I know and I’m sure you do too what is involved in healthy eating, but sometimes situations come up that get us off this track and we end up eating some kind of junk food. It may be a really hectic day where we drive through a junk food or fast food restaurant or a special family event or a party with lots of sweets, unhealthy fats and simple carbs. Whatever the reason, we can still balance out those times when we splurge. Extra calories in means taking the time to get in a little extra exercise to burn them off. The bigger problem is what junk food does to the digestive tract and the friendly bacteria that supports good digestion, immune system functioning, and helps us handle stress.
Our digestive system is responsible for taking the foods we eat and breaking them down into forms the body can absorb and use to fuel itself and stay healthy. It starts in the mouth with enzymes in saliva that start breaking foods down in the chewing process and lubricating it for swallowing. The esophagus then takes the food you swallow and passes it on to the stomach where more enzymes help breaking down foods over about an hour. At that time hydrochloric acid comes into play in the stomach for more breakdown. The small intestine comes next and the pancreas supplies alkaline to neutralize the acid and digestive enzymes protease, lipase and amylase. In the small intestine nutrients are extracted, absorbed and passed on through the blood stream to various parts of the body. The food has now been broken down with proteins becoming amino acids, fats becoming fatty acids and carbs becoming glucose. The large intestine then absorbs water from food and passes out any remaining waste products.
Junk Food and Digestion
Junk food not only interferes with this digestion process with its extra fat, salt and sugar, but also doesn’t give you the necessary digestive enzymes to help breakdown foods. It also doesn’t have the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and according to the Mayo Clinic can leave you feeling bloated, slow the digestion process down and contribute to gaining too much weight which is definitely unhealthy. The extra salt in these types of food are damaging to kidneys and increase the risk of high blood pressure. One study reported by ABC News found participants developed liver damage eating fast food two times a day for a month. Junk food and fast foods are also damaging to the friendly bacteria that live in the intestines and fight off disease as well as supply B vitamins that help us with stress. In addition to the bad things that junk food does to the body, it also doesn’t do much good. The vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients the body needs to perform well just aren’t available from junk food.
Supporting Digestion Through a Junk Food Binge
Even if you eat healthy most of the time, there are always times when we are likely to slip. Eating out with friends or family, stress eating, parties or family get-togethers are all places where it’s hard to avoid some type of junk foods that don’t have the good nutrition of your normal meals. A good way to help counteract those times when you know you will be attending a function where you are likely to encounter less than healthy foods is to stock up on digestive enzymes. This means eating a lot of raw foods before and after the event and possibly taking a digestive enzyme supplement. You can also make sure that beforehand you are extra conscientious about the other types of foods you eat and stick with a wholefoods healthy diet with lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats. Plan to continue this after the event too. According to San Francisco nutritionist, Michelle Davenport, junk food is addictive and once you start indulging it’s hard to beat the cravings for more. To stick with your good nutrition diet, develop the mindset that junk food is merely a treat to indulge in occasionally sort of like Christmas. Most of us love Christmas but we can’t have it all year round. We have to wait for it to come around again next year. To help ward off the junk food cravings you can also make sure you have lean protein and fiber with meals to slow digestion down in a healthy way and stabilize insulin, increase exercise to reduce stress hormones that increase cravings, and get enough good quality sleep which also reduces production of hormones that contribute to cravings. You can also support your body’s nutritional needs during these times by taking these convenient packets of daily supplements that give you the all the necessary amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements from AFA bluegreen algae, probiotics for healthy digestive support and digestive enzyme.
Don’t spend time beating yourself up when you slip off your healthy eating diet. Life is meant to be enjoyed and sometimes that means eating a little junk food with family or friends. Just don’t make it an everyday habit and use some of these tips to help your body still get what it needs to function at its best.