Do you ever get that gut feeling? In this case not intuition, but the feeling of bloating, indigestion, reflux, stomach cramps, gas or have a history of constipation or diarrhea? Not only do these symptoms make you feel miserable, but they’re also signs of poor digestion. So, you’re asking, what does digestion have to do with bone health? EVERYTHING! The food you eat nourishes every cell in your body, including your bone cells. If you can’t properly digest your food due to poor digestive function, you cannot absorb and utilize the nutrients needed to build strong bones.
Although there it is the belief that stomach acid is bad and leads to acid reflux and other digestive issues, the truth is that we need stomach acid to break down food so that it can be properly absorbed. The acid produced in your stomach, hydrochloric acid (HLC) is particularly important for breaking down protein but also aids in the absorption and assimilation of many vitamins and minerals utilized by the bones. Studies show stomach acid secretion decreases with age, and, by menopause, 40 percent of women may be severely deficient in HCL. Further evidence suggests that there is a possible increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine if you take certain acid blocking medications for heartburn, acid reflux, or ulcers.
Certain diseases that affect the gut, like celiac disease, are all associated with higher prevalence of osteoporosis. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system reacts to the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) and causes inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. Dr. Vikki Petersen, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, author of the book “The Gluten Effect” suggests that even a gluten intolerance could trigger inflammation that could lead to bone loss.
Healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients is the key to a healthy body and healthy bones!
Ways to Enhance Your Digestion
If you suspect you have an intolerance to a particular food, try an elimination diet. Remove foods you suspect may be causing digestive distress (the 4 biggies are gluten, dairy, soy, eggs) for at least 2 weeks. Then add the foods back into your diet, one at a time, for 3 days, to see if the food provokes your digestive ailments. Eliminate any symptomatic food from your diet for 3 months and test again. Depending on your reaction, you may need to eliminate the food for an extended amount of time.
If your main symptoms are bloating, fullness, flatulence and indigestion, try enhancing your digestion by taking a digestive enzyme with meals. You can also try diluting 1-3 tsp of apple cider vinegar in 4 ounce of water and drink 20 minutes prior to a meal. Apple cider vinegar helps to improve digestion by increasing stomach acid.
Make sure you don’t rush eating and chew your food properly! Eating mindfully and chewing your food (each bite 30 times!) can enhance digestion by encouraging blood flow to the digestive organs.