Processed foods are part of most people’s diet. They are packed with salt, sugar, fat and loads of additives. One of the most common additives is wheat, hidden in many different ingredients. This can make following a gluten-free diet impossible if you aren’t in the habit of reading labels. We have compiled a list of common places that wheat and gluten may be hiding in processed foods.
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Hidden Sources of Wheat
Breadings and coating mixes
Brown Rice Syrup (May contain malted barley)
Canned meats and fish in broth
Caramel Color (Usually corn-derived, but check)
Cheese products- Sauces and some shredded cheeses
Condiments (Carefully read condiment labels. Gluten is often used as a stabilizer or thickening ingredient in ketchup, mustards and Oriental sauces)
Deli Meats, breaded fish and meats, pre-packaged ground beef products and hot dogs
Dextrin (Usually corn-derived but always check)
Flavorings, food starches, seasonings, and malt are general and vague words to watch for on labels of packaged foods. These terms are often clues that the product may contain gluten. For example, “malt” vinegar and “malted” milk powder contain gluten.
Gravy Products (Dry products, bouillon cubes, and processed, canned products)
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Imitation fish, meats and cheeses
Instant flavored coffee/cocoa mixes
Licorice candy (black and red)
Modified Food Starch
Mono and di-glycerides
Sauces, including soy sauce which is commonly made by fermenting wheat. (Check ALL processed sauce labels- From BBQ sauce to ice cream toppings, chili pepper products and tomato sauce products-all may contain gluten)
Self-basting poultry products including turkey with added “solutions”
Snack foods including flavored potato chips and corn chips
Soups, stocks and broth
Spice and herb blends (spices and herbs in their natural form do not contain gluten)
Rice products with seasoning packets
As you can see, the list is pretty long. Obviously, your best bet would be to avoid processed foods whenever you can but that’s not always possible. When you do have to rely on processed foods, do two things to protect yourself from gluten and other dietary bad actors: read the ingredients and take DigestShield® before you eat.
We mention “bad actors” frequently on our website because there are so many of them in the industrialized food supply. It is our goal to raise awareness about this fact so that we might contribute to improving your health. To better understand what these bad actors are and why they are a problem, keep reading.
Gluten is a blessing and a curse. It is responsible for giving bread and other baked goods their wonderfully chewy, elastic texture. However, recent evidence tells us that it is also very difficult to digest and responsible for immune activation and leaky gut in many individuals.
Gluten works in bread by forming an elastic web, which traps air and carbon dioxide during baking, leading to a fluffy, squishy lattice. This makes for fantastic texture in baked goods. Just think of a fresh-baked, still steaming roll.
Gluten works in your small intestine by binding to special receptors that signal a hormone to loosen the tight junctions between the cells there. This makes for less-than-fantastic opportunities for gluten and the other bad actors to trigger an immune response, causing damage to your cells. Just think of bloating, indigestion and gut pain.
The long-term effects of gluten exposure are worse than indigestion and gut pain, though. Researchers have theorized that repeatedly weakening the tight junctions of your gut by exposing it to gluten almost continually could be one of the steps to autoimmune diseases.
Plant lectins are a blessing for plants but a curse for all of us. Lectins are found in nearly 40% of the American food supply but wheat is the worst source. Plants evolved these lectins to work as deterrents to their predators. They are proteins that are really good at sticking to the sugars in our cells. After they are good and stuck, they can actually destroy the cells they are stuck to. Just like gluten, this creates opportunity for lectins and other bad actors to get past the wall and into the bloodstream
Again, researchers fear that over time and with repeated exposure, this weakening of the integrity of the gut wall could open the door for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. We call lectins ninjas because they have been secretly assassinating cells in our gut for a long time. The science shining a light on these ninjas is called lectinology and is relatively new. Lectinology has found that we can protect ourselves from these ninjas by using decoy sugars.
Bad Yeast and Bacteria
Our bodies are home to billions of bacteria and yeast all of the time. Most of the time, they are helping us by digesting things that we can’t, making vitamins, and boosting our immune system. Sometimes, however, certain yeast and bacteria can get out of control and cause problems. Think of the situation like a house party.
Lots of people are there and most of them are having a great time and improving the atmosphere with their jolliness and good mood. But there are always a few people at parties that just have to take it too far. They drink too much, they make too much noise, they go into parts of the house you asked them not to and sometimes they break stuff. Your gut is just like that – most of the yeast and bacteria are there having a great time and making the place better but there are a few of the party goers that will take it too far if given the chance.
A way to prevent this is by taking a high quality probiotic. The term probiotic is a fancy way of saying “good bacteria.” Probiotics are like a really well thought out party invite list. You’re putting only good, well behaved bacteria into your gut so that everyone has a great time and the environment is made better.
Undigested Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins
It is a little unfair of us to call these bad actors because they are just foods that are minding their own business but accidentally find themselves where they are not wanted. The immune system is not particularly understanding about things being where they are not supposed to be in the body. Undigested foods that stumble through the holes in a leaky gut get treated just like any other invader.
Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins need to be broken down into their building blocks before the body can use them. When gluten or lectins put holes in the wall, sometimes these foods slip through before they are small enough to be used and this can activate the immune system.
There are two good ways to minimize the risk of this happening: heal the gut wall and provide extra enzymes to more quickly break these foods down. Enzymes are chemicals that the body uses to break foods into small enough parts for absorption.
As you know, not all foods are created nutritionally equal. This applies to the digestibility of foods as well. We’ve covered how gluten and lectins are resistant to digestion but they are not the only ones: Lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, and phytate, the storage form of phosphorus in plants, can also be difficult to break down.
Dietary bad actors refer to things we eat which can cause digestive distress or illness. The things we eat were not created equal. Some are a benefit to us and others can be dangerous. There are some foods that contain what has become known as “anti-nutrients” that are always a problem and others that can become a problem in certain situations. We call these problematic foods dietary bad actors and they are the focus of our research at Shield Nutraceuticals. We developed DigestShield® to help mitigate the damage that these dietary bad actors can cause.
The term gluten refers to a compound of two storage proteins found in the endosperm of wheat, barley, and rye. The proteins glutenin and gliadin are bound together with starch inside the wheat germ. These proteins provide many functional properties when used in baking and are the main source of protein in those grains. (1)
Of the two proteins in gluten, glutenin is the most important for baking, having the greatest effect on elasticity and texture of the final product. (2) Gliadin is the protein fraction that causes problems during human digestion and the protein that triggers an immune response in the body after ingestion. (3)
Gliadin has been shown to produce both innate and adaptive immune responses and is thought to be involved with the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. Most importantly to note, it has recently been shown that gliadin can promote an immune response in individuals with or without the genetic predisposition for reaction. (4)
In addition to an immune and inflammatory response, gliadin also contributes to the development of a condition known as leaky gut in which intestinal permeability is increased and molecules of inappropriate size are allowed through the intestinal wall.
