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Food + Energy: Scarcity or Abundance

Jun 28, 2023

Food + Energy: Scarcity or Abundance

Food is energy, right?

At least that's what we're made to think.

But there's actually more to the story. Food is our bodies primary source of energy, whether from plants or animals. Before our bodies can use the energy stored in them, we have to break it down adequately and bring it in through our intestinal walls.

And this is where things can break down (😉 couldn't resist the pun there). This is also why "calories in, calories out" is inaccurate and why counting calories may not be a helpful strategy for your health goals.

Breaking it down

-The art of chewing: Chewing, known as mastication, is the first step in adequately breaking down your food and is pivotal in the process. Without adequate chewing, large food particles enter into the stomach and intestines and cannot be broken down chemically. This means that these large chunks of food ping pong through your digestive tract and can cause certain microbes to overgrow and even potentially cause damage to the lining of your intestines (more on this later). To chew your food thoroughly, you should chew each bite 20-30 times, think emuslified liquid, before you swallow. So appetizing 🤤 to imagine, right? I can tell you are already so pumped to test this out with your next meal.

Chemical reactions 

- Stomach's up: Next, food enters into the stomach. Beginning here, your body will use chemicals to break down and absorb nutrients in order to use them to create energy or for any of the other billions cellular activities that go on moment by moment. In your stomach, your body uses a chemical called hydrochloric acid. I'm sure you've heard of GERD, or heartburn, in which this acid gets blamed (its sadly, often not its fault). Hydrochloric acid serves multiple functions- breaking down the small particles of food into miniscules pieces so that its entirely liquified and killing off pathogens that try to get into your body as a hitch a ride on your foods. When you do not have enough stomach acid, food particles stay too large to fully absorb their nutritional value and pathogens can run rampent in your gut. This is an often overlooked, but simple to correct issue that can have a huge impact on energy and overall digestion (symptoms like bloating, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, and even heartburn).

- Into the depths: Once your food leaves your stomach, it enters the small intestine. This is where nutrients are absorbed. The process of digestion continues as the pancreas releases pancreatic enzymes to further breakdown food and the liver (and gallbladder) releases bile to support the absorption of fats and fat soluble nutrients. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder sent out these chemicals through the common bile duct, think of it like a channel connecting to the river of your intestines. Without these enzymes, your body cannot absorb nutrients properly through the intestinal walls which can lead to nutrient insufficiencies.

Come to me my darling...

- The state of absorption: You may be picking up by now that just because food went into your belly, doesn't mean that it got absorbed. The cells responsible for absorbing nutrients live along your intestinal walls. These cells are protected by a thick mucosal layer so that they stay cozy and safe from toxins and pathogens. Unfortunately, if large food particles have entered promoting dysbiosis, lack of acid has let in intruders, and toxins or stress (aka cortisol) has degraded this lining, then these cells can be exposed to damage like a tornado passing through. Damage to these cells prevents them from being able to absorb, even if they have adequate levels of bile or pancreatic enzymes. This is one reason why you can be taking in the "recommended" amounts of nutrients in your diet and still be nutrient insufficient or depleted (ex: iron deficiency anemia is a possible scenario of one of the consequences when your body is not absorbing nutrients properly and best solution is not to give more iron but to fix the gut).

Inflammation station 

- Leaking is never good: The end result here is that when there is damage to the intestinal walls, caused by any number of culprits, things can get through that shouldn't. A lot of people are beginning to recognize that they have food sensitivities. If you have food sensitivities, then you have gut damage. There are also many autoimmune conditions linked to leaky gut and food sensitivities (Hashimoto's for example). It is not normal to have food sensitivities even though it is now common.

Food sensitivities, low enzymes, and poor digestion are all reasons that eating can be draining energy and leaving your body sensing a state of scarcity instead of abundance.  This can leave your body stuck in a holding pattern, where it thinks it starving so it holds onto fat even though you are eating "plenty" of calories.

Our bodies are designed to take food and create energy. However, if you are feeling that your energy is low, any of these (or multiple of these) layers of digestion could be playing a role.

Whenever someone comes to me complaining of low energy, we take a good look at each of these possibilities by using Specialty Testing. If you have known or suspected food sensitivities, have low energy or any digestive issues, it is well worth looking into each of these areas so that you can take conscious and aligned action to restore your wellbeing.

If you are looking for support to do so, you may apply to work with me here.

~Christine Simons, DNP, NP-C

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