The Cards Are Stacked Against You After About Age 40
Digestion is basically the process of reorganizing proteins fats and carbohydrates. The enzymes that help this process in the stomach need a strong acid environment provided mostly by hydrochloric acid (HCl). As we age, the body's ability to produce HCl decreases as does the ability to produce some enzymes. Like I always say, the body is generally designed to go to about 40 without too much maintenance. You might get lucky and make it farther than that without working on your health but the odds are increasingly against you with every passing year.
Helps To Understand What Your Body Wants
To help your body better assimilate your food, you will need to be more selective in what you eat and using some digestive enzymes too. We like the Cyrex Labs Array 3 and Array 4 tests. Array 3 looks at a wide spectrum of proteins and lectins that can cause celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Array 4 looks at common foods that gluten sensitive people tend to react to. These aren't allergy tests but tests to see what could trigger an autoimmune reaction. You can learn more by a general Cyrex Labs search.
A Word About Gluten Sensitivity
You can also run allergy tests to see what could cause you digestive distress. We will discuss that another day. We started talking about gluten because gluten sensitivity is a common source of digestive upset. The gluten antibody reaction targets some brain stem enzymes interfering with autonomic nerve system controls. The brain stem monitors basic activities like whether or not you have just eaten and what did was in that meal or snack. The vagus nerve part of the autonomic system is appropriately activated and goes to work coordinating secretions from the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver and gall bladder along with increase in motility. Altering brain stem function interferes with that harmonious action and you can get symptoms of indigestion.
Downside of Indigestion Meds
Sure you can take some pharmaceutical action but you know that this won't correct the problem, only give you some relief. It is understandable that you want relief and want it fast from these symptoms. The problem with long term prilosec or nexium use is that it interferes with digestion and you can have decrease in blood proteins. The carrier proteins are essential for controlling blood pH (acid balance) and also for making hormone carrier proteins. It is better to look for something you can do to prevent the problem and that might mean a gluten-free diet as well as elimination of other foods as indicated by experience or by testing.
Time to Learn Something About Histamines
This is a good time to introduce a low histamine diet strategy. Histamine can play a significant role in indigestion. Histamine is created by our own cells but we can also get some from foods. Our bodies break down histamine with an enzyme called DAO (diamine oxidase). How much DAO you have available to manage histamine levels will depend on genetic and other factors like medications, hormonal imbalances, GI disorders, nutrient deficiencies and alcohol. To help with your histamine balance, make sure you get your daily B6, vitamin C and zinc and copper. We can get into great detail about histamine but I like to keep things simple and give practical steps a person can take right away.
Simple Steps to Work With
The simplest way to change your histamine response today is to make some dietary changes. It has been our experience that not all foods on the non-compliant list will have to be eliminated to get rid of that indigestion and some of these will be time of day dependent. We have found that sometimes a food can be tolerated early in the day but not later in the afternoon or evening. You will need to experiment to see what works best for you. You might find that you can have a pickle with your sandwich at noon but not at 6 p.m. or you will have indigestion that evening. Of course, some of these foods are not good for many reasons like processed meats so should be eaten sparingly anyway. Keep your acid blockers around for those events when something just goes wrong and you won't sleep due to your indigestion but you work this list until you have learned what your body can tolerate and what it can't.
Some Likely Suspects
Foods likely to contribute to your histamine imbalance and indigestion:
Aged cheese: Parmasan, cheddar, Gouda, Camembert, Swiss
Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, pickles, pickled vegetables, kefir, kombucha Yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk
Processed meats: cold cuts, bacon, sausage, salami, ham, chorizo, pepperoni
Frozen and smoked fish Shellfish: clams, mussels, shrimp
Canned fish: salmon, tuna Certain vegetables: spinach, tomatoes, eggplant
Certain fruits: strawberries, cherries, citrus fruits (papaya, orange, lemon, pineapple)
Spices & condiments: ketchup, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar
Processed foods: snacks, ready-made grains, cookies, sweets
Food additives, preservatives and food coloring
Licorice and chocolate
Some Helpful Supplements
If you get your diet totally fine-tuned you may need only small amounts of digestive aids. In the meantime, we recommend daily use of products that you see on the Indigestion Support page.