It has long been understood that gliadin produced an immune response in those with celiac disease (5) but recently researchers have discovered that gliadin also produces an immune response in healthy individuals. (6) The immune response is not uniform among individuals and a differing severity of response is not well understood. Most likely, as with all immunity, it is based upon a variety of factors including genetic susceptibility, intestinal permeability, environmental factors, gut flora, and overall health.
Though it is still not well understood, it has been shown that gliadin can trigger a response from the innate immune system and cause intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms in non-celiac individuals. (6-8) In individuals with celiac disease, the innate immune system trigger is a precursor to adaptive immunity involvement. A large part of gliadin’s ability to elicit a response from the innate immune system is based upon its resistance to degradation (9) by the digestive process and its ability to cross the epithelial wall relatively intact. This allows gliadin, as a macromolecule, access to areas where many innate immune cells are found and the interaction is inevitable. Once this interaction occurs, gliadin shows the ability to activate undifferentiated immune cells that then proliferate while simultaneously producing pro-inflammatory hormones. This hormone production results in several downstream inflammatory responses. (10)
Though the adaptive immune system does not appear to play a role in the deleterious effects that gluten has on healthy, non-celiac individuals, gliadin very demonstrably activates the adaptive immune response in genetically susceptible individuals. (5) The immune response triggered in celiac individuals is varied and aggressive. It includes activation of T-cells, and eventually the autoimmune targeting of tissue transglutaminase in the body’s cells. (11)
The potentially greater threat posed by gluten is the role that it plays in intestinal permeability. For reasons not yet understood, gliadin has the ability to bind to receptors in the intestine that signal for the release of a hormone, which promotes the tight junctions of the epithelial cells to be degraded. Once these tight junctions are opened gliadin, as well as other pathogens, can bypass the physical barrier of the gut and interact directly with immune cells. (12)
Lectin is a broad term for a class of proteins found in all plants and animals. We have lectins in our bodies that serve a wide variety of functions including regulation of serum protein levels, removal of glycoproteins from the circulatory system, and mediation of important immune functions. (13) However, many of the plants that are part of our food supply contain lectins with a very different and specific function: defense. Lectins are the defense mechanism against predators, including fungi, that seek to eat the plant. Lectins are designed to cause digestive distress to keep predators away.
Lectins are found in the greatest concentration in grains (especially wheat), legumes such as soy, nuts, and seeds, and nightshade vegetables. It has been estimated that there are concentrated sources of lectins in 30-40 percent of the American diet (14) though that figure is more than likely higher as the survey of foods it is based on was done in 1980 and our food supply has become more filled with wheat, soy, and potato based processed foods since then.
Much like gluten, lectins have been shown to be resistant to cooking and the digestive process. (15) Because they are not degraded by the human digestive process, many lectins reach the gut intact where they perform their defensive attack on the epithelial cells that line the small intestine. Though lectins may play a role in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases just like gluten, the likely mechanisms are different. Unlike gluten, lectins directly damage the cells that they attach to. At first, this means epithelial cells but once a leaky gut has been created and the lectins are able to enter the bloodstream, they may attach to any of the tissues in the body. (16)
Lectins increase intestinal permeability by directly binding to and destroying epithelial cells. (17) Once through the epithelial barrier, not only do lectins bind to and destroy cells in other parts of the body, but they may also lead to an autoimmune response through cellular mimicry. (19) In addition to their own damaging effects, the leaky gut they create may allow for other pathogens to bypass the body’s first line of defense. (20)
Another outcome of damaged epithelia is impaired nutrient absorption. Even before the damage is done, lectins have been shown to bind to the receptors in the epithelia thereby preventing nutrients from being absorbed and reducing the digestibility of proteins in the diet. (21, 22)
Aside from increase the opportunity for autoimmune disease pathogenesis through the degradation of tight junctions, lectins also present autoimmune activation potential themselves. Lectins have been shown to stimulate class II HLA antigens on the pancreatic islet and thyroid cells.(23) Lectins have been heavily implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, as well. (24-26)
Bacteria and Yeast
There are trillions of microorganisms living within us at all times and not all of them are beneficial. (27) Though we do not yet understand the entirety of the vast interplay between the human microbiota and health, researchers have identified many strains that play either a primary or opportunistic role in negative health outcomes. (28) Gut dysbiosis, or out of balance gut bacteria, has been implicated in a variety of disease states and is believed to be a necessary condition for the development of inflammatory bowel disease. (29)
Opportunistic bacteria and yeast are not damaging when present in small amounts but can lead to disease states when over-abundant and are also the cause of common ailments. Gastric and duodenal ulcers are caused when the bacterium H. pylori is able to over-colonize these areas and erode the protective mucosal layer. (30) Another well-documented example of this is overgrowth by the fungal species Candida albicans. Candida is the fungus responsible for the ailment commonly referred to as yeast infection, vaginal and in other parts of the body. (31)
Partially Digested Foods
Finally, foods that have not been fully digested can cause problems in a variety of ways. Nutrient uptake is dependent upon sufficient breakdown of foods into constituent parts of specific particle size.(5) There are primarily two situations in which incompletely digested nutrients become a problem; If we lack or have a deficiency of the enzyme required to degrade a food and if intestinal permeability is increased and allows macromolecules through the epithelial border.
Many individuals do not have sufficient lactase production to properly digest the amount of lactase found in the typical American diet. This causes incompletely digested lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, to cause intestinal discomfort in those affected. (31) Additionally, everyone lacks the full amount of enzymes required to hydrolyze the protein gliaden found in wheat, barley, and rye. (4)
Depending on the individual, this can lead to gluten-containing products causing symptoms everywhere from mild discomfort to debilitating illness, while causing increased gut permeability. (4)
The degradation of the tight junctions forming the physical barrier of the epithelium allows particles to cross this border at an inappropriately large size. (33) The immune reaction occurs when any molecule is recognized as inappropriate for the area it is in. This, of course, includes incompletely digested fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. (34)
Shewry, P., Halford, N., Belton, P., & Tatham, A. (2002). The structure and properties of gluten: an elastic protein from wheat grain. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 357(1418), 133-142. doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.1024
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Caio, G., Volta, U., Tovoli, F., & De Giorgio, R. (2014). Effect of gluten-free diet on immune response to gliadin in patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. BMC Gastroenterol, 14(1), 26. doi:10.1186/1471-230x-14-26
Drago D., Asmar R., Di Pierro M., et al. (2006) Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scan J. of Gastro. 41(4)
Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds.) (2012) Krause’s food & the nutrition care process /St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders
Verdu, E., Armstrong, D., & Murray, J. (2009). Between Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The “No Man’s Land” of Gluten Sensitivity. Am J Gastroenterol, 104(6), 1587-1594. doi:10.1038/ajg.2009.188
Hadjivassiliou, M., Sanders, D., Grünewald, R., Woodroofe, N., Boscolo, S., & Aeschlimann, D. (2010). Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain. The Lancet Neurology, 9(3), 318-330. doi:10.1016/s1474-4422(09)70290-x
Sapone, A., Lammers, K., Casolaro, V., Cammarota, M., Giuliano, M., & De Rosa, M. et al. (2011). Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Medicine, 9(1), 23. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-23
Hausch, F., Shan, L., Santiago, N., Gray, G., & Khosla, C. (2002). Intestinal digestive resistance of immunodominant gliadin peptides. American Journal Of Physiology-Gastrointestinal And Liver Physiology, 283(4), G996-G1003. doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00136.2002
de Punder, K., & Pruimboom, L. (2013). The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation. Nutrients, 5(3), 771-787. doi:10.3390/nu5030771
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Maverakis E, Kim K, Shimoda M, Gershwin M, Patel F, Wilken R, Raychaudhuri S, Ruhaak LR, Lebrilla CB (2015). “Glycans in the immune system and The Altered Glycan Theory of Autoimmunity”. J Autoimmun57 (6): 1–13.
