Digestion: Tips to Boost Protein Digestion

Digestion

 

Digestion is an issue that many people struggle with, whether it’s gas and bloating, or digesting specific food items.  Although there are many things we can write about for digestion, we want to dedicate this blog post to protein digestion since we’ve seen many people lately that are having difficulty digesting protein.  

So let’s:

  •        talk about how protein is digested in the body
  •        look at symptoms to tell if you’re having difficulty digesting it, and
  •        learn what you can do to boost your

 

The Digestive Process

Digestion involves  many phases and stages in the body, and while it’s all fascinating to learn about, we want to focus only on protein digestion today.

When we eat protein, such as a steak, piece of chicken, or a vegetarian option is tofu, our stomach acid is what breaks it down into amino acids (aka, the building blocks of protein).  These amino acids are then used by the body for repairing tissue such as healing a wound, for white blood cells in our immune system, or for our hair, skin, nails, etc.  Protein is essential for the health of the body, so it’s really important to make sure we are getting a good amount in the diet.

While we can eat lots of good protein sources in our diet, if we’re not properly digesting them, then our body cannot use the amino acids for repair, white blood cells, or to make new tissue for skin, nails and hair.  The critical element we need for protein digestion is hydrochloric acid, or stomach acid.  For a variety of reasons, the stomach may not be making enough acid.  For example, when we are under stress, the body will not make stomach acid because this is “fight or flight” time, not digestion time.  Also as we age the body naturally produces less stomach acid.  This is why we see a lot of older patients who have reduced meats or high protein foods from their diet – because they’re having trouble digesting them.  When we ask these patients why they have removed meat and high protein foods from their diet, they usually answer because they’ve found as they got older eating meat didn’t “agree” with their stomach.  This is a classic symptom of low stomach acid.

Low Stomach Acid Symptoms

So how do you know if you’re low in stomach acid?  There are a few telltale symptoms that stand out to us such as gas, bloating, and fatigue after a meal.  People who experience acid reflux may also be low in stomach acid.  This is because when the person eats there is not enough stomach acid to digest the meal, so the body overcompensates by making too much which can cause the feeling of acid reflux.  Probably the most telling symptom is when people tell us they have a problem digesting meat, or protein food sources.  If you notice that you feel bloated, gassy and tired after you eat protein, then chances are you are low in stomach acid too.  Although our stomach acid production decreases as we age, low stomach acid can occur in anyone, at any age.  But don’t worry, we’re going to give you some quick tips to help increase stomach acid production so you can properly digest your proteins.

Boosting Protein Digestion

So after reading this post you suspect that you may be low in stomach acid.  While we strongly recommend that you consult a healthcare practitioner to assess your digestion, there are a few tips you can try right now to boost your protein digestion.

  1. Take a moment to breathe before you eat.  Digestion works best when we are relaxed and not stressed.  If you need to have lunch and you can’t get out of the office, then take 2 minutes to focus on your breath to help you switch from stress mode to relaxation mode.  Deep breathing is one of the easiest and fastest ways to help you de-stress.  If you need some guidance there are various apps you can try that provide guided meditations.
  2. When you start to eat chew your food slowly, and very thoroughly.  And as soon as you’re full stop eating, no matter how much food is on your plate.  Remember, eating more than what the body needs (especially if you’re low in stomach acid) could lead to the overcompensation of stomach acid which may cause acid reflux. The smaller pieces of food are also easier on your stomach and can be digested much quicker than a big chunk of food.
  3. Lastly, when you’ve finished eating, remember your body is still digesting and you need to stay relaxed.  So try not to jump up and rush back to work.  Give yourself a bit of time to sit quietly and allow your body to focus on digestion.  You’ll feel much better later for it!

 

 

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