So often we hear growing up “You are what you Eat” ……… to be a little more accurate “You are what you Digest” and then it’s down to what you absorb and then transport to areas that need the nutrients…….
“Every cell, in every tissue, of every organ, in every system all need to be provided with the correct nutrition from digestion”
Digestion is critical for optimal health and with 70%+ of the immune system located in the digestive tract not only nutritional health but immune health is reliant on the digestive function.
It is one of the foundational health solutions of the body along with Blood sugar regulation and detoxification. Unless these foundations are addressed then all other healings will be compromised.
It is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of ingested food into small enough pieces or molecules that can be readily absorbed in the intestines and transported to cells.
The intrinsic link between the quality of the food we eat, the efficiency of our digestive system and our overall health should never be underestimated.
Top Tip : Take a few deep breaths, be mindful of your food – how it grew, where it grew, how it was prepared. This will have one of the largest impacts on digestive system efficiency.
Digestion is a “North to South” process – it starts in the brain when we think about food, smell, see or even hear food cooking – If you are in a sympathetic nervous state, “fight or flight” or stressed then your digestive system is off. We need to switch our state to the parasympathetic state “rest and digest” or relaxed so that we can maximise our digestion.
Top Tip : Drinking Cola and other fizzy drinks switch the digestive system off – so don’t drink them with food (don’t drink them at all ideally!)
The brain signals the mouth to produce saliva and both to moisten the food and to release enzymes to start carbohydrate breakdown
Chewing mechanically breaks the food down
Top Tip : The best advice is to put your knife and fork down and chew 20-25 times per mouthful. If you need to drink whilst eating you are not chewing enough!
This mixed food, called bolus, moves down your oesophagus into the stomach. The oesophageal sphincter lets the food into the stomach. The stomach churns and massages the bolus, breaking it down further releasing gastric juice which is a combination of mucous, pepsin enzymes and Hydrochloric acid. This starts the process of protein breakdown.
The acid bathes the bolus and acts as a very important first line of defence against viruses, bacteria, parasites etc. preventing them from entering the intestines and or your bloodstream to make you ill.
Top Tip : One of the most common reasons for acid reflux is the stomach not producing enough acid not the commonly marketed “anti-acid” theory being too much……….. One solution maybe to drink 0.5 – 1 tbsp. of raw organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water 30 mins before a meal, alternatively HCl + pepsin supplements are available.
When your stomach releases enough acid, the food becomes a highly acidic substance called chyme. Once your stomach reaches the required acid expression, somewhere between 1.5 – 3.0 ( can be as low as 0.8) the chyme, which is now in a liquid acid form, will move through the pyloric valve at the bottom of the stomach.
Here it enters the duodenum which is the beginning of the small intestine. This valve won’t open until your stomach is acid enough and if you do not have enough hydrochloric acid, it will be forced to open prematurely which will bring pain and discomfort to your digestive tract.
Top Tip : This is the key point at which calcium is absorbed prior to the chyme being neutralised, so it is critical for calcium availability that sufficient stomach acid is produced. If you have issues with calcium ensure you produce sufficient stomach acid.
Once in the duodenum, the chyme is alkalinised with bicarbonate from the pancreas which also releases enzymes to further breakdown protein and carbohydrates. The bile that your liver produced and stored in your gall bladder is emulsifying the fats, so that the food is broken down into small enough substances.
TOP TIP : Vegetable and fruit fibre are great food sources “prebiotics” for the good bacteria in the gut. Excess processed sugars feed the wrong bacteria and can lead to dysfunction – bloating, gas etc.
The food then moves into the jejunum and the ileum where what started out as the food you ate, will be absorbed into your bloodstream. Whatever is not absorbed will move through the ileocecal valve and into the large intestine.
Once in the large intestine, we recycle bile, saliva and other substances in that first portion of the large intestine along with the good bacteria producing key B vitamins, then we start to form waste across our transverse colon, down our descending colon and into the sigmoid colon.
From here you will eventually move the stools out of the sigmoid colon and into your toilet bowl.
There you have it Digestion – the “North to South Process”
TOP TIP: Make sure your digestion is functioning properly as it is critical to you achieving optimal health.