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A, V. (2015). Lectins, agglutinins, and their roles in autoimmune reactivities. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
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Human digestion starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. There are several mechanisms in the mouth that immediately begin to break down the foods we eat and prepare them for the rest of the digestive process. Through the process of mastication, or chewing, we are physically breaking the food into smaller pieces, which will help it travel more easily through the rest of the digestive system as well as increase the surface area available for the chemical agents in our body to bind to and break down the food.
Glands under the tongue secrete saliva, a mixture of water, mucus, proteins, mineral salts and the enzymes lingual lipase and salivary amylase. Saliva moistens the food and begins to break down the fats and carbohydrates while the teeth and tongue combine the food into a mushy ball.
As we swallow, this ball, now referred to as a bolus, is pushed to the back of the oral cavity and into the esophagus. A flap of muscle known as the epiglottis closes over the trachea, or windpipe, preventing any swallowed solids or liquids from entering the lungs.
Once in the esophagus, the bolus is moved into the stomach via a process called peristalsis, which is a downward wave of muscle contraction. Peristalsis continues through most of the digestive system and is the primary mechanism that moves foods through the digestive tract. This action is also referred to as a “housecleaning wave”.
Where the esophagus attaches to the stomach, there is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter that regulates the movement of material from the stomach. In normal circumstances, it stays closed except when allowing a bolus to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. It typically takes roughly 10 seconds for food to pass from the top of the esophagus to the stomach.
The stomach is essentially a bag made of three layers of muscle. Because of this muscled composition, the stomach is capable of contraction and expansion. It can expand to accommodate roughly a liter of food and liquid at once before any distention pressure is felt. It is also this ability to expand and contract that allows the stomach to mix, grind and churn the bolus. Additionally, 1.2 to 1.5 liters of gastric juice is secreted per day into the stomach.
Gastric juice is a mixture of water, hydrochloric acid, electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate, sulfate, and bicarbonate), mucus and enzymes. This juice is highly acidic due to its hydrochloric acid content and contains enzymes, both to break the bolus down further and make it more soluble in preparation for absorption to occur in the small intestine. At this point, the semisolid mixture created from the bolus is called chyme. While in the stomach, some absorption can occur though not very much. Small amounts of fluid (such as water and alcohol) can be absorbed from the stomach as well as some simple sugars like glucose and some amino acids. Many pharmacological agents are absorbed here as well.
The time that the chyme stays in the stomach depends on the chemical and physical composition of the meal as well as the specific physiology of the individual. Fluids empty the most rapidly followed by carbohydrate, protein, and fat in that order.
After an average of 2 to 4 hours in the stomach, when the food particles in the chyme have been reduced sufficiently in size and are at the appropriate level of solubility, the chyme will move through the valve at the base of the stomach, called the pyloric sphincter into the first section of the small intestine called the duodenum. (doo-oh-dee’-num)
The small intestine is roughly 20 to 25 feet long and about 2 inches in diameter. It is the longest section of the digestive system and is divided into three sections. The first section, where the stomach meets the small intestine is called the duodenum. The duodenum is roughly 9 to 11 inches in length and contains the duodenal papilla where pancreatic juice and bile flows into the small intestine. When the chyme enters the duodenum, special cells in the walls produce the hormones secretin and cholecystokinin.
These hormones signal for the pancreas to deliver pancreatic juice, which contains the enzymes trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, elastase, carboxypeptidase, pancreatic lipase, nucleases, and amylase as well as bicarbonate. The bicarbonate concentration neutralizes whatever stomach acid comes with the chyme so that the enzymes are able to work and the small intestinal wall is not damaged by the hydrochloric acid.
Cross section of the small intestine at increasing magnification.
Cholecystokinin and secretin also signal for the sphincter of Oddi, a valve at the base of the common bile duct to relax, releasing bile into the duodenum. Bile is a brownish yellow liquid that is continuously produced by the liver. It is composed of water, bicarbonate, phospholipids, bile salts, emulsifying agents, cholesterol, and bile pigments. It is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder until release into the duodenum for digestion. Bile serves important functions in fat digestion, coating fat particles from food and allowing greater surface area for pancreatic lipase to work.
The combination of enzymes and bile acids serves to further reduce the particle size and increase the solubility of the chyme. This allows for the nutrients within the food to pass through the walls of the small intestine and be carried throughout the body for use. Enzymes within the walls of the small intestine carry out any final breakdown of nutrients as the chyme travels toward the large intestine.
The remaining length of the small intestine is divided into the jejunum and ileum. These sections are much longer than the duodenum. The jejunum is the middle section and is roughly 8 feet long while the ileum, the final section of the small intestine, is nearly 12 feet long. The chyme travels along the length of these sections and the useable nutrients are slowly absorbed as it completes its journey to the bowel.
The total estimated surface area of the small intestine is approximately 5,400 square yards. This incredible surface area is provided by the unique structure of the cells that line the interior of the small intestine, which is arranged in a series of concentric folds that take the shape of transverse ridges along its length. These folds, called plicae circulares or valves of Kerckring are present in almost the entire small intestine with the exception of the first few inches near the stomach and the last few inches near the large intestine.
Villi & Microvilli
The surface area of the small intestine is also increased by the tiny projections called villi that make up the mucosal barrier. Inside of the villi is a loose structure of connective tissue containing a network of blood vessels, a central lacteal, and muscle tissue. There are specialty cells called goblet cells scattered among these villi that secret mucin, the primary constituent of mucus.
At the base of these villi, there are depressions referred to as intestinal glands or Lieberkuhn’s glands. In the bottom of these depressions are epithelial cells called cells of Paneth that are filled with enzymes that are toxic to bacteria and immunoglobins.
Additionally, there are undifferentiated cells, more goblet cells, and endocrine cells located in the Lieberkuhn’s glands. The undifferentiated cells serve to replace losses of other types of cells as they can undergo changes in structure as appropriate. Endocrine cells release hormones from the endocrine system into the small intestine to modulate multiple physiological functions including release of enzymes, release of hormones and control of intestinal motility.
