Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 4 - 10 Days to a Healthier You in 2012!

Day 4 – Digestive Support

Your digestive system is an elegantly complicated network of organs and acids, enzymes and mineral salts that results in the food you eat becoming the individual components that feed your cells, provide energy to fuel your body, as well as the components necessary to digest your next meal!  However, when even 1 component goes awry your entire body can suffer.  So providing a bit of digestive support has many positive ramifications for your overall health.

So that you will more fully understand the process, here is a thumbnail explanation of the process . . .

Smelling or thinking about eating stimulates saliva – which coats the food as you chew and breaks down carbohydrates. 

The food passes into the stomach where it is mixed with acids to break it down.  If you do not have enough stomach acid a control valve (sphincter) between the stomach and the esophagus will not close and can result in acid reflux. 

The food coated with acids passes from the stomach into the small intestine.  In order for digestion to continue the small intestine must remain slightly alkaline so bile is introduced into the digestive mix to break down fats and make a shift in the pH.  Other naturally occurring bicarbonates are introduced into the mix and once the pH is correct the pancreas releases enzymes to complete digestion.  This all happens in the first half of the small intestine. 

As the nutrients are broken down they pass from the small intestine into the blood stream and the lymphatic fluids where they are processed by the liver and then distributed to cells throughout the body.

The digested food passes through the remainder of the small intestine into the large intestine where the liquids are recirculated back into the body and the wastes are expelled.

So the first thing you can do to improve digestion is to chew, chew and chew some more.  This is especially crucial when eating carbohydrates.

The next important thing to keep in mind is that it’s essential to keep your stomach fluids acidic and there are two great ways to accomplish that.
Do not drink anything with your meals.  All fluids you drink are more alkaline than your stomach acids, so they automatically reduce the acid content of your stomach.
Eat foods that are sour or bitter to stimulate saliva as well as bile – one for carbs and the other for fats.

With the first bites of food include a few tablespoons of vinegar or pH2.5 ionized water.  Both train your body to release enough acids to do a great job at breaking down foods, particularly proteins.

Increasing your consumption of naturally occurring enzymes also enhances digestion.  Raw foods (think salads, raw juice, fruits and sprouts) contain loads of these enzymes, but the best foods that contain powerful digestive enzymes are tropical fruits like pineapple, papaya and mangos.

Other foods that enhance digestion include fennel (bulbs, fronds and seeds), mint, ginger, cilantro, turmeric, chili peppers, licorice root, caraway seeds . . . are you seeing a pattern here?  Most ethnic foods, particularly East Indian, Thai, Mexican, Asian, South American, etc. use combinations of these foods and spices liberally when cooking.  In fact, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese and Herbal Medicine practitioners have been using them for centuries.  For a great explanation of many helpful digestive herbs click on the link below:

So today we are going to concentrate on foods that enhance or stimulate your digestion.  By promoting good digestion we are enhancing the health of your entire body!

Tropical Tummy Tamer Smoothie
This thick, creamy smoothie is deceptively good for you!  It’s loaded with ingredients that enhance digestion through enzyme rich fruits as well as herbs and spices to support digestion from the first to the last sip of this delicious concoction!
Serves 2

1/2 cup papaya, including 10 seeds
1/2 cup pineapple slices
1/2 apple
1/2 inch fresh ginger
1 frozen banana
2 sprigs fresh mint
6 leaves Romaine lettuce
1/4 scoop Garden of Life’s Raw Fiber or 1 tablespoon flax seeds + 1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 cups pH 9.5 ionized water (filtered water is OK)

Place all ingredients in your VitaMix and blend until smooth and creamy.  Frozen bananas provide the consistency of a milk shake without any added dairy products! 

Kitchen Tip:  Now you know what to do with all of those over-ripe bananas – peel, freeze individually on a cookie sheet, pop them into a storage container and voile you have the makings of a creamy smoothie any day!

Nutritional Note:  Papaya seeds are powerful anti-microbial and anti-parasitic agents because of the high levels of enzymes that break down proteins.  Any time I purchase a papaya I scoop the seeds out on to a tea towel, remove the connective fibers, dry them and mix them with my pepper corns.  They have a very peppery flavor so no one will ever know you are boosting their digestion – they will just know it tastes great!

Day 4 Menu Suggestions:

Rainbow Swiss Chard with Basil and Pine Nuts in Lemon Butter

Herbed Halibut Wrapped in Parchment Paper

Shaved Fennel, Honeycrisp Apple, Spicy Pepper and Arugula Salad

Fresh Tropical Fruit Chutney

Day 4 Drink Suggestions:
  • Lemon or Lime Sparkling Water – add 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice to 4 ounces sparkling water and enjoy between meals
  • Bitters – In a 4 ounce glass of still or sparkling water add 1 teaspoon bitters and drink it down!
  • Fennel & Mint Spritzer – In your VitaMix or other blender place 1/2 cup pH 9.5 water, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds and 2 sprigs of mint and process until smooth.  Add 3 tablespoons to a glass with 4 ounces sparkling water add a sprig of mint or fennel frond as a garnish and enjoy at least 20 minutes after your meal!
  • For a great list of teas see Day 3

Day 4 Techniques:
Here is a great video with some Yoga poses to help improve digestion:

Here is a nice little self-massage video that’s particularly good for improving digestion and elimination:

I do hope you are finding these posts helpful and I appreciate your comments and questions!

Dr. P

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