Your gastrointestinal tract is basically one long tube. It begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. Food needs to be processed timely and efficiently. Optimal digestion is important to our overall health for 2 reasons:
1. To ensure essential nutrients reach the cells and tissues that require them, and
2. To ensure removal of waste products from the body in a timely manner.
As you can imagine, if either of these two functions isn’t working properly, our health suffers. This is why the digestive system is the first to address when dealing with virtually any health condition.
There are 5 basic steps in the journey of food:
1. Sight and Smell: We’ve all experienced mouth-watering sensations with the smell of our favorite food cooking. These sensations stimulate the flow of saliva to prepare for incoming food.
2. Mouth: Teeth chew the food into what should be a semi-liquid texture to expose more of the food surface to the enzyme activity in the saliva. This is the only step in the digestive journey that we have conscious control over.
3. Stomach: Food travels down from the mouth through the esophagus into the stomach. The stomach produces acids and enzymes to break the food down. Depending on the type of food eaten, the journey through the stomach can be 15 minutes to 5 or 6 hours. Once the food is broken down in the stomach it moves on to the next digestive step.
4. Small Intestine: This is the body’s major digestive organ. The small intestine is over 20 feet long. Food has a 2 to 6 hour trip through this organ. This organ can only process small amounts of food at a time. The chemical digestion of food really begins in the small intestine. About 90% of the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream occurs along the length of the small intestine.
5. Large Intestine (also known as colon or bowel): The large intestine is larger in diameter than the small intestine and is about 5 feet in length. Food’s journey through the colon may take 8 to 12 hours. The colon itself produces no digestive enzymes. Feces contain undigested food residues, mucous, millions of bacteria and just enough water to allow their smooth passage. Dietary fiber, lots of pure water, the proper balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria, and exercise are critical to a healthy functioning colon.
Symptoms of digestive weakness or problems include:
a. Excessive gas, belching, bloating.
b. Digestive upset, indigestion, discomfort.
c. Indigestion/sourness 2-3 hours after eating.
d. Full, heavy, tired feeling after eating.
e. Burning sensation, heartburn.
f. Meat no longer appealing or easily digested.
i. Alternating constipation and diarrhea.
Things you can do to support your digestion:
a. Correct basic eating habits.
b. Chew your food until nearly liquid state.
c. Minimize amount of liquid consumed before, during or directly after a meal, particularly ice cold.
d. Consuming a little apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before a meal may provide support.
e. Digestive enzyme support in the form of a supplement may be necessary.
f. High quality protein is required for the body to manufacture proper stomach acids.
g. Begin healing your gut and supplying high quality, high volume nutrients in an easily digestible form by implementing raw, fresh fruit and/or veggie juices, or broths, or blended smoothies or soups into your diet.
h. Once your system can handle raw, at least 50% of your total diet should be raw foods. These are “live foods”, therefore rich in enzymes.
Tomorrow we will talk about everyone’s favorite topic, poop!
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