The mucosal villi are additionally covered in tiny, hair-like projections called microvilli. They are small enough that each villus may be covered with as many as 1000 microvilli. These microvilli make up the primary site of nutrient absorption in the body referred to as the brush border.
Water and other solutes pass through the pores in these microvilli via active transport and drag caused by differences in osmotic gradient between the lumen and cytoplasm. The size of these pores differs along the length of the small intestine. This pore size difference in combination with receptor specificity along the length of the small intestine is why different nutrients are absorbed in different sections. The microvilli also secrete the digestive enzymes disaccharidase and peptidase that hydrolyze sugar and protein molecules respectively.
Enterocytes here are joined near their apex by strands of proteins connecting them in what are known as tight junctions. These tight junctions serve to keep larger molecules out of the bloodstream and it is thought that they are modulated as part of the immune system.
The juncture of the small intestine and large intestine is the ileocecal valve. Whatever remains of the chyme will pass from the ileum into the cecum, the first section of the large intestine, here.
The large intestine, also called the colon, is the last part of the digestive system. It is roughly 5 feet long and 2.5 inches wide. The large intestine is divided into four sections, moving from the small intestine to the rectum: the cecum, ascending colon, descending colon, and sigmoid colon. Structurally it is similar to the small intestine with the exception of the villi and microvilli. The muscle fibers making up the large intestine are arranged such that the interior of the colon forms circular furrows of varying depths called haustra. There is a small pouch connected to the cecum known as the vermiform appendix or just appendix. Though it is surrounded by a concentration of immune cells, it was long believed to be a useless evolutionary vestige. New evidence indicates that the appendix may serve as a reserve of healthy bacteria to help repopulate the gut after a colony destroying illness.
Functionally, the large intestine absorbs water and electrolytes from the chyme and packages the remains, along with dead bacteria and cells, into feces. The feces are stored in the large intestine until they can be removed via defecation. Factors that determine the composition and liquidity of feces include overall hydration status, fiber, and other indigestible food solids, and the composition of the bacterial colonization in the large intestine.
The majority of the microbes living in the body are found in the large intestine. These large numbers of bacteria synthesize niacin (nicotinic acid), thiamin (vitamin B1), and vitamin K, vitamins that are essential to several metabolic activities as well as to the function of the central nervous system. Additionally, they ferment otherwise indigestible chyme remnants into forms usable by the body. These monosaccharides can be absorbed in the large intestine as well. A byproduct of the fermentation, (cellular respiration) occurring in the bowel, is gas production.
The gas, referred to as flatus, is mostly composed of non-fragrant gases: nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and methane. Only 1% of the compound’s inflatus is responsible for its distinctive odor. These are volatile sulfur compounds and are a combination of hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide, and dimethyl trisulfide.
Once the rectum reaches a certain volume of feces and/or flatus, signals are sent for the urge to defecate. The anus is voluntarily relaxed and feces are pushed out of the body.
This completes the digestive process.
Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds.) (2012) Krause’s food & the nutrition care process /St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders
Barrett, Kim E. Gastrointestinal Physiology (Lange Physiology Series). 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2005
After reading hundreds of articles and research papers, we started to come across several papers and theories that seemed like the pieces of a puzzle whose image was hidden. After several years and much effort, the pieces finally started fitting together to reveal a compelling picture.
Digestive Health – it’s as much about the journey as the destination.
The following is our interpretation of what may be behind the increase in autoimmune and food-related disorders:
Though it is a complicated, poorly understood, and controversial condition, we believe that leaky gut syndrome is highly relevant and may play a crucial role in the development of celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, psoriasis and much more.
We understand that leaky gut syndrome is a widely debated condition and that not all health professionals believe it to be related to (or a direct cause of) disease. As research progresses, many doctors, dietitians, and researchers are becoming aware of the condition and seek ways to test for and treat it.
If you haven’t heard of leaky gut syndrome, please read below:
Leaky gut syndrome is the easier-to-say term for increased intestinal wall permeability. It just means that gut wall is easier to cross than it should be. The gut wall begins to be more porous and develop holes. Basically, your gut is leaking things it shouldn’t into your bloodstream.
Leaky gut is thought to be caused or worsened by certain components of foods (more on that later), cytotoxic drugs, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), irradiation of food, antibiotics, unbalanced gut flora, excessive alcohol consumption and compromised immunity.
How It Works
The intestinal lining is on the front lines of our immune system. We like to think of it as castle wall – we let the drawbridge down for visitors we know (like food and resource deliveries) but we leave it up to keep out invaders.
The other layers of this sophisticated defense is called the epithelium. A single layer of epithelial cells normally stay connected together by tight junctions. These tight junctions are how the passage of nutrients is regulated in the digestive tract. The epithelial cells in the gut are tipped with finger-like projections called villi. When food is digested, villi absorb the nutrients and transport them through the epithelial cell into the bloodstream.
When the digestive process is functioning normally, the tight junctions stay closed and only nutrients are allowed to pass through into the blood stream. When something goes wrong, the tight junctions become permeable or “open” and allow un-screened molecules through the border and into the bloodstream. Examples of things that can get through in this situation are bacteria, pathogens, yeast, incompletely digested food, lectins and more. That’s why we call it a leaky gut.
As this process continues over time, the intestinal lining can become damaged and even leakier, allowing even more “undesirables” through the intestinal wall and directly into the bloodstream.
Typically, this increase in offenders in the blood will make the liver and kidneys work that much harder to filter it all out. As the gut becomes increasingly damaged, the liver or kidneys may not be able to keep up with the constant flow of bacteria, pathogens, yeast, undigested macro-nutrients and waste products escaping through the gut lining.
As more invaders get through, overworking and overwhelming liver and kidneys, they are able to wreak havoc systemically (throughout the body).
When these offenders attach to the cells lining the gut, an immune response is triggered which can lead to collateral damage of healthy cells. This can lead to another chain of events in which the immune system begins to recognize certain molecules from food as invaders, calls for an immune response whenever you eat those foods, which can then cause even more collateral damage. This collateral damage can be experienced as bloating, cramps, diarrhea, inflammation, joint pain, skin rashes, headaches, malabsorption and more.
As the result of continuous immune response and corresponding collateral damage, the gut becomes more and more damaged. If you are frequently eating foods that it recognizes as an invader – it has no time to heal. Healthy cells are destroyed and those microvilli we talked about earlier are not able to do their job, which prevents your body from getting all the nutrients that you need, which in turn leads to all sorts of problems such as a weakened immune system or nutritional deficiencies.
To make matters worse, as your immune systems weakens, you become more susceptible to illness from the stream of junk (toxins, bacteria, pathogens, etc.) flowing through your leaky gut.
If this vicious cycle continues for weeks or months or years, you body may ultimately end up fighting itself, potentially leading to the initiation of autoimmune diseases such as as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, vasculitis, urticaria (hives), alopecia areata, polymyalgia rheumatica, Raynaud’s syndrome, vitiligo, thyroiditis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
With me so far? Great!
Let’s go deeper and talk about the probable triggers that start off this awful process.
The Hidden Causes
Some of the most interesting emerging research regarding digestion and autoimmune disease has to do with a few factors that could be triggers for opening the draw bridge (tight junctions) of the gut. A few key factors that appear to be the likely causes of leaky gut are zonulin, gluten (the gliadin portion), and some lectins.
Zonulin is a protein that modulated the permeability of the tight junctions in the gut. So far, it is the only “key” that we know the human body produces. Zonulin upregulation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several autoimmune diseases including celiac and type 1 diabetes. Zonulin is currently being studied as a potential target for celiac treatment.
Gliadin (1/2 of the protein complex we commonly refer to as gluten) has been shown to active (upregulate) zonulin signaling in everyone, regardless of celiac status, leading to the opening of tight junctions in the gut and leading to increased gut permeability. Gliadin is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, which are all grains found nearly everywhere in our modern food supply. There are three main types of gliadin (α, ϒ, and ω), and they all produce an immune response in those with celiac disease.
The term lectin refers to a specific class of proteins that bind to carbohydrate moieties. They are found in almost all plants and animals but the variety that we are most interested in are concentrated in certain plants and some dairy products. These lectins bind to glycoproteins and glycolipids (sugar-coated proteins and fats) found on the surface of human and other animal cells. This binding allows for agglutination (clumping) and sometimes can produce an immune response. They can cause agglutination of blood cells and they can bind to the cells that line the small intestine. Nasty business.
The most interesting research I’ve seen in this area came from Alessio Fasano, M.D. and his team. Dr. Fasano is a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, the W. Allan Walker Chair of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Vice Chair of Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research and Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston and really fun to watch lecture.
He proposes that altering or upregulating (as gluten does) zonulin pathways can cause autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. More interestingly, he thinks that these diseases can be all but reversed by reestablishing the zonulin-dependent tight junctions of the intestine.
Here’s the Abstract from Dr. Fasano’s paper:
The primary functions of the gastrointestinal tract have traditionally been perceived to be limited to the digestion and absorption of nutrients and to electrolytes and water homeostasis. A more attentive analysis of the anatomic and functional arrangement of the gastrointestinal tract, however, suggests that another extremely important function of this organ is its ability to regulate the trafficking of macromolecules between the environment and the host through a barrier mechanism. Together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, the intestinal epithelial barrier, with its intercellular tight junctions, controls the equilibrium between tolerance and immunity to non-self antigens. Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur. This new paradigm subverts traditional theories underlying the development of these diseases and suggests that these processes can be arrested if the interplay between genes and environmental triggers is prevented by reestablishing the zonulin-dependent intestinal barrier function. This review is timely given the increased interest in the role of a “leaky gut” in the pathogenesis of several pathological conditions targeting both the intestine and extraintestinal organs.
So zonulin is the “key” that opens the tight junctions of the intestine and when the finely tuned zonulin pathway is disrupted, autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic (tumor-related) diseases can occur. The worst part is that once the body mounts a defense against any particular protein that escapes, it becomes trained to react to those proteins every time they appear which can lead to chronic inflammation.
So far, the only triggers that we have found for the zounlin pathways are certain gut bacteria in the small intestine and gluten. Dr. Fasano’s research indicates that gliadin increases zonulin levels in everyone, regardless of celiac status. As zonulin levels rise, the tight junctions of the gut get less and less…tight. This allows bacteria, pathogens, and macromolecules of undigested food to pass directly into the bloodstream.
In conclusion, Dr. Fasano states:
The classical paradigm of inflammatory pathogenesis involving specific genetic makeup and exposure to environmental triggers has been challenged recently by the addition of a third element, the loss of intestinal barrier function. Genetic predisposition, miscommunication between innate and adaptive immunity, exposure to environmental triggers, and loss of intestinal barrier function secondary to the activation of the zonulin pathway by food-derived environmental triggers or changes in gut microbiota all seem to be key ingredients involved in the pathogenesis of inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. This new theory implies that once the pathological process is activated, it is not auto-perpetuating. Rather, it can be modulated or even reversed by preventing the continuous interplay between genes and the environment. Since zonulin-dependent TJ dysfunction allows such interactions, new therapeutic strategies aimed at reestablishing the intestinal barrier function by downregulating the zonulin pathway offer innovative and not-yet-explored approaches for the management of these debilitating chronic diseases.
Dr. Fasano’s team has also found evidence that gluten may be responsible for the pathogenesis of all autoimmune disease (not just celiac disease) due to the upregulation of zonulin and the subsequent loosing of tight junctions. It also suggests that this process plays a role in inflammatory diseases such as Chron’s and rheumatoid arthritis.
Check out his piece in Scientific American or read the abstract below:
Little is known about the interaction of gliadin with intestinal epithelial cells and the mechanism(s) through which gliadin crosses the intestinal epithelial barrier. We investigated whether gliadin has any immediate effect on zonulin release and signaling.
MATERIAL AND METHODS:
Both ex vivo human small intestines and intestinal cell monolayers were exposed to gliadin, and zonulin release and changes in paracellular permeability were monitored in the presence and absence of zonulin antagonism. Zonulin binding, cytoskeletal rearrangement, and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) redistribution were evaluated by immunofluorescence microscopy. Tight junction occludin and ZO-1 gene expression was evaluated by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
When exposed to gliadin, zonulin receptor-positive IEC6 and Caco2 cells released zonulin in the cell medium with subsequent zonulin binding to the cell surface, rearrangement of the cell cytoskeleton, loss of occludin-ZO1 protein-protein interaction, and increased monolayer permeability. Pretreatment with the zonulin antagonist FZI/0 blocked these changes without affecting zonulin release. When exposed to luminal gliadin, intestinal biopsies from celiac patients in remission expressed a sustained luminal zonulin release and increase in intestinal permeability that was blocked by FZI/0 pretreatment. Conversely, biopsies from non-celiac patients demonstrated a limited, transient zonulin release which was paralleled by an increase in intestinal permeability that never reached the level of permeability seen in celiac disease (CD) tissues. Chronic gliadin exposure caused down-regulation of both ZO-1 and occludin gene expression.
Based on our results, we concluded that gliadin activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.
To summarize, this research indicates that gluten (gliadin) causes an enormous release of zonulin. Zonulin opens the tight junctions of the intestinal epithelial cells and creates the opportunity for systemic inflammation and autoimmune response. Most interestingly, this process does not appear to happen only in those with celiac disease. Gluten is a danger to everyone.
INFLAMMATORY TRIGGER FOODS
All right, that covers gluten and zonulin pretty well. Let’s talk the sneakiest of the bunch: lectins. As I said before, lectins are a class of proteins that bind onto the carbohydrates in our cell walls.
Lectins are present in about 30-40% of the American diet but they are especially concentrated in grains (wheat is the worst), seeds, nuts, legumes (soy is the worst), nightshade plants (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc), and dairy. Importantly, lectins are not fully degraded by heat or by digestion, which means they often reach the small intestine more or less intact.
