This month we take our educational series on body systems functions and protocols to the gut and discuss the digestive system. Be sure to also visit our discussions on the lymphatic system and urinary system to learn more about the body’s detoxification pathways.
Probably the most fascinating and fun fact about the digestive tract is that it is not technically an internal organ but an external tube of epithelial (skin) tissue that runs from the mouth to the anus. Yes, that’s right folks, we are all donuts at the end of the day.
The digestive tract is an interface, connecting our insides with the external environment. It is suited up with all of the mucilage, acid, and enzymes needed to process that external world in a way that keeps us safe and nourished. Throw in some critical processing organs and you’ve got yourself the digestive system. Read on to get the breakdown of how your gut breaks down solid matter into fuel, energy, and waste.
This article outlines our live discussion on the digestive system happening later this month. Be sure to grab your seat for our upcoming webinar Insight into the Digestive System: Function & Therapeutics taking place Wednesday, June 21st at 4pm EST!
Of all the body systems we will visit, the digestive system is the most complex. Ingested matter is broken down in multiple locations with a cocktail of chemical and manual inputs as it moves through the tract:
Digestive System Anatomy & Physiology
Digestive Tract (aka the donut hole)
The process of digestion begins in the mouth where food is broken down mechanically by chewing and mixed with saliva, which contains enzymes that initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates.
In the stomach, food is mixed with stomach acid and digestive enzymes, forming a semi-liquid mixture called chyme. The stomach's muscular contractions help further break down food and facilitate the release of nutrients.
The small intestine is where most of the digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Enzymes from the pancreas and the small intestine break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into smaller molecules, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
Large Intestine & Appendix
The main function of the large intestine is to absorb water and electrolytes from undigested food matter. The appendix is attached to the first part of the large intestine (cecum). Although not directly involved in digestion, it may contribute to the immune system.
The rectum serves as a temporary storage site for feces before elimination. It allows for the removal of water, solidifies the waste, and signals the urge to defecate.
The anus is the final part of the digestive tract where waste material, in the form of feces, is expelled from the body through muscular contractions called defecation.
The liver plays a crucial role in digestion by producing bile, a substance that helps break down fats into smaller droplets, aiding their absorption in the small intestine. It also processes harmful substances and stores essential nutrients.
The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver. When fatty foods are consumed, the gallbladder contracts, releasing bile into the small intestine to aid in the digestion and absorption of fats.
The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, such as amylase, lipase, and proteases, which are released into the small intestine. These enzymes help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and facilitate their digestion and absorption.
Digestion & Elimination
The digestive system is both an eliminatory pathway and filter all thanks to the liver. Our intelligent body designed this organ to intake blood, metabolize and remove toxins such as drugs, alcohol, and metabolic byproducts, and then use this waste filtrate (bile) to further break down our food in the small intestine.
Waste Solubility and Elimination
The liver possesses remarkable mechanisms to handle waste solubility. It utilizes specialized cells called hepatocytes, which are equipped with a wide array of enzymes and transporters. These hepatocytes convert waste products into more soluble forms that can be easily eliminated from the body.
Through a process known as biotransformation, the liver metabolizes fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble compounds, allowing for their excretion via bile or urine. The liver's ability to modulate waste solubility is pivotal in its role as a central organ of detoxification and elimination.
After being produced in the liver, bile is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder, a small organ located beneath the liver. When we consume fatty foods, the gallbladder contracts, releasing bile into the small intestine where it breaks down and emulsifies fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids into smaller droplets for better absorption.
Once its role in digestion is fulfilled, bile continues its path through the intestines. Most bile is reabsorbed in the lower part of the small intestine and recycled back to the liver through a specialized circulation system. This recycling process allows the liver to reuse and optimize bile production, ensuring efficient fat digestion and absorption.
The liver is indirectly linked to the kidneys through the circulatory system. Water-soluble waste products that are filtered out by the hepatocytes in the liver, along with excess water and electrolytes, move onward to the kidneys, first passing through the heart and lungs to be reoxygenated. Once received by the kidneys, these waste products and electrolytes are further filtered, processed and removed from the body.
Dr Morse Formulas for Digestive System Health
GI Renew #0-4
Dr Morse created the GI Renew series to support the quality and frequency of every bowel movement. Optimal bowel movements should occur two to three times per day or approximately 30 minutes after eating. The GI Renew Movers will help to get things going, and you can replace these with GI Daily once you’ve achieved optimal elimination.
