How often do you experience cramping, bloating, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea? What about joint pain, skin disorders and eruptions, headaches, and brain fog? Stomach troubles like bloating and heartburn are some of the most common signs of enzyme deficiency. More persistent symptoms like headaches and joint pain can often point to leaky gut.
The next time you see someone drinking sparkling mineral water or even a Coke with a meal, consider this: Drinking too much liquid with a meal dilutes the body’s enzymes and makes it difficult to digest. Drinking less and taking Assist Full Spectrum enzymes at each meal can help.
How is all this possible? Large food particles feed bacterial overgrowth — which can manifest as gut symptoms. Bacterial overgrowth, or a damaged inner ecology, can irritate the tissue lining the gut wall and generate inflammation. This allows large food particles to escape into the bloodstream (generating systemic inflammation) and candida to spread outside the gut.
In 2017, using genetically engineered mice, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers finally helped link leaky gut to the development of chronic inflammatory disease.1 Better understanding intestinal inflammation and permeability, researchers say, could help to improve outcomes and even prevent disease.
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A bottleneck in your digestive system
If you’re experiencing gas and bloating, and a feeling that the stomach is overly full, food may not be moving from the stomach into the small intestine:
- Feeling bloated immediately while or after eating is a direct indication that you're deficient in stomach acid.
- Gas and bloating that show up several hours later can indicate that you're lacking enzymes in the small intestine. Or, this may be caused by a pathogen in the small intestine reacting to the food you're eating to create excess gas and bloating.
Of course, all the toxins that accumulate in the gut over a lifetime always produce gas and bloating. That’s why we at Body Ecology frequently recommend colon cleansing or colon therapy for the removal of the toxins that could be affecting your gut health and digestion.2
If a person was eliminating well and has become constipated, they may be eating more than they're eliminating. As a result, they're going to have a backup in their digestive tract, causing heartburn and an acidic feeling in the stomach. It’s common to turn to antacids for heartburn relief in this situation, when the real problem lies with elimination. Poor elimination leads to uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, and the vicious cycle continues.3
Why are you bloated? The top 5 reasons your gut feels too full
There are many, many reasons why you may feel bloated, but here are some of the most common:
1. Bacterial overgrowth.
Bloating is a sign that food is not digesting properly. When you eat too much, eat when you feel stressed, or eat when food is poorly combined, the food sits in the small intestine and putrefies. Bacteria and yeast feed on stagnant food and release gas in the process. This can result in bloating, cramping, and intestinal pain. Worse — this can be a sign that the gut is experiencing trauma and is becoming permeable or “leaky.”4
It’s also possible to have H. pylori growing in the stomach, often at the beginning of the small intestine around the duodenum.
Other people may have a pathogen in their small intestine like Clostridium difficile, which can grow in the small intestine over time. The cause of bloating can frequently come from a pathogen. Fortunately, this is easy to test for using a stool test to determine exactly what type of pathogen may be inside the gut. Then, the pathogen must be eliminated to prevent gas and bloating after meals. Taking probiotics and digestive enzymes together can strengthen the gut to overcome harmful bacteria like H. pylori.5
2. Enzyme deficiency.
Most people don’t have enough stomach acid in their stomachs. Even from the very beginning of life, some people tend to be low in stomach acid, while others lose stomach acid as they get older. Low stomach acid may also be caused by a history of antacid use. But you have to have hydrochloric acid in your stomach to begin to predigest protein. Proteins are predigested in the stomach, and hydrochloric acid triggers the pepsin enzyme to start digestion. When stomach acid is low, hydrochloric acid can be supplemented in daily digestive enzymes made especially for eating protein and fermented dairy.
From the stomach, all the food gets moved into the small intestine, and there, protein digestion is finished. The rest of the protein digestion takes place in the small intestine, where other foods you’ve eaten are absorbed, broken down, and assimilated. Small intestine-supporting digestive enzymes and probiotics can be used to eliminate gas and bloating and prevent the slow motility that leads to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).6
Learn more about the foundation of Body Ecology's system of health and healing: "The physical body is born with a certain amount of enzymes to maintain health and vitality. When enzymes are depleted in the physical body, the body becomes diseased and gradually expires."
3. Poor food combining.
When you're eating foods that are very incompatible with each other, your gut is going to react. Eating protein, for example, with a starch, like rice or bread, isn’t going to digest easily at all.
This meal is too complicated for the body’s digestive enzymes to handle.
Then there are certain foods that cause gas right away. Beans are notorious for this -- which includes lentils, chickpeas, and all other beans. These foods almost immediately cause a person's stomach to swell up. The body doesn’t have the enzymes to digest them, but also, beans are mostly starch with a little protein, so they’re naturally harder to digest. You may find beans much easier to stomach when they're fermented, and most of the time, that means fermented soybeans like miso, tempeh, and natto.
