We assume everything we put into our mouths gets efficiently broken down, absorbed, and assimilated by the body. Unfortunately that is not the case, and it may be leaving your mid-section swollen and flabby inhibiting your performance, slowing your recovery, and stalling your progress in the gym.
Digestive problems are becoming a much more frequent cause for patient visits to their doctors. Digestive discomfort, gas and intestinal bloating are a sure fire signs that your digestion is out of sync. Optimal digestive function is essential for breaking down proteins into their individual amino acid building blocks, maximizing absorption of nutrients, mitigating excess inflammatory response, and maintaining a healthy immune balance. Let's take a look at three ways your digestive health can get derailed.
#1 Poor Stomach Acidity
Optimal stomach acid levels provide many valuable health benefits. Hydrochloric acid present in the stomach creates an acidic environment ideal for breaking down and digesting proteins, which are valuable nutrients needed to build muscle, hormones, and all our immune cells. Stomach acid levels also provide us with protection against bacteria and viruses, as the acidity kills off these ‘foreign invaders’ before they get into our system and wreak havoc. Deficiencies in stomach acidity occur when we eat on the run, when stress levels increase, due to zinc deficiencies, and in general as we age.
#2 Gut Dysbiosis
The trillions of bacteria in your gut (and on your body) are known as your microbiome, the healthy "good" gut bacteria that assist nutrient absorption, help reduce inflammation, and balance immunity. The right food choices will help promote the ‘good’ gut bacteria, which reduces intestinal inflammation, optimizes absorption of food, and keeps your immune system strong. The wrong food choices, or a diet high in refined sugar, alcoholic beverages, and bad fats will create the ideal breeding ground for the ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. An overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacterial flora impairs nutrient absorption, can cause systemic inflammation, and potentially lead to inhibition of the core musculature. This is bad news for health and performance.
#3 Leaky Gut
When opportunistic ‘bad’ gut bacteria take over, it leads to damage of the intestinal wall. This micro-trauma allows undigested proteins to penetrate through junctions in the intestinal lining and make it into the bloodstream. Undigested proteins can cause your immune system to work overtime, as it mounts an unnecessary immune response and sends out cells to attack the ‘foregin’ proteins. These are commonly known as food sensitivities and often lead to people feeling sluggish, fatigued, mentally foggy, irritable and frequently sick. Common foods that can lead to this reaction are dairy, wheat, corn, soy, sugar, and gluten. Glutamine is one example of a key nutrient that helps to rebuild the intestinal mucosa and helps to rebuild a healthy gut lining, however digging into the athlete or client's diet is crucial to resolve the 'leaky gut' problem.
Poor digestion can wreak havoc on your health, performance and recovery. It puts tremendous toll on your ability to absorb key nutrients, may trigger excessive inflammation and lead to exaggerated immune response, which all take away from the energy you need to fuel your workouts and keep you feeling your best!
Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS