What goes into an effective tincture for digestion? Well, that requires understanding that you’re not just feeding your body when you eat — you’re directly impacting your mental state as well, and engaging with an entire universe of bacteria, phages and fungi that live in your gut, and whose symbiotic relationship with your body directly impacts your well-being. It means acknowledging that optimal health means reordering how we prepare for our food intake every day, awakening our gut flora to the food you’re about to thrust towards it.

Now bear in mind that this means grappling with a vast and under explored layer of one’s overall health. You see, the body itself doesn’t do all the work when it comes to digestion. Some of it is accomplished by specific types of bacteria that reside within the GI tract. Tantalizing correlations have been drawn between some of these bacteria and not only physical diseases like cancer and irritable bowel syndrome, but mental health disorders such as depression, autism and Parkinson’s Disease. So in other words, we aren’t just what we eat, but what we feed inside of us. So how does that get done well? Let’s find out.

THE BASICS OF DIGESTION

First off, one has to remember that DIGESTION is one of five different steps in how the body intakes food. The process is as follows.

Ingestion: This starts with hormones which trigger our desire to eat and develops the first of many different digestive juices – saliva. Saliva begins the process of breaking down large chunks of food into smaller bits, along with chewing and maneuvering the food into smaller pieces called boluses.

Digestion: Pushed throughout this process by a process called peristalsis, the bolus first enters the stomach, where food is broken down by several gastric juices. This process transforms the food into a liquid called chyme, which is pushed, again by peristalsis, into the small intestine, where bile and additional bathing from the small intestine, pancreas and gall bladder occur

Absorption: Nutrients, lipids, vitamins and carbohydrates are brought into the bloodstream through carrier cells on hairlike intestinal appendages called vilia.

Assimilation: These smaller products are distributed throughout the body through the bloodstream, or stored in the liver for later.

Egestion: Whatever is undigested is pushed towards the colon, which also absorbs excess water so that solid waste can be disposed of through the colon.

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THE MICROBIOTA AND DIGESTION

That’s usually where food digestion ends for most people but recent studies have zeroed in on the gut microbiota. Apparently, we’re not just eating for ourselves, but for trillions of living organisms that have colonized our bodies since the day we left our mother’s womb. Through our mother’s milk and later through our environments, this phyla continues to develop over time, and it is also sensitive to age, diet, lifestyle and exercise as well. 

Although scientists are still working to ascertain its mechanics, there does seem to be a correlation between certain kinds of microbiota and specific mood disorders. For instance, in one study where certain types of microbiota are swapped between calmer and placid mice personalities, their personalities also changed as well. This sort of transplant has already seen one success story in the treatment of the intestinal disease Clostridium Difficile, where studies have shown a transfer of a healthy microbiota can resolve its painful symptoms. And of course, bacteria within the gut microbiota give powerful assists in lipid digestion and absorption as well. 

What this all says is that if we’re doing right by our bodies, we’re going to have to introduce ourselves to our underappreciated pals inside of ourselves and nurture them as best as we can with the proper diet (particularly a low-fat/high-fiber diet — shifting from one to the other can create major changes within 24 hours in our gut microbiota) and a more mindful engagement with its mechanics. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the endocannabinoid system is also heavily distributed throughout the body, including the small intestine, and like many systems within the body, communicates with the microbiota. In particular, we find the ECS within the epithelial layer of the gut, which amongst other things wards off diseases, and its expression (alongside the greater endocannabinoideme) is according to one study associated closely with microbiota in mice. 

So remember the next time you eat that you’re always eating not just for yourself, but for lots of helpful organisms that maintain your health. It has given rise to probiotics (bacterial cultures which can buttress or augment the microbiome) prebiotics (fungi, herbs and carbohydrates which help this microbiome to flourish) and the Human Microbiome Project which aims to characterize the terrain just as the Human Genome Project did for human genes. This project will be joined by all of those who have a microbiome and have something to gain. And that’s why people are using tinctures — there’s no better time to start on it than now.