Top To Bottom: How Your Digestion Works

When discussing health challenges people are quick to overlook digestion as a root cause of the problem.

We can eat the most nutrient dense diet in the world, but if we can’t properly break down and use the nutrients from foods we lack the fundamental raw materials the body requires to make hormones, recover, repair and function properly. 

 A future blog is going to be devoted to how dysfunction can take place at each stage of digestion, and how to address the underlying problem, not just the symptom of the problem.

It's important to understand how things work before trying to understand the reason for dysfunction

 

Where It All Begins: The Brain

Take it from Yoda, not relaxing with your food is recipe for digestive problems. We have our parasympathetic and sympathetic states.

They are better known as the rest and digest and fight or flight states. To be able to properly digest foods we need to allow our bodies the relax and enter the parasympathetic state and relax. 

By cooking, smelling, touching and seeing our food, the body is allowed to prepare for food. The salivary glands secrete saliva and the stomach starts to release the proper gastric juice in anticipation of food. 

 

The Physical Gatekeeper: The Mouth


The mouth is where chemical and mechanical breakdown of the foods begin with our chewing. Our mother was right when she told us to chew our food well. 

Saliva contains an enzyme named amylase which begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth. The more we chew our foods and break them down, the less our stomach has to pick up the slack left by our lazy jaw habits. Chew your solids until they are liquids is the goal. 

 

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Big Poppa: The Stomach

When food is swallowed it travels down the esophagus and enters into one of the most important organs of the digestive system, the stomach.

Because we did such a great job chewing our food the stomach knew food was on the way and had ample time to release highly acidic gastric juices including hydrochloric acid (HCL) and pepsinogen/pepsin.

The acidity of the stomach is important for killing bacteria and parasites, disinfecting the stomach, and activating pepsin for the breakdown of proteins.

When the food arrives in the stomach it is coated in HCL further mechanically and chemically broken down and mixed with gastric juices until it becomes an acidic paste.

This very acidic paste named chyme is then released into the upper part of the small intestine. 


Small Intestine: An Organ and Gland

The small intestine secretes two important hormones into the bloodstream: Secretin and Cholecystokinin (CCK).  

Secretin triggers  the pancreas to release bicarbonate and pancreatic juices. Bicarbonate reduces the acidity of the chyme so it doesn’t burn the small intestine.

CCK signals the gallbladder to release bile, which is necessary to break down and absorb fats.

 Enzymes are released that breakdown of protein,fats and carbs once the chyme is less acidic. Carbohydrates become glucose molecules, proteins becomes amino acids and peptides and fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules.

By the time that the chyme leaves the small intestine it is almost completely digested, but not yet absorbed.

Millions of small finger like projections named villi stick up from the small intestine with the important job of absorbing the nutrient molecules into the bloodstream.

The nutrient molecules are distributed throughout the body where needed in the bloodstream. The leftover chyme consisting of indigestible fibers, bile and water get passed into large intestine (colon).

The Great Recycler: The Large Intestine

In the large intestine water is reabsorbed and recycled, and any lost nutrients that are still available are converted to fuel to nourish the colon cells. The digestive journey comes to an end with the forming and expulsion of the feces. 

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.


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