Over the next months, I’ll be taking a look at the different body systems and how food can affect them. To start with we will take a look at the digestive system and I’ll be breaking that up into smaller chunks as well to make it (for lack of a better word) more digestible 🙂
Food is not only how we get our energy but also how our entire body is constructed. The foods we eat are broken down into nutrients that are assimilated and used as building blocks for every part of our body.
Digestion actually starts before you place anything inside your mouth. Your sense of smell or you thinking about food (also hunger) can trigger your mouth to water or salivate.
When you take a bite of food, your teeth tear and break down food (mechanical digestion) and the more you chew your food, amylase (a digestive enzyme that is found in saliva) works to start the breakdown of carbohydrates before they even leave the mouth. The benefit to eating slowly is that you give your body ample time for amylase to start its work on the breakdown of these starches and sugars. Breaking down your food into smaller chunks also helps your stomach to process the food better.
Once you swallow your food, it travels down the esophagus and into the stomach. The esophageal sphincter allows food to enter the stomach but then closes to keep food or fluid from flowing back up the esophagus.
The stomach stores and holds the food you eat and churns it until it is sufficiently broken down for further digestion. In the stomach, food is acted up both enzymes and acids.
Parietal cells are the cells in the lining of the stomach that excrete HCL (hydrochloric acid) which in turn triggers the release of pepsin for protein digestion, and intrinsic factor (which is needed for your body to absorb Vitamin B12 further down the digestive tract). It plays a role in triggering intestinal hormones, and is essential for absorption of minerals in the body (calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron) The acid (HCL) is also helpful in killing bacteria and containing an overgrowth of bacteria that may have been swallowed with food – which can also produce uncomfortable gas.
Proteins are broken down into amino acids in the stomach and are prepared to be further broken down with the help of pancreatic digestive enzymes after the food (chyme) leaves the stomach. More on the next steps in digestion next month.
In the meantime:
Some easy ways to support your digestion during the start of the digestive process:
1) Chew your food slowly and completely – allow your saliva to do its job.
2) Take time to taste the different flavors of the food and the effort it took to create the meal. Being relaxed during meal times allow all digestive juices to flow properly. Stress can lead to a decrease in HCL production.
3) If you find that you are gassy, bloated or have a heavy feeling after eating a meal try drinking a glass of water with 1-2 teaspoons of unfiltered apple cider vinegar after your first bites of food. (*Note: if you have been diagnosed with gastritis, esophagitis, or duodenitis taking ACV/water will exasperate the condition and is not recommended)
Next month: The liver, gallbladder and pancreas and their role in digestion.
[Please read: The Information provided for you in articles written by Nourish-Alō is for informational purposes only and not to be considered as medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any medical condition. Statements should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician. It is recommended to consult with your physician before implementing any dietary or lifestyle changes and conditions of this disclaimer.]
*Image Credit www.niddk.nih.gov
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