4. Stress during mealtime.
You may have observed that most people eat under stress -- on the run or snacking while driving or at work. When you're under stress, your gut closes down and doesn’t digest well. Even experiencing stress early in life, American Physiological Society researchers found in 2016, can increase the risk of chronic indigestion and anxiety during adulthood.7
You, like most people, may also take large bites of food and put too much food in your mouth.
Making matters worse, you may not chew your food well before you swallow it. It's ideal to chew each bite at least 30 times so that it is the consistency of water before swallowing. For this reason, most people don’t realize that they're actually swallowing air as they eat. This becomes even more common when you’re not chewing well, which can happen when you’re under stress.
5. Food sensitivity.
Some people are highly sensitive to certain foods. One food that many people are sensitive to is gluten.
You can find gluten in wheat, rye, and barley. So many foods in Western cultures have this protein called gluten, and it's difficult to break down. Gluten is a protein, but it also goes into the small intestine and can cause serious damage. Over time, gluten can flatten the villi, the little hair-like projections in the small intestine. For so many people, this long-term damage ends in intestinal distress, like irritable bowel syndrome where you can no longer digest the nutritious foods you're eating. Gluten can damage the gut lining as much as pathogens. Columbia University Medical Center Researchers discovered in 2016 that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be directly related to a weakened intestinal barrier that triggers an inflammatory immune response.8
The human gut is fascinating. Take back control by learning the essentials of good gut health at Body Ecology U.
Many people are also sensitive to fat. And typically, the types of fats that most people eat are not well-digested. Your body may not have the enzymes or produce the enzymes to digest those fats. If your liver doesn’t make enough bile — as bile is necessary for digestion of fats and for stimulating peristaltic movement — food will not get moved on out of the digestive tract.
When you start chewing well, avoid eating under stress, and add fermented foods and enzymes to your diet, you'll see an enormous change in your digestion right away. Today, the digestive tract has become something that most people are keenly aware of as they eat. You know right away after you have eaten if your digestive system isn’t working right. But you don’t notice your heart beating or your lungs filling, and when it’s in good health, your digestive tract should be the same way.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Bloating isn't a normal part of digestion, but it's something many of us experience after each meal, often due to:
- Bacterial overgrowth.
- Enzyme deficiency and low stomach acid.
- Improper food combining.
- Stress during meals.
- Food sensitivity.
Interestingly, how you cook your food has a lot to do with how you digest it. For example, most people cook their protein until it's very well done. But overcooking protein makes it almost impossible to digest. Protein should be prepared so that it's medium-rare. To support optimal digestion, all meat should be cooked at a low temperature until it’s just done and then taken off the heat immediately before it is eaten.
Chewing at mealtimes can also be used as a way to handle stress. Try chewing as a form of meditation, for example, and you will often see a quick turnaround in your digestive health. You may stop being constipated, or you may not have as much gas and bloating. The stomach won't stay full after a meal because you have done much of the digestive work in your mouth. That is why you have teeth in your mouth. Chewing well, eating less under stress, and taking digestive enzymes at each meal can remedy most, if not all, issues with how well your body digests.
- Craig Sturgeon et al, Zonulin transgenic mice show altered gut permeability and increased morbidity/mortality in the DSS colitis model, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1111/nyas.13343.
- "Scientific Basis of Coffee Enemas." Gerson Institute.
- Jan D. Huizinga, Ji-Hong Chen, Yong Fang Zhu, Andrew Pawelka, Ryan J. McGinn, Berj L. Bardakjian, Sean P. Parsons, Wolfgang A. Kunze, Richard You Wu, Premysl Bercik, Amir Khoshdel, Sifeng Chen, Sheng Yin, Qian Zhang, Yuanjie Yu, Qingmin Gao, Kongling Li, Xinghai Hu, Natalia Zarate, Phillip Collins, Marc Pistilli, Junling Ma, Ruixue Zhang, David Chen. The origin of segmentation motor activity in the intestine. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4326.
- Kiefer D, Ali-Akbarian L (2004). “A brief evidence-based review of two gastrointestinal illnesses: irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes”. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine 10 (3): 22–30.
- Chenoll, B. Casinos, E. Bataller, P. Astals, J. Echevarria, J. R. Iglesias, P. Balbarie, D. Ramon, S. Genoves. Novel Probiotic Bifidobacterium bifidum CECT 7366 Strain Active against the Pathogenic Bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2010; 77 (4): 1335 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01820-10.
- Salem, A., & Ronald, B. C. (2014). Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). J Gastroint Dig Syst, 4(225), 2.
- John H Winston, Sushil K. Sarna. Enhanced sympathetic nerve activity induced by neonatal colon inflammation induces gastric hypersensitivity and anxiety-like behavior in adult rats. American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2016; ajpgi.00067.2016 DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00067.2016.
- Armin Alaedini et al. Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease. Gut, July 2016 DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-311964.
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