- GI Renew Loose (#0) is beneficial for those with loose stool as it contains a synergistic blend of herbs for occasional diarrhea.
- GI Renew Daily (#1) is beneficial for those with normal bowel movements and a proper diet.
- GI Renew Gentle Mover (#2) is beneficial for those that move their bowels once per day and need gentle moving power.
- GI Renew Moderate Mover (#3) is beneficial if bowels are not moving every day or if one occasionally misses a day.
- GI Renew Super Mover (#5) is beneficial if your bowel movements occur every two days or more.*
GI Broom is a powerful herbal laxative and lymphatic puller. It functions to promote the removal of buildup from the intestinal wall using psyllium husk and cascara sagrada.*
Bitter herbs abound in the Pancreas Support supplement. Dr Morse included bayberry, blessed thistle, blue vervain and gentian to ignite digestive fire and support balanced blood sugar, while aromatic thyme and cardamom relax smooth muscle throughout the GI tract. Dandelion and burdock offer a nutrient complex that specifically targets pancreatic and liver health.*
This formula is our equivalent to an herbal bitters blend, as it is formulated with burdock, dandelion, gentian, yellow dock and Oregon grape roots to stimulate digestion and support healthy elimination. These alterative herbs are also wonderful for supporting the liver to skin eliminatory pathway. Take Liver/Skin 15 minutes before a meal to support healthy digestion.*
Our parasite blends are formulated with herbs traditionally used to support the removal of unwanted organisms from the digestive tract. Parasite General and Micro are useful during a cleanse to clear out the digestive tract, and then Parasite Micro can be revisited again a month after the initial sweep to support the removal of any remnant organisms.*
Dr Morse Supplement Protocols & Pairings
When dealing with digestive issues, finding the right supplements to support your specific needs can be confusing and overwhelming. Here at Dr Morse’s Herbal Health Club, we have an incredible customer support team that can help guide you to the appropriate supplement pairings to support your health journey.
Starting this month, we will begin offering a second webinar specifically focused on how to determine which supplement formulas and pairings are right for you. Join us on Wednesday, June 28th for a 30-minute discussion on Dr Morse Protocols for Digestive System Support.
Primary Digestive Therapeutics
Slippery elm bark
is used by indigenous peoples of North America to support tissue integrity topically and internally. Its demulcent/emollient nature hydrates and supports the function of skin topically and mucous membranes throughout the GI tract. It also supports a healthy inflammatory response and has an affinity with the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. This special herb is in GI Renew #1-5, GI Broom and Stomach Tea.*
has a long history of use as a bitter, appearing in many bitter aperitifs such as Angostura bitters, Campari, Aperol, amari and vermouth. Even at a dilution of 1:50,000 the bitter flavor (amarogentian) is still detectable! The back of the tongue has bitter receptors that, once triggered, send impulses along the entire GI tract. The result is increased production of HCL, bile, mucous, and the stimulation of peristalsis making bitter herbs like gentian wonderful for supporting healthy digestion. Find gentian in GI Renew Daily (#1), Pancreas Support, Liver/Skin & Stomach Tea.*
has been known and used for centuries by indigenous peoples of the Northwest United States into British Columbia for supporting addressing occasional constipation. Cascara sagrada is a powerful laxative herb that works best when taken for a one week period followed by a break. Supplements containing this herb should relieve occasional constipation in just a few days. Allow at least 6 to 12 hours for laxative effect to occur...Consult a health care practitioner for use beyond 7 days. Cascara Sagrada is available in Parasite G, GI Broom, GI Renew Gentle (#2), Moderate (#3) & Super Mover (#5).*
laxative phytochemicals pass directly into the large intestine without breaking down in the stomach or the jejunum. Once in the colon/rectum intestinal flora activates their laxative properties. When determining your unique dose, use the smallest amount required to produce a comfortable soft-formed motion. Cape aloe should not be used for periods of more than 2 weeks without medical supervision (ESCOP). Cape aloe is found in GI Renew Gentle (#2), Moderate (#3) & Super Mover (#5), and Parasite General (G).*
is a food and traditional herbal remedy with 600 species found all over the world. D. villosa is traditionally used to promote the relaxation of smooth muscle throughout the body, with a special affinity for the liver/gallbladder, bowels and uterus. Wild yam is also used in topical and internal supplements to support the balancing of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Wild yam is found in GI Renew Daily (#1), Gentle (#2) & Moderate (#3), Stomach Tea and Adrenal Support.*
