The Stress of Poor
Digestion By Ellen W. Cutler, D.C., with Jeremy E.
Authors of MicroMiracles: Discover the Healing Power of
These days, everyone seems to be climbing on the nutrition
bandwagon. Books and articles offering dietary advice abound, and health food
stores are thriving. The trouble is, much of the available information is
contradictory at best and inaccurate -- and potentially harmful -- at worst.
Too often, it overlooks one very important fact: What we digest is just as
important as what we eat.
Proper digestion can't occur
without the necessary enzymes. If they aren't present in foods, they must be
synthesized by the body, a process that requires tremendous metabolic energy
and machinery. When we evaluate the healthfulness of any diet, we must consider
the magnitude of the burden that it will place on the body through the
digestive process. This burden is what's known as digestive stress.
The issue of stress figures
prominently in our current understanding of health and disease. Stress involves
the gradual depletion of the reserve capacity to respond and adapt to
challenges to the body's systems. The more reserve capacity the body has, the
better able it is to cope with stressors that it encounters. By the same token,
depleted reserve capacity means that the body is highly vulnerable to the
damage that stress can cause.
To better understand the interplay
among stress, reserve capacity, and damage, think of the tires on an
automobile. Driving causes stress on the tire treads, gradually removing rubber
and depicting the reserve capacity of the tires -- that is, the thickness of
the treads. The resulting loss of traction increases the risk of structural
damage, especially in the presence of extreme challenges such as uneven road
surfaces or sudden maneuvers. Reducing the wear and tear on tires through
regular maintenance and driving safely on paved roads minimizes the stress on
the treads and extends their longevity.
To reduce digestive stress, your
best bet is to build your meals and snacks around foods that are rich in
enzymes and don't overtax your digestive system. Then your body can extract and
utilize the necessary nutrients with minimal energy and effort.
The Low-Stress Diet
Simply stated, a low-stress diet
is one that minimizes digestive and systemic stress. The ideal diet would
consist of organically grown, pesticide-free foods, with substantial amounts of
raw foods in at least two meals per day, since only raw foods contain active
Consider what happens when a
freshly picked apple remains uneaten for several days. The "meat" of the apple
becomes soft and liquefies due to the action of enzymes -- the same ones that
help your body digest the apple when you eat it. The work of the enzymes
reduces the burden of enzyme secretion on the pancreas, and thus digestive
While eating nothing but raw foods
would be a challenge, incorporating them into your meals and snacks whenever
possible can minimize the workload for your digestive system. When you add
enzyme supplements to help digest cooked and processed foods, you'll improve
digestive function and nutrient absorption.
The High-Stress Diet
Unfortunately, the typical
American diet is almost entirely cooked or processed fare, with very few raw
foods and therefore very few food enzymes. Responsibility for picking up any
slack in the digestive process falls to the digestive system and, on a larger
scale, the entire body, increasing the likelihood of digestive and systemic
In general, a high-stress diet has
one or more of the following characteristics.
- It contains foods that cannot be adequately broken
down because they are loaded with preservatives or are highly processed.
- It triggers an immune response in a susceptible
- It contains too much or too little carbohydrate,
protein, or fat, so the nutrients are substantially out of balance with the
body's metabolic requirements.
- The nutrients are not available to the body because
the necessary enzymes are in short supply.
All of these factors cause the
digestive system to work even harder to squeeze whatever nutrients it can from
the foods that are eaten. Over time, the combination of poor nutrient
absorption and digestive system overload can trigger a host of symptoms,
- Lack of energy
- Bloating, indigestion, and gas
- Poor elimination (constipation or frequent loose
- Poor weight control (underweight or overweight)
- Hormone imbalances
- Dry or oily skin
- Thin and/or brittle bones, as in osteoporosis
- Frequent illness resulting from a poorly functioning
In our opinion, persistent
digestive stress is a leading contributor to many of the chronic health
problems that are on the rise in this country. The body does its best to keep
up with nutritional demands without adequate enzyme support, but it can
tolerate these conditions for only so long. Eventually, your health begins to
falter, and illness sets in -- the long-term consequence of enzyme and nutrient
What's Best For
When considering the ideal diet
for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, please keep in mind that what's
"ideal" can vary from one person to the next. It depends on a number of
factors, including metabolism, current health status, and any existing food
The vast majority of our patients
are either carbohydrate intolerant or protein/fat intolerant. Often, these
intolerances are behind the symptoms that bring people to the office in the
first place. Steering clear of the offending foods -- including some that they
may consider healthy -- can go a long way toward minimizing digestive stress.
Reprinted from: MicroMiracles:
Discover the Healing Power of Enzymes by Ellen W. Cutler, DC with Jeremy E.
Kaslow, MD. (October 2005; $15.95US/$21.95CAN; 1-59486-221-4) Copyright ©
2005 Ellen W. Cutler, DC. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc.,
Ellen W. Cutler,
DC, has more than 20 years' research
and clinical experience in the use of enzyme supplements. She is the founder of
BioSET, an innovative healing system that combines enzyme therapy with other
complementary medicine disciplines to treat chronic illness and achieve optimum
health. She resides in Marin County, California.
For more information, please visit
Jeremy E. Kaslow, MD, runs a
thriving private practice in southern California,
specializing in individualized biochemistry and nutrition. A graduate of the
Los Angeles, School of
is board-certified in allergy and immunology.