Your Digestive System~ It’s your foundation to health or a multitude of uncomfortable problems and even deadly diseases.
Let’s first review what is actually included in your digestive system: mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum and anus. The gallbladder plays a crucial storage unit, while parts of the nervous and circulatory systems play major roles. While we won’t be diving in to all the technical terms, my goal is to give a brief (as brief as possible) explanation of how the digestive system flows.
Why is digestion important? Bottom line – we eat! We drink and eat bread, meat and vegetables… which are not in forms our body can use as fuel or nourishment. Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breaking down of food into smaller components that can be absorbed in to the blood stream (Wikipedia), provide energy and nourish cells.
Digestion begins at the mouth, where we chew and swallow food, then the food begins its journey to provide nourishment for our body. Food then travels through your throat, into the esophagus, through the sphincter (which if broken can cause acid reflux) and in to your stomach – where food is stored while being mixed with digestive juices (to help break down the large pies of food). Did you know you should chew your food 30 to 50 times before swallowing?!
Food will spend time in your stomach according to the kind of food and the muscle action. Carbohydrates spend the least amount of time, then protein and fats take the longest to process. (Always a good idea to include all 3 components in a meal, plus fiber. It will help you stay full longer because it takes longer for your body to digest.) The foods are dissolved by the body using digestive juices produced by the pancreas, liver and intestine. Once the stomach has broken down all the food, the digested nutrients are absorbed through the intestinal walls and transported through the body. Remaining waste products exit the body.
OK – so you may be thinking: “Why is this so important?” Well, if any one of these systems do not produce properly… you are susceptible to disease and any number of uncomfortable hiccups. For example – if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, your body is unable to store the digestive juices important for breaking down fats in the stomach. Or if you have been on antibiotics recently, your intestine may not contain the good bacteria needed. Or you may be unable to drink milk without consequences due to a missing enzyme. Or…. Or…. Or…. you name the problem and it may be connected to your gut.