is a digestive system tonic that can be taken long-term. It has been shown to act as a hepato-trophorestorative and hepatoprotective, as it supports the restoration and general function of the liver. It supports hepatic tissue regeneration both before and after toxic exposure. Milk thistle is the primary ingredient in our Liver/Skin formula.*
was once known as “Indian barberry” as it is widely used by North American indigenous lineages as a gastrointestinal aid, kidney support, and general tonic for health. The berberine content in Oregon grape root is well researched due to its presence in goldenseal and barberry. Berberine supports the removal of unwanted organisms and toxins from the digestive tract. It is also bitter, making it useful with sluggish digestion. Find it in our Liver/Skin formula.*
is likely a volunteer in your garden. You can dig it up in the fall, dry and roast it, and enjoy it as a coffee substitute. A digestive alterative, yellow dock supports digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. In small doses its tannic astringency supports healthy inflammatory levels in the intestines while also firming up loose stool, in high doses it is a mild laxative. Yellow dock is formulated into our Liver/Skin formula; its high iron content is why Dr Morse added it to our Blood Support formula.*
Black walnut hull/husk
is a well-known traditional remedy for supporting the removal of unwanted organisms from the digestive tract. The Delaware and Iroquois used parts of the leaves and nuts to ward off fleas and mosquitos (Moerman 1998). It is also used topically for the same purpose. It is an astringent laxative that is traditionally added to parasite formulas. It is also used for supporting a healthy inflammatory response and its bitter taste stimulates digestion. Black walnut hull is found in Parasite Micro (M) & General (G) and Heal All.*
is a commonly used natural bulking agent that supports healthy stool weight. Psyllium contains high concentrations of mucilage polysaccharides, meaning that it captures and holds water molecules, transforming water into a gel. This quality makes psyllium hydrating to the tissues of the digestive tract and supports increased stool moisture. Taken with plenty of water it is hydrating, without water it is drying as it will pull moisture from the body. Psyllium is the primary ingredient in GI Renew Loose (#0) and GI Broom.*
Digestion starts in the mouth which is why you want to take the time to chew your food and juices well before swallowing. Dr Morse calls it super chewing, another way to think about it is to “chew your juice and drink your food.” Everything that passes through your mouth should be held in the mouth long enough for the enzymes in saliva to start breaking down carbohydrates.
Your homework (when not fasting) is to try and incorporate all 5 flavors into every meal: bitter, salty/ umami, sweet, sour.
The standard American Diet is bitter deficient, and even some of the healthiest eaters out there are averse to the bitter flavor. We have bitter receptors on the tongue for a reason: they send a signal to the digestive tract that nutrients are on their way. Saliva, hydrochloric acid and bile all start flowing once the bitter receptors are triggered, as are the involuntary peristaltic contractions that macerate and move digested food along the tract.*
Bitter herbs include: gentian, dandelion leaf, artichoke leaf, blue vervain, yellow dock.
Eating vegetables and fruits and drinking mineral rich teas are all great ways to introduce a healthy mineral complex into the blood stream. This healthy mineral complex supports kidney function and hydrates tissues throughout the body.*
Mineral rich options: nettle, horsetail, cleavers, seaweed, sea salt.
The subtle sweet flavor of herbs and foods containing starches (polysaccharides) is hydrating to the tissues and supports strong immunity.*
Sweet herbal/fungal options: marshmallow, licorice, slippery elm, mushroom.
The sour flavor is said to stimulate the liver, wringing it out like a sponge. This means that, like bitter, the digestive tract and organs have a physical response to sour foods. The sour flavor activates the liver, wringing out metabolic waste in the form of bile.
Sour herbs: citrus peels, rose hips, sorrel, hibiscus, fir tips.
Pungent: these are warming herbs that increase internal fire. The support a healthy heart and promote circulation and perspiration, aiding in detoxification.*
Pungent herbs: cayenne, ginger, garlic, oregano, thyme, turmeric, pepper.
Light exercise moves both skeletal and smooth muscle throughout the body, twisting and squeezing the internal organs and promoting the healthy flow of all eliminatory pathways.
- Take a walk around the block
- Dance to your favorite tunes
- Stretch throughout the day
- Stand at your desk at work every hour or so
If you have enjoyed this article and would like to attend our live webinar on this subject, The Digestive System: Function & Therapeutics, be sure to register with the button below.
You’ll see visual aids to help you better understand digestive system anatomy and meet some of Dr Morse’s favorite digestive herbs during our virtual “herb walk.”
*FDA warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.