Some ingested lectins will make it through the gut wall by a process called endocytosis, which may allow them access to the blood and lymph system. From here, they may enter the liver, pancreas or other organs. Experts believe that about 5 percent of ingested lectins will enter the bloodstream and, depending on the individuals specific glycoconjugates (what type of sugar is bound to their cell walls), bind to various tissues in the body such as nervous tissue or connective tissue or even the bladder.
Some lectins that we consume in everyday foods can bind to the sugars in the cell walls of the gut or in the blood. This can cause an immune response, leading to inflammation, intestinal damage, altered gut flora, malabsorption, decreased cellular repair, cellular death, and eventually disease.
Now, that’s in HEALTHY GUT. Let’s just think about how much worse it can be in a leaky gut. In a leaky gut situation, more complete lectins can flow directly into the bloodstream and bind to tissues throughout the body potentially causing autoimmune mayhem. As discussed earlier, this could lead to chronic inflammation or disease.
The effect of lectins on those with an established autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s or celiac could be even worse. The epithelial cells of the small intestine are renewing at a faster rate and immature cells are more glycosylated than mature cells making them more susceptible to lectin binding.
Though the area is still being researched, studies have shown that lectins are linked to many autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, celiac disease, and more. The correlation between intestinal lining damage, gut permeability, and chronic autoimmune response is very compelling.
For example, in wheat, gliadin, a component of gluten and an iso-lectin of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), is capable of activating NF kappa beta proteins which, when up-regulated, are involved in almost every acute and chronic inflammatory disorder including neurodegenerative disease, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious and autoimmune diseases.
There is also good evidence that lectins like WGA can initiate allergic reactions in the gut causing the release of IL-4, IL-13, and histamine from human basophils producing noticeable allergic symptoms. Additionally, WGA has been shown to interfere with protein digestion and increase gut permeability.
Lectins found in peanuts, kidney beans, and soybeans are all capable of attaching to various bodily tissues and having deleterious effects. Of course, it is not as simple as that. Our individual genotype (the genes we have) and phenotype (how those genes are expressed) play a role in how lectins affect any of us. Almost everyone tested so far have antibodies to some dietary lectins in their bloodstream meaning that their immune systems have mounted a defense against those lectins at some point. In fact, many allergists agree that most of what we call food allergies are actually immune responses to the lectins in the foods we eat.
Now, it’s almost impossible to avoid eating lectins because they are in just about every plant and animal to varying degrees (even if you try to avoid them you’ll still end up eating small amounts given their omnipresence in nature). However, lectins are definitely more concentrated in some sources than others.
I said it earlier but it is worth repeating; Here is a list of foods with a high concentration of lectins: All grains (wheat is the worst offender), dairy, nuts, legumes (soy is the worst offender), and nightshade plants (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tamarios, tomatillos, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and peppers of all kinds except black pepper).
BRINGING IT HOME
All of this evidence leads to the conclusion that it is probable that all types of autoimmune diseases, many inflammatory diseases, and possibly neoplastic diseases share a common thread: leaky gut syndrome. That is not to say that leaky gut syndrome is causing these disease, but it does seem to be a necessary condition for them to occur.
Here is a scenario that demonstrates how one can go from a healthy state to a disease state after eating certain foods:
1. First, let’s suppose that you are genetically predisposed (which means you were probably “born with it”) to suffer from certain (or multiple) diseases which are activated by diet.
2. You eat gluten or other foods containing wheat and or lectins (legumes, nightshade vegetables, etc.).
3. You are exposed to a variety of environmental toxins in addition to the naturally occurring compounds found in what you eat.
4. Over time, that exposure causes leaky gut syndrome.
5. Once the gut becomes “leaky”, toxins, bacteria, pathogens, lectins, incompletely digested nutrients, and waste products flow from the gut directly into the bloodstream.
6. This can wreak havoc on the systems of the body (affecting different people in different ways.)
7. The immune system scrambles to deal with these “invaders.”
8. Immune-response damages your own cells in the process of attacking the invaders.
9. Because the invaders are attached to your own cells, the body begins to recognize these cells as bad guys and attacks healthy cells. (That’s why it is called “autoimmune.”)
10. This process is repeated over the course of weeks or years eventually leading to the pathogenesis of an autoimmune disease, chronic inflammatory disease, or neoplastic disorder.
(Please look at our references for this article to gain a deeper understanding of these concepts and theories)
1. Fasano, A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, Feb;42(1):71-8. doi: 10.1007/s12016-011-8291-x.
2. Fasano, A. Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer. Physiol Rev January 1, 2011 vol. 91 no. 1 151-175
3. Fasano, A. Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2006; 41: 408 Á/419
4. Pusztai A, Ewen SW, Grant G, Brown DS, Stewart JC, Peumans WJ, Van Damme EJ, Bardocz S. Antinutritive effects of wheat germ agglutinin and other N-acetylglucosamine-specific lectins. Br J Nutr. 1993 Jul;70(1):313-321.
5. Jones, David S., ed.. Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbor:The Institute for Functional Medicine, 2005, 303.
6. Watzl B, Neudecker C, Hansch GM, Rechkemmer G, Pool-Zobel BL. Dietary wheat germ agglutinin modulates ovalbumin-induced immune responses in Brown Norway rats. Br J Nutr. 2001 Apr;85(4):483-90.
7. Eur. J. Immunology. 1999. Mar;29(3):918-27.
8. Falth-Magnusson K., et al. Elevated levels of serum antibodies to the lectin wheat germ agglutinin in celiac children lend support to the gluten-lectin theory of celiac disease. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. May 1995; 6(2): 98-102.
9. Hollander D, Vadheim CM, Brettholz E, Pertersen GM, Delahunty T, Rotter JI. Increased intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn’s disease and their relatives. A possible etiologic factor. Ann Intern Med, December 1986; 105(6):883-85.
10. Gut 1999. May; 44(5):709-14
11. J Cell Physiol. 2001 Feb;186(2):282-287.
12. Pusztai A. Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormonal functions. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 Oct; 47(10):691-699 ( Pusztai A Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, UK.
Gluten sensitivity plagues a huge number of people around the world and that number is on the rise. Because it so difficult to diagnose, we do not know the exact number but researchers estimate as many as 18 million in America alone. Until recently, the only way for people with gluten sensitivity to find relief was with a gluten-free diet. What does that mean, exactly?
At first, it seems like this would a simple concept: a gluten-free diet is a diet that does not include gluten. While that is true, following a gluten-free diet is a little bit more complicated in practice. Because food companies have been using flour as a filler and binding agent in so many processed foods, there is gluten found in many surprising places. Pasta sauces, salad dressings, hot dogs and sausages, canned soups and some chocolates have all been contaminated with gluten by the food industry. This means that following a gluten-free diet is not as simple as avoiding bread and pasta. You have to learn what sneaky ways that gluten may be listed on an ingredients label (hydrolyzed wheat protein, modified wheat starch, brewer’s yeast), read the label for every food item you purchase, have long conversations with all of the servers you interact with, and interrogate friends and family members at potlucks. Not so simple.
