Does Cooked Food Hinder Digestion?
Maintaining optimal health and digestion is vital to our overall health and well-being, yet digestive diseases affect nearly 60 to 70 million people in the United States. People suffer from a wide range of digestive issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, the list goes on. What’s going on with everyone’s gut? Is something we are eating to blame?
What is the role of the digestive system, anyway?
The digestive system (GI tract) plays an essential role in how our body functions on a daily basis by processing and digesting food and liquid for nutrition. It is comprised of several organs including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. One important factor aiding in digestion — the gut microbiome — is a complex network of over 1,000 species of unique bacteria and genes. This wonderful abundance of bacteria aids in vitamin production and immune function.
In order for our bodies to grow, meet its demanding energy requirements, and undergo cellular repair, the food we eat needs to be broken down into absorbable nutrients. These nutrients are transported by the body’s blood system. Nutrients required for optimal health include carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins.
The digestive system produces digestive enzymes which aid in food breakdown and nutrient extraction. Enzymes are a vital part of the body’s ability to absorb amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars and nucleic acids. The organs producing these digestive enzymes include the salivary and stomach lining, pancreas, liver and small intestine.
What does this have to do with whether we eat a cooked or raw diet? How does this affect digestion and overall health?
An article written by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D. on natural health website Mercola.com, explains that “The higher the temperature that food is cooked, the longer it stays in the gut, and the more difficult it becomes for our digestive mechanisms to digest it. This makes it more difficult for the food to absorb and function at a cellular level, where it needs to work. When the food cannot function in the cells, the cells can become deficient and/or toxic, which leads to deficiency and toxicity of the whole body, making the body less able to function optimally.” Without proper digestion of ingested foods, the gut becomes a toxic wasteland, leading to fermentation, putrefaction and rancidity of static nutrients and waste.
If waste is just that, waste, what’s the big deal?
These toxins lying around in your intestines can irritate the lining of the GI tract, leading to a host of physical upsets, including alteration in the normal gut microbiome. This could lead to an inflammatory response in the gut, food allergies, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, headaches, schizophrenia, acne, skin rashes and immune dysfunction.
Studies dating as far back as 1930, report a negative alteration in the amount of white blood cells observed in the blood, following the consumption of foods cooked at high temperatures. Dr. Paul Kouchakoff of the Institute of Clinical Chemistry in Lausanne, Switzerland noted that people who consumed unaltered, raw foods that had been heated at low temperatures did not cause the elevation in white blood cells that eating processed, excessively heated, refined, homogenized, pasteurized or preserved foods did. Kouchakoff further noted that each raw food has a maximal temperature at which it can be cooked, before it is altered, causing the physical reaction in the blood. However, eating the same amount of the same type of food, both raw and cooked versions, will counteract the negative physical effects of over-cooking.
When we consume foods that are cooked past their maximal temperatures, they begin to lose vital nutrients. Dr. Joseph Mercola notes in an article that the book, Breakthrough in CellDefense, written by Dr. Gustavo Bounous and Dr. Allan C. Somersall, reports a destabilization of raw foods in temperatures as low as 72 degrees.
Additionally, scientist and nutritionist, Dr. Robert O. Young, says that the body functions optimally in an alkaline environment. This environment is supported with raw foods, specifically greens. When the body becomes acidic, it doesn’t function optimally, and is at risk for disease and illness.
What is the best way to eat food?
The answer is simple. Try to consume foods as close to their natural state, as possible. This does not mean that you have to eat an exclusively raw, vegan diet. There are some people who eat a combination of raw and lightly cooked foods, and those who consume raw animal products, including raw milk.
Here’s the million-dollar question: What can you eat on a raw-food diet?
Those who choose to incorporate raw foods into their diet, or take the plunge into a total raw-diet overhaul, should speak with a qualified nutritionist for guidance on what their unique needs are, but some examples include:
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Sea vegetables
- Fermented foods
- Sprouted grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Eggs, some meats and raw dairy products (speak with a professional for guidance on safety)
In a “raw nut shell” (pun intended), there are many researchbased and antidotal benefits to consuming raw foods.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States. (November 2014) Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/digestivediseases-statistics-for-the-united-states.aspx on January 6, 2017
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Your Digestive System and How It Works. (September 2013) Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/yourdigestive-system/Pages/anatomy.aspx on January 6, 2017
- Whiteman, H. (2015, March 11). “The gut microbiome: How does it affect our health?.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290747.php on January 6, 2017
- Kouchakoff, Paul (Suisse), M.D The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man. Proceedings: First International Congress of Microbiology, Paris 1930. Retrieved from http://www.igienenaturale.it/Post-Prandial%20 Leucocytosis.pdf on January 6, 2017
- Balance PH Diet. Retrieved from http://www.balance-ph-diet.com/ph_balance.html on January 6, 2017
- Appleton, N. The Dangers of Over-Cooking Your Food (May 29, 2002) Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/ sites/articles/archive/2002/05/29/over-cooking.aspx on January 6, 2017
- Mercola, J. You’ve Heard About Raw-Food Diets and Cooked-Food Diets, Now Find Out Which is Right (May 01, 2004) Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/05/01/raw-food-diets-part-two.aspx on January 6, 2017
About Dr. Christine, The Digestion Doc
Dr. Christine Kaczmar is the Founder & CEO of Omega Digestion. She specializes in plant-based enzyme nutrition and powerful healing botanicals. Her practice is located in Shelby Township, Michigan. Over the past 10 years, Dr. Christine has helped thousands of patients find their way back to health from some of the “crappiest” health conditions like: Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Constipation, etc. “Freedom is my most sacred value, and I am on a mission to help as many people as possible regain theirs.” To schedule a consultation with Dr. Christine, call 586-685-2222.