We will start at the top of the digestion process and highlight some issues and natural treatments for them.
1. Heartburn and pain after chewing and swallowing- Some people experience pain and discomfort after swallowing and when the food transits to the stomach. This can be remedied by chewing food longer and more thoroughly before swallowing. It seems that if the esophagus is inflamed then it wants food that is chewed to a pulp to pass through.
2. Heartburn and reflux- If you are experiencing heartburn and reflux, it is because the food you just ate is sitting in your stomach too long. When the food sits in the stomach much longer than it should it starts to reflux up the esophagus. This then causes heartburn and reflux. The food sits in the stomach longer than optimal because it is not being digested well. It is not being digested well because it doesn't have enough enzymes or acid to complete the job. Your stomach produces acid and enzymes at the start of digestion. The acid activates the enzymes which break down the food into smaller particles. The stomach won't empty until the food is well broken down. Many people do not make enough stomach acid or enzymes as they age to complete digestion in a short time. Therefore, the food sits in the stomach much longer than it should and starts to reflux up the esophagus. This results in heartburn and reflux.
3. Bloating and cramping- Bloating and cramping can be caused by food particles not fully digested making the transition into the small intestine and causing irritation. It might be that the small intestine has to work harder to complete the digestion of food or it can't digest the particles as well and wants to pass them through as fast as possible.
4. Gas- Gas can also be caused by particles not fully digested making their way to the large intestine and the bacteria having a field day with them and making a lot of gas.
5. Leaky Gut- The small intestines are supposed to absorb food particles that are highly digested through special gates. In a healthy situation, the intestine has gates that allow only fully digested particles to pass through into the bloodstream. In an unhealthy poor digestion situation, the gates are broken and larger undigested particles make it past the gates and into the bloodstream. In other words the gates are "leaky". These larger particles get into the bloodstream and cause a lot of inflammation and autoimmune issues. The gates can be broken because of many reasons. Some of them are inflammation from foods, such as gluten, or infections, or medications, or stress.
1. Heartburn and pain with chewing and swallowing- Chew your food more slowly and deliberately. Allow the saliva to thoroughly mix with the food. Enjoy the textures and flavors and then swallow.
2. Heartburn and Reflux- The treatment for heartburn and reflux is to get the food in the stomach digested more thoroughly and quickly so that it passes out of the stomach quicker. People with heartburn and reflux aren't passing food through quick enough because of lack of digesting the food because of lack of enzymes and gastric acid. Therefore, taking digestive aids, such as gastric acid analogs and digestive enzymes when you start eating solves the problem. It gets the food digested more quickly and out of the stomach in a timely manner. This may seem counter intuitive because the western method of treating heartburn and reflux is to shut down acid production with acid blocking medications. But this treats symptoms and not the cause.
3. Bloating and cramping- This can be remedied by getting food more thoroughly digested in the stomach before it passes into the small intestine and causes irritation. So the same solution applies using gastric acid analogs and digestive enzymes to break food down in the stomach before it transits to the small intestine.
4. Gas- One of the reasons for gas is the bacteria in the large intestine make gas from particles of food that again are not fully digested(seems like a theme here). Therefore, getting food better digested at the start of eating is the solution. This is done with the gastric acid analogs and digestive enzymes when starting a meal. Also, a good probiotic can reestablish a good bacteria ratio in the large intestine and help stop gas.
5. Leaky gut- Leaky gut is complicated. But a couple of thoughts. First, try to heal the leaking gates. One example is if the intestines are inflamed by food sensitivities such as gluten, then it is important to stop eating gluten and start eating organic. This also helps to reduce any toxins in the foods you might be ingesting which could be irritating. Stress reduction is always important. Leaky gut can also be treated by various supplements to help heal the gates and inflammation. Finally, reducing the amount of undigested food particles by taking digestive enzymes and gastric acid analogs can reduce overall undigested nutrient absorption and therefore inflammation.
One final thought- The absorption of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients from our food and supplements depends on a normal level of gastric acid. If you are not making enough gastric acid then you also may not be optimally absorbing the vitamins and minerals you need and becoming deficient because of that.
As always, if the situation becomes overwhelming, seek professional help regarding your physical and mental symptoms.