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BACK TO THE BASICS: DIGESTION FOR DUMMIES 1024 1024 Delphine Remy | Holistic Nutrition & Eating Psychology Coach

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

With or without realizing it, what we ingest is vital to our digestion system and overall well being. Without a healthy gut, or at the very least functional, our bodies would not be able to absorb vitamins and minerals properly or regulate hormones. Our body would be prone to digestive issues, immune deficiencies, chronic conditions and mental health could suffer.

It’s easy to overlook digestive and gut health — because let’s face it, when was the last time someone sat you down and explained how it really works?… and a lack of knowledge and education on the subject is exactly why the majority of the population lacks adequate beneficial (good) bacterias in the stomach. Our lifestyles, poor diets and excessive stress take a huge toll on our bodies and lead to unbalanced gut flora and increase our susceptibility to infections and illnesses. If you didn’t understand many of the words I just used, these blogs are for you. In the upcoming weeks you can expect to find :

+ Back to the Basics : Digestion for Dummies! (The post you’re reading now)
+ How to Improve Digestion One Bite at a Time

My goal is to educate and set you up for success. The more we understand the body and how it works in relation to food and how our lifestyles play a direct role, the higher the success rate of establishing a healthy relationship with not only food, but our bodies.

The power of enzymes
Good health begins with proper digestion and good digestion is heavily reliant on complex protein molecules called enzymes. Enzymes are essential to the process of breaking up large foods molecules and nutrients (such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and fiber) into smaller ones so they can be absorbed into the cells of the body.

Unfortunately in today’s fast paced lifestyle and the result of illness, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivities, stress and a lack of restful sleep diminishes our supply of enzymes. These stressors create a lot of free-radicals in the body which lowers the body’s natural ability to produce enzymes for optimal function. Essentially enzymes are the body’s labor force responsible for carrying out the function of every organ system in our body, including the digestive system, immune system and defense system.

Why it’s important and how it all works
The body is totally dependent on these internally made digestive enzymes. The more lacking we are, the more we stress the body’s system(s) and put organ function as risk. The body’s top priority is making sure it has enough nutrients to run its systems properly. This starts with digesting food and converting those nutrients into energy. And this starts with the saliva.

When the body becomes aware of food, (by either sight or smell) the brain begins to signal the glands in your mouth to produce saliva. The saliva produced in your mouth contains an enzyme called amylase which breaks down starch into simpler sugars to be further broken down in the small intestine. Saliva production intensifies the more you chew, beginning the absorption process of nutrients from the food ingested.
Quick tip — the more you chew, the more nutrients you absorb. It cannot be stressed enough that digestion begins in the mouth. Chew your liquids and drink your solids to stimulate the nerves responsible for the digestive process.

Down the hatchet : the esophagus
After the saliva has sufficiently lubricated the food, it slides down the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach which forms an important piece of the gastrointestinal tract and functions as the conduit for food and liquids. It serves to prevent stomach acids from coming up and creating heartburn.

Next : the stomach
Next, the food reaches the stomach where our bodies begin to breakdown our food via a chemical digestion process made up of pepsin and hydrochloric acid, and digestive enzymes called gastric juices. The digestive enzymes go to work on splitting up the proteins and killing any (bad) bacteria. The body produces up to two liters of this acid per day. Those who suffer from reflux diseases actually don’t have enough of that acid. The body is so amazing, it produces mucus to protect our organs from that acid. During this chemical digestion, the mechanical digestion happens too, the process is called peristalsis. The muscles contract and release and act as a blender to mix enzymes and food.

Final stop : the intestines
The small intestine is about 22 ft long and where all the magic happens. 90% of digestion and absorption of food happen in the small intestine. Its lining is covered in folds of tissue called villi that increase the total surface area for max nutrient absorption. The remaining 10% takes place in the large intestine which ironically is actually only 5 ft long. The large intestine serves to organize the waste arriving in the colon. This process also includes the production of mucus, another type of enzyme, which creates a lubricant for helping the body through a healthy bowel movement.

Journey through the Digestive System

Stay tuned in 2 weeks when I continue this educational how-to on digestion with “How to Improve Digestion One Bite at a Time”. Follow me on Facebook to see future publishing in your feed.


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