Chronic Digestion Issues and What You Can Do

by Khyati Kapur

Chronic Digestion Issues and What You Can Do

A steady job, a place to live, food to eat, and a family to take care of can make life feel “relatively normal.” But when chronic illness strikes or a family members suffers from one, we realize that life is fragile, and it becomes ever more important to take care of our health. Sometimes you may wonder how and why a disease could affect somebody as young as 30, 20, or even in adolescence. Sadly, in the U.S and other developed countries, a trend of higher chronic disease prevalence is on the rise [1]. Well known risk factors of chronic disease such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and high levels of stress (short and long-term) can all stem from a modern, fast-paced lifestyle. 

However, you may not have considered that your chronic illness could have also resulted from these other factors:

    • Excessive antibiotic use at one point in your life, which can ruin the microbial balance in your gut 
    • Excessive sterilization, hand-sanitizer use, and general avoidance of microbes (see hygiene hypothesis
    • Exposure to environmental toxins from man-made structures where pollution is abundant, agrotoxins from pesticides and herbicides in the food supply, and second-hand cigarette smoke
    •  Vitamin D deficiency due to sun avoidance and/or overuse of sunscreen (Vitamin D is crucial for immune system balance)
    • Recurring food poisoning, which could lead to chronic inflammation and onset of chronic digestive disease [2]

Combine poor diet, little to no exercise, high stress, and the above bullet points mentioned, and you have a recipe for a chronic disease disaster. Even with lifestyle changes, overcoming a chronic illness can be extremely difficult and frustrating. 

Why are chronic/autoimmune diseases so difficult to treat?

You may have been suffering for years without a clear answer and permanent treatment solution to your problems, even after numerous visits to doctors and specialists. Our bodies are incredibly complex with immense coordination across all of our organ systems. This means that apart from genetic or developmental issues that could arise from birth, a chronic illness does not just “appear out of nowhere.” It could take many months or years before a sudden onset of symptoms appear. And since our digestive system is the main organ that acts as a bridge to all other organs, delivering nutrients from the foods we eat, any chronic illness could most likely be traced from an impaired digestion.

Just imagine the scenario that for many years, you live with low-grade stress, don’t eat as healthy as you should, and live in a dense urban city. At one point, your digestive system may not end up digesting food as effectively, and a cascade of events occur: poor digestion of food, subsequent poor nutrient absorption, and inflammation in your body from undigested food particles. Acid reflux (or GERD) soon appears as a result of poor digestion, along with symptoms such as constant belching, gas, and abdominal pain. Are any of these symptoms familiar to you? 

Although not conclusively proven, many autoimmune diseases may have their origins in a malfunctioning digestive system. One of the most challenging diseases to treat is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a gastrointestinal illness marked by chronic inflammation and damage to parts of the GI tract. IBD includes Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, and is very difficult to treat since it often involves the following:

    • Nutrient malabsorption and impaired gut function, leading to subsequent nutrient deficiencies 
    • Leaky Gut,” where the integrity of the small intestinal wall is compromised, allowing for undigested food particles, pathogens and toxins to pass into the bloodstream and cause problems in other parts of the body
    • Underlying infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites, which can prevent nutrient absorption, provoke intestinal inflammation, and hijack the immune system [3] 
    • Chronic stress, which can produce constant inflammation and cellular-level damage that are difficult to correct without directly addressing and removing the source of stress; the stress source can often occur prior to or as a result of disease symptoms  
    • Costly standard medical care, where oftentimes a pill is prescribed to mask symptoms when a condition appears untreatable, instead of addressing the root causes

If any of these problems are left without being properly addressed, they could lead to even more symptoms and complications such as the following:

    • Food intolerance to various ingredients such as wheat, gluten, dairy proteins (eg., casein and whey), and FODMAPs (i.e., fructose, lactose and others
    • Joint pain resulting from nutrient deficiencies and a leaky gut
    • GI Cancers such as cancer of the colon, stomach or pancreas

If you have IBD or any other digestive-related problems, then know that specific nutritional intervention has been shown to help in treating IBD [4], and could help you as well under the guidance of health care professionals.

How collagen can be part of your healing plan

Many different foods and diets have been suggested for the healing of chronic illness and inflammation, including collagen. It has been shown that both short and long-term use of hydrolyzed collagen (collagen that is broken down into peptides) can reduce inflammation at a local and systemic level in mouse models [5], as well as provide wound healing and anti-aging benefits for human skin [6]

However, almost no scientific studies have specifically looked at collagen’s ability in directly treating IBD and chronic digestive illness in general. In spite of this, there have been studies that have looked at how individual amino acids can help to regulate gastrointestinal function. Oral supplementation of glutamine, a key amino acid that makes up a large chunk of the digestive system, has been shown to improve symptoms for IBD patients [7]. In rat models, the amino acid glycine was also shown to exhibit protective effects for small intestinal injury [8]. Both of these amino acids, as well as many others, are naturally found in collagen.

People that suffer from chronic digestive problems (especially leaky gut) are often depleted in collagen, since our digestive tract is largely made up of collagen protein and constituent amino acids, and collagen is needed to maintain the integrity of the small intestine. If you’re suffering from IBD, leaky gut, or other digestive problems, hydrolyzed collagen could provide benefits to help strengthen and even restore your digestive function. Given that hydrolyzed collagen is a more digestible and absorbable version compared to plain collagen, taking a hydrolyzed collagen supplement could help you tremendously in improving your digestive issues. Both non-enzymatic and enzymatically hydrolyzed collagen have been shown to increase absorption of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline in young men [9].

Seva Soul’s Collagen Peptides Powder, a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, could help you in your healing journey. Taken as part of a healthy diet, this powder could help improve your skin, immune and digestive system, bone and joint health, and increase your overall intake of protein, which is especially crucial if you’re suffering from protein malabsorption due to IBD or other chronic digestive diseases. Taking 20 grams of this powder daily for a few months should let you see improvements in your symptoms, as long as you are also incorporating a clean, anti-inflammatory diet at the same time. If you have any further questions about when and how to effectively take this supplement to improve your health, please be sure to check out our FAQ, which covers in greater detail the information related to this supplement and collagen in general.

PLEASE NOTE that this article is not in lieu of medical advice from your doctor. All content found on this website including: articles, text, images, audio, videos, or other formats were created for informational purposes only.  This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

[1] Thorpe, Kenneth E., David H. Howard, and Katya Galactionova. "Differences In Disease Prevalence As A Source Of The US-European Health Care Spending Gap: Americans are diagnosed with and treated for several chronic illnesses more often than their European counterparts are." Health Affairs 26.Suppl2 (2007): w678-w686.

[2] Yang, Won Ho, et al. "Recurrent infection progressively disables host protection against intestinal inflammation." Science 358.6370 (2017): eaao5610.

[3] Pierce, Ellen S. "Could Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis cause Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis… and colorectal cancer?." Infectious agents and cancer 13.1 (2018): 1.

[4] Lucendo, Alfredo José, and Livia Cristina De Rezende. "Importance of nutrition in inflammatory bowel disease." World journal of gastroenterology: WJG 15.17 (2009): 2081.

[5] Hartog, Anita, et al. "Collagen hydrolysate inhibits zymosan-induced inflammation." Experimental Biology and Medicine 238.7 (2013): 798-802.

[6] Choi, Franchesca D., et al. "Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications." Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 18.1 (2019): 9-16.

[7] Irvin, Laura, and Roschelle Heuberger. "Enhancing gut function and providing symptom relief in IBD with glutamine supplementation: a literature review." Gastrointestinal Nursing13.6 (2015): 26-34.

[8] Petrat, F., et al. "Protection from glycine at low doses in ischemia-reperfusion injury of the rat small intestine." European Surgical Research 46.4 (2011): 180-187.

[9] Skov, K., Oxfeldt, M., Thøgersen, R., Hansen, M., & Bertram, C. (2019). Enzymatic Hydrolysis of a Collagen Hydrolysate Enhances Postprandial Absorption Rate—A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(5), 1064.

Khyati Kapur
Khyati Kapur