A Better Way
If you suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity but don’t want to give up the foods you love there is now a better way to get relief. DigestShield® is a synergistic blend of enzymes, probiotics and more than 200 milligrams of our proprietary prebiotic, chitosan. It breaks down gluten, dairy, carbohydrates, fat and protein plus re-tunes the gut to help you get back to feeling great. If you suffer ANY distress after eating, reach for DigestShield®before you eat. It is the only product on the market that can shield against gluten and other negative influences in our diet such as lectins. If you’re looking for a smart solution for all of your digestive needs, DigestShield® is the answer. Designed by doctors, our proprietary blend of ingredients is safe, effective and GUARANTEED to work.
Acid reflux affects babies, children, and adults. It is a debilitating condition for some and is often linked to the food or drinks you consume. When people are diagnosed with acid reflux, they start to wonder what it really means. Just how dangerous is this condition for your health?
After that, they want to know how to stop it. The good news is you can stop acid reflux with your diet. There are also many other options, whether you want a homeopathic remedy, an over-the-counter product, or don’t mind medical options.
Here’s all you need to know about acid reflux and how to stop or prevent it.
What Exactly Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux can also be referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn. Many people only realize they have it when they feel a burning sensation in their chest. For some, it is just a temporary problem and quickly resolved. Others find they have to deal with it on a daily basis, finding ways to manage the pain and discomfort.
It occurs because the valve to your stomach doesn’t close properly. It needs to open to allow food into the stomach and then should close to prevent any of the stomach acid going back up. When it doesn’t close, the stomach acid can leak through into the esophagus.
Sometimes the problem is linked to the valve opening too often. The food hasn’t quite finished digesting, or you’re not actually eating anything, but the valve opens and allows acid out of the stomach.
Another cause of acid reflux is when people suffer from a hiatal hernia. This is when the stomach partially moves above the diaphragm. The valve follows, and the diaphragm can’t help to keep the acid inside the stomach. You get the same symptoms of acid reflux, but they are symptoms of the problem.
Why Does Acid Reflux Occur?
The most common reason to suffer from GERD is the valve problem. This can occur because you have eaten big meals or because you lie down straight after eating. The body struggles to digest food, and the acid can move in the wrong direction.
Those who are overweight or obese are also more likely to suffer because their stomach isn’t able to make space for all the food to digest. Pregnant women also find they have heartburn, especially later in pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the growing baby are linked to this issue. Once you give birth, you’ll likely find that the heartburn completely disappears.
Certain foods cause GERD, and we’ll look into these in more detail later. For now, be aware that anything with citrus, garlic and onions, spicy and fatty foods, and chocolate can all lead to acid reflux. You may also find coffee and tea, carbonated drinks, and alcohol is also a problem.
Those who are on certain medications may also suffer from the problem. You’ll need to discuss the risk of the side effect with your doctor, especially if you take blood thinning medication.
Knowing the Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Before you can work on preventing it, you need to know if you definitely have GERD. You’ll also need to make sure that it’s not a symptom of another problem.
Most of the time you’ll be able to self-diagnose acid reflux. You’ll feel a burning feeling in your chest, usually referred to as heartburn. This is the acid attacking the oesophagus. Sometimes, you may feel this burning feeling in your throat, depending on how high up the acid has been able to travel.
Regurgitation is another common problem, and you’ll usually feel like you’ve brought up your stomach acid. This is just the acid being allowed to get further up the chest and into the mouth. Try not to swallow anything back down, as you’ll just feel the pain on the way back down. The best thing to do is to spit it all out.
Some people feel like they burp much more often due to the acid and gas in their chests. They can also feel bloated, or have hiccups that just don’t stop. You may feel nauseous, and even find that you lose weight without even trying since your body doesn’t quite digest all the food that you eat.
It is possible that you’ll have this feeling of food still being in your throat. This is common in those where the valve doesn’t close completely and food escapes or when there is an underlying reason for your GERD.
If the acid is in your throat, it can burn or feel sore all the time. You may also feel wheeze and have a dry cough. There are times that the acid will come up but then go down the wind pipe.
Finally, bloody and black stools are common. You may also find that there is some blood in your vomit or when you spit out the acid. This is because of the burning within the oesophagus.
When Will You Feel the Symptoms?
The symptoms can be experienced at any time. If you’re resting, you may experience the pain a lot more often than if you were on your feet. When trying to sleep is one of the most common types that you’ll likely experience the symptoms.
Lying down makes it much easier for the acid to travel up. Think about it! When you’re standing, gravity plays a part. It is always much harder for anything to travel up, even if the valve is completely open. While lying down, you’ll find that the acid is more likely to get into your chest, and you start feeling the burn.
If you’ve had a big meal, you can also find that the symptoms are more common. The body is struggling to get rid of all the food and has to produce more acid. This then gets into the rest of the body.
So if this is something natural, what exactly can you do? That’s what we’ll look into now because there are a few options at your hands.
Top Ways to Stop or Eliminate Acid Reflux
Now it’s time to stop GERD from causing you any bother. Of course, your first step needs to make sure that this is the problem, and there’s not an underlying issue. If you have an underlying problem, making lifestyle changes will help but not completely prevent or stop acid reflux affecting your life. You may also have other symptoms that you can’t get rid of.
Speak to your doctor about getting tested for any underlying reasons or to make sure that it really is heartburn. This will give your body the best chance.
It’s Time to Make Some Lifestyle Changes
Making lifestyle changes is one of your best options to help combat GERD. One of the best lifestyle changes you can make is to cut out smoking completely if you do it. It’s bad for your health in more ways than one and is contributing to your GERD. While you may enjoy it, do you really want to put your overall health at risk when there are so many better ways to enjoy your life?
If you’re overweight, it’s also time to lose it. Don’t crash diet, as this can just make your acid reflux worse. It’s time to find a healthy eating program that will help you lose the weight you need. The program may also help to deal with the other reasons for your acid reflux disease.
Try to get your weight into your healthy BMI range. This won’t just help to combat the acid reflux, but can also help to reduce the risk of other health problems in the future. You may also find that the underlying health problems that contribute to GERD are rectified.
Exercise is your friend. It will help you with your weight loss. When you do decide to choose a routine, avoid doing it too soon after eating. This will just make it harder for your body to digest. Not only will you end up with stomach cramps, but you can make your GERD worse.
Cut back on the amount that you drink too. Alcohol is one of the worst problems for those with acid reflux. It’s worth reducing it for your overall health, too.
Those who have tight clothing will need to make some changes. Remember that bloating feeling? You can soothe the symptom by undoing your belts or getting rid of the restrictive clothing. You’ll also find that your organs aren’t restricted, making it easier to digest food. It’s time to give your body a helping hand.
Change Your Actions After Eating
It’s not always going to be about your diet, but about what you do after you eat. If you lie down right after eating, you’re making it easier for the stomach acid to get into the oesophagus.
