined with rifaxin to deal with gut microbiota, decreases chronic prostatitis. As antibiotic resistance increases, the use of certain probiotic strains for specific recurring genitourinary infections and maintaining the health of the genitourinary tract has now warranted continued research. (Finley et al. 2018)

    Professional and commercial dietary supplements containing probiotics are big business. It is estimated that more than 100 companies in the United States marketed probiotic supplements, and nearly 2 million adults consume them regularly. Many use probiotics for general health versus targeting probiotic-specific strain for a particular health concern. Research models lack consistency in naming the therapeutic strains, and specific themes are often not listed on supplement labels. This challenge prevents the ability to distinguish the researched strain from the supplemental product. The researched strain may not be readily available on the label or marketing material due to the wide variety of formulations on the market, lack of knowledge, and inadequate labeling. This makes it difficult for nutritionists and consumers to determine which brand contains the specific strains researched to address a particular health concern. (Finley et al. 2018)

    Daniel Rocha

    Master Trainer / Nutritionist 

    @drocbody IG and Twitter 

    Finley, H. J., Gasta, M. G., Dolan, K. E., Pizano, J. M., Gossard, C. M., Williamson, C. B., … Lipski, E. A. (2018, February). Probiotics and Disease: A Comprehensive Summary-Part 8, Gastrointestinal and Genitourinary Disorders. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.).

    McNulty, M., & DeShantz-Cook, L. C. (2020). Enzyme Therapy. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 946-948). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from