3 Things That Wreak Havoc on Your Digestion

July 29, 2020
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Digestive problems are not just a quality of life issue, and the keys to overcoming them are found in their root causes.

Did you know that more people see their healthcare providers for digestive issues than they do for heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes combined? According to a recent survey, 74 percent of American adults suffer every day with gas, bloating, stomach pain, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea – with over half of them never reporting it to their primary care provider. Not only do these symptoms affect your every day life, but they could be signs of something more.

Diseases like Celiac, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and pancreatic insufficiency all start with what seem like benign but bothersome symptoms of digestive inflammation, but it isn’t long before they’re taking over and you’re planning your days around the way your gut feels. The good news is that with some detective work, you can find the root causes and reverse the embarrassing symptoms to get your quality of life – and health – back. Here are my top 3 things that wreak havoc on your digestion and what you can do about them.

1. Not Listening to Your “Gut Feelings”

If you are having gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, or other GI symptoms more than a few times a month, then it’s time to listen to the message your gut is trying to send you. It could be that stress has gotten to the sensitive network of neurotransmitters that travel between the gut and the brain and is wreaking havoc on your digestion.

As far back as the 1800s, doctors recognized that indigestion was the product of a “nervous stomach,” while similar recent studies show that anxiety triggers digestive problems, especially acid reflux. A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that the symptoms of acid reflux got worse when patients were under stress. Stress is also a trigger for Celiac disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that 80 percent of IBS sufferers show signs of a stress disorder.

In our society, stress is at an all-time high right now. With that, acid reflux has increased more than 200 percent in just 8 years, Celiac disease has increased more than 500 percent, and gluten intolerance and IBS are both rising dramatically. These increases incidences are not just a matter of more and better diagnoses. Historical studies show that people truly are suffering more with stomach ailments now than in the past.

So what can you do when those gut feelings take over and wreak havoc on your digestion? First, try to change your relationship with stress. Just like the only water that sinks the boat is the water that gets inside, stressful thoughts and situations only get to you when you internalize them. Calm your nervous stomach with deep breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, and herbs including chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, lavender, and rosehips. Just mindfulness meditation alone was shown in a 2019 study published in the Indian Journal of Gastroenterology to alleviate acid reflux symptoms in 54 out of 60 participants. Next, fix your digestion with the proper digestive enzymes.

Optimize Digestion with Pancreatic Enzymes

Digesta-Key provides a diverse combination of pancreatic enzymes and anti-inflammatory enzymes with antioxidants and metabolic cofactors including pancreatin, papain, rutin, bromelain, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and serrapeptase.

These digestive enzymes reportedly aid the small intestine’s role in digesting proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Their actions are thought to help maintain intestinal health and minimize food intolerances.

This product is specially coated to resist stomach acid. The coating is pH factored to release in the upper part of the small intestine where food synthesis occurs.

How Pancreatic Enzymes Work

Enzymes are complex proteins that catalyze metabolic reactions throughout the body, and sufficient levels are necessary for optimizing many bodily functions. Though the body naturally produces its own supply of enzymes, production can vary with age and biochemical individuality.

Proteolytic enzymes, also known as proteases, specifically break down proteins into peptides and amino acids through the process of “proteolysis.” For example, proteases produced by the pancreas assist in the digestion of dietary protein. Some proteases, such as trypsin, are then reabsorbed, transported in the bloodstream, and resecreted by the pancreas. Enzymes in circulation are bound to antiprotease alpha-2-macroglobulin to protect them from being degraded by other serum proteases and to retain their enzymatic activity.*

Digesta-Key is a proteolytic enzyme formula designed to be absorbed across the gastrointestinal mucosa and into circulation. When distributed systemically, proteolytic enzymes can break down proteins and complexes generated during injury and tissue damage. This action supports the body’s normal recovery process.* In vivo studies suggest that trypsin and other proteases, though normally confined to the bloodstream, are able to enter the site of injury. At this site, they are able to support immune function and affect cytokine production. Research suggests that orally administered proteolytic enzymes may exert this beneficial effect as well. It is thought that they function as proteinase-activated receptor (PAR) modulators, a feature which allows them to contribute to immune and cytokine balance. Proteolysis of intestinal microorganisms may contribute to the immunostimulatory effects of oral proteolytic enzymes as well. Proteolytic enzymes have been used worldwide for decades to support health and healing. For example, research on bromelain (an enzyme obtained from pineapple) suggests that it positively affects eicosanoid production and balance. Furthermore, it is suggested that bromelain supports the body’s innate and adaptive immune function, signifying an effect beyond that of proteolysis in some cases.* Serrapeptase (also known as serratiopeptidase) is an enzyme produced by microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract of silkworms. Silkworms use it to digest their cocoons. Multicenter, double-blind studies suggest that serrapeptase significantly supports tissue integrity and comfort and is well-tolerated.

Pancreatin in Digesta-Key is a mixture of pancreactic enzymes containing chymotrypsin, trypsin, amylase, and lipase. The papain present is a proteolytic enzyme derived from papaya fruit.* The effect of combining various proteolytic enzymes has been studied closely for decades. For example, the combination of trypsin and chymotrypsin has a history of use in the support of tissue integrity and healing, with positive results in early double-blind trials.

The combination of bromelain, trypsin, and rutin has been researched and found to produce positive effects on the digestive system.

2. Taking in Toxins

More than 2000 adults were surveyed randomly, and of the 72 percent who reported daily GI discomfort, 89 percent felt their symptoms were related to their diets. Of those 89 percent, only 19 percent were able to resolve their issues on their own by making dietary changes. So the question that comes to mind is if the symptoms are coming from their diets, then why didn’t changing their diets provide more relief?

For more than 40 years now, I’ve taught my clients that diet without detox is not enough to improve overall health. We are bombarded so many environmental toxins in our air, water, and food that even our digestive systems are on overload with it all, and it’s coming out as diseases like Celiac and IBS. But isn’t Celiac all about the gluten in our diets? No!

Wheat has long been a staple food in our diets, even praised for its nourishment in the Bible, so why would it be that our industrialized society suddenly has widespread problems with it? The prevailing theory was that Americans are either eating more wheat or the wheat we eat has more gluten in it than it used to. Neither of these is true. A 2013 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that there has been no change in the protein content of wheat over the past 100 years, and the same study found that our consumption rates over the same period have dropped from 225 pounds of wheat flour per person per year to 130 pounds.

The real culprit behind Celiac disease isn’t the wheat itself – it’s what’s being sprayed on the wheat – it’s the glyphosate, aka RoundUp. According to a study published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology, since 1990 the number of Americans with Celiac disease has increased in proportion to the amount of RoundUp being sprayed on wheat. The study authors concluded that “RoundUp is the most important causal factor in the Celiac epidemic.” This is also why you can have what you think is gluten intolerance without an official diagnosis of Celiac disease. Let me explain.

The lining of your small intestine isn’t smooth; it contains finger-like projections along the brush border called villi. On the ends of these villi are microvilli, which is where all of the digestive enzymes used to break down your food are located. This includes the disaccharidase enzymes used to break down wheat and gluten. They are projecting out into the intestine itself so they can digest the food passing through and make nutrients available for absorption.

When inflammation sets in, these normally rounded, finger-like villi and microvilli become flattened. Once they are flattened, the enzymes no longer have a place to attach, and as a result, aren’t as available to assist with the breakdown of gluten (and other) proteins. These whole proteins can then pass through into the blood stream to cause a cascade of irritation, inflammation, and allergy reactions throughout the body.

Not only is digestion impaired by the inflammation, but the glyphosate itself inhibits the enzyme cytochrome P450, which is required for normal digestion. Celiac patients have been found in studies to have low intestinal levels of cytochrome P450. And glyphosate is only one toxin we encounter daily in our food supply.

Once again, an important step to repairing your gut is enzyme replacement. DigestaKey contains a combination of brush border enzymes with anti-inflammatory protease enzymes like serrapeptase, to soothe inflamed tissues and aid in the digestive process. These enzymes can be taken with meals to help with digestion and between meals to help reduce inflammation. Once the healing process is being supported, then it’s time to find the foods and toxins causing the inflammation in the first place.

It’s hard enough to do the detective work to find the foods that may be irritating your digestion, not to mention gearing up the willpower and mindset to then remove them from your diet. But then add in the toxins that may be the real culprits, and the frustration and lack of results can overshadow the good that effective dietary changes really can do.

This is why I created my Fat Flush and Radical Metabolism plans. Both plans are designed to not only remove common trigger foods, but also the toxins associated with gut inflammation. These plans not only detox and nourish your gut health, but also help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. I recommend my Fat Flush family of plans – especially my Gut Flush detox – for anyone who needs a simple solution to their digestive woes. When your digestive health is also complicated by other chronic illnesses or an over 40 metabolism, then Radical Metabolism is the way to go. Whichever way you choose to go, find my Fat Flush Nation or Radical Metabolism Revolution group on Facebook for support, encouragement, and a community of people who share in your commitment to better gut health.

3. Paving the Way for Parasites

I know parasites evoke images of third world countries with contaminated water supplies, but I assure you that they are alive and well here in the US, too. According to the CDC, millions are affected by parasites every year. Pinworms are the most prevalent parasitic worm infection in the US, with 209 million people affected worldwide.

Let me ask you – the last time you had a stomach bug, did it come and go quickly or did you have lasting digestive symptoms? Many people think they’ve just caught a virus when in reality they’ve caught a parasite. What starts as some gas and bloating after a meal can progress to abdominal cramping and loose stools as that parasite population multiplies. It isn’t long before a diagnosis of IBS comes and according to studies, the prevalence of parasitic infections is significantly higher in those with IBS than the general population.

Fortunately, there’s a cleanse for that. My Colon Cleansing Kit from UNI KEY Health is a simple, complete program designed to help your body eliminate even microscopic parasites gently but effectively. You can effectively give your digestion a reset in just 30 days, which I highly recommend doing at least twice a year for optimal gut health.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Moriah

    I’ve never seen such a complete explaination of how these enzymes work. Very interesting blog. Thank you

  2. Liz

    Moriah, I agree, this is fascinating. I also think it is interesting that people with IBS many times have parasites as the underlying cause.

  3. Cecilia

    I’ve had digestive issues as long as I can remember. Maybe parasites are my problem.



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