Now is the time to make some changes in the way you act after food. Avoid lying down and try to avoid resting too much. Remain sat up or stand for some time afterwards. Allow your body the chance to digest the food.
If you do need to lie down after eating, try to remain as upright as possible. Use some pillows on the couch or on the bed to keep yourself propped up. This could be the perfect excuse to catch up on your favorite TV show or read the next chapter of your book.
Prop Yourself Up at Night
It may not be the most comfortable sleep you’ve had at first, but you will get used to it. You’ll also find it easier to sleep because you won’t have the constant problems of acid reflux.
Keep head and chest propped up throughout the night. Just a few inches will be more than another. This isn’t going to cure the issue, but it will make it easier to prevent the acid from seeping upwards from your stomach.
Avoid food just before going to bed. You should give your body two or three hours to digest the food before you go to bed. This may also help to avoid nightmares, as your body isn’t trying to digest while your subconscious takes over.
Opt for Home Remedies for Your Heartburn
There are various home remedies available if you don’t want to rely on over the counter medications right now. Try these as they will help you keep the cost down.
Bicarbonate soda and water is one of the most beneficial options for acid reflux. It is something included in the majority of medications available, especially those that involve a tablet dissolving in water.
Bicarbonate soda is an alkaline so it will neutralize the stomach acid. You’ll get a soothing feeling as you swallow it, and it can also help fight against a sore throat. You could gargle it before swallowing to help sooth that croaky voice if the stomach acid has caused other damage.
This is one of those home remedies that can be used if you are on other medications. It is 100% natural and won’t mess up any of the treatments, whether you have diabetes or need to take blood thinners. It’s also something that can be used with other home remedies. You can also use it if you’re pregnant without causing problems for your baby.
Aloe juice is another popular option because it can soothe the burn. It is commonly used as a topical treatment, but it can be ingested without risks to your health. The aloe juice will reduce any inflammation in your body, which can often make the symptoms worse.
Mix some juice together and have it by your bed on a night. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you can reach for it so you can get straight back to sleep. It’s also worth having a glass just before you go to bed to soothe any pain left over from dinner, so you don’t struggle to get to sleep in the first place.
Do be aware that aloe juice acts as a laxative so you may find that your stools loosen or you need to go to the toilet more often.
Opting for a banana a day or slice of apple after every meal will also help you deal with acid reflux. The fruits contain an antacid, which can act as a buffer along the walls of your esophagus. While you won’t treat the condition, you will be able to reduce the symptoms that you experience on a daily basis.
Another option is ginger root tea. Ginger is excellent for soothing upset stomachs and reducing inflammation. It can also help to neutralize the acid in your chest, minimising the side effects. Try opting for this tea just before your meals to help limit the problems you experience.
Oil pulling may help to soothe the pain in the throat from acid reflux. It is soft and can help to pull the acid out of the mouth. You don’t want to swallow it, though!
There are some over-the-counter options available. Many of these come in tablet or liquid form, and you can take them before or after every meal. It’s also possible for you to take the medication as you feel the symptoms of acid reflux, such as if you wake up in the middle of the night.
The downside of the medications is that not everyone can take them. They can cause side effects like constipation or diarrhea, especially when needed on a regular basis.
Many are suitable for pregnant women, but you will need to check the label. If in doubt, don’t take them until you discuss them with your doctor.
There are times that surgery or other medical treatments will be needed. This is especially the case if the acid reflux is the symptom of an underlying problem. If you find that none of the above tips work or you continue to need them on a daily basis, it is worth talking to your doctor to find out what else you can do.
How to Stop Acid Reflux Through Diet Changes
Since most acid reflux is due to the food you eat and the amount of it that you eat, learning how to control it through diet changes is the best thing you can do.
We’ll start with the amount you eat. Having smaller meals can work out better, as you will be able to reduce the amount of stomach acid that is needed by your body to digest. This can alert the valve that it needs to close since there will be enough stomach acid for the food. You’ll also find that the digestive process takes less time.
It’s especially important to have something small and light if you know you are going to lie down soon afterward. This encourages your body to digest before you need to sleep.
When you still suffer, you’ll need to look at the type of food you’re eating; or the type that you’re not eating! For example, did you know that you may not be getting enough acid?
Sometimes, the acid reflux is due to the valve not knowing that it needs to close. The stomach says that it doesn’t have enough acid to digest the food, and then the acid leaves the stomach! If you eat more acid, you could help to give the body what it needs to help close the valve and keep everything where it needs to be in your stomach.
You will need to deal with the feeling of acid in your esophagus. If you can’t do that, then you need to neutralize the acid that is already there. The saliva naturally does this, so you need to produce more of it. You don’t want anything to eat, though.
Why not chew some gum? It will help to tell the stomach that more food is coming, and the body starts producing saliva to make the digestive process easier. Rather than swallowing food, you just swallow the saliva to neutralize the levels of acid in the body.
You can do something similar by drinking more water. Alkaline water is great for this, as the pH levels will neutralize those in the acid. Have a glass by your bedside in case you wake up at night or drink right after eating. You can also use the alkaline water in your sports bottle while doing exercise because the water is beneficial in so many other ways for the health.
Opt for a bowl of oatmeal if you’re having a particularly bad day. Oatmeal, whether made with water or milk, doesn’t produce any acid. You’ll find that it soothes the pain on the way down. There’s a reason it is so great when we’re ill! You don’t need to make this from scratch. Those instant options are just as good for you when it comes to eliminating acid reflux for good.
We’ve already heard that ginger tea can help. It’s time to add more to your diet. Use it in your meals to offer soothing feelings while eating. You’ll also find it adds an oriental taste to your meals, and works extremely well in stir-fries and couscous dishes.
Water-based vegetables are a great alternative to the acidic ones. Rather than using tomatoes and onions in salads and dishes, opt for celery, spinach, and cucumber. You can also opt for some peppers, carrots, and mushrooms to help offer variety without the burning feeling.
When you do eat salads, avoid some of the dressings. Balsamic vinegar may make your heartburn worse, but an olive oil dressing can often work out to be soothing. Cheese dressings can help, but opt for full-fat versions to get all the antacid benefits.
Red meats can make your acid reflux worse, so substitute with poultry. Make sure you remove the skin from your chicken or turkey and cook them however you want. The only thing you should avoid is frying because this will add more fat to your diet.
It’s time to combat acid reflux. You can do it with your diet, by making some small and simple changes. One of the best things to do is reduce the acidity levels in your diet by drinking more alkaline water. You’ll hydrate on a daily basis while protecting your esophagus.
Just keep in mind that you should be wise in choosing what you eat. Be mindful of the effects of the food you take into your condition. There’s always a way to manage acid reflux and you should just keep yourself disciplined all the time.
There are times that the reflux is due to not having enough acid in the stomach, so this will be a trial and error. If you are worried or believe there may be an underlying cause, you should speak to your doctor. This will help to stop treating the symptoms and get help for the actual cause.