Friday, November 23, 2012

What Does Your Gut Tell You?

Digestion is one of the most interesting topics I found as a nutritional student and in my opinion is one of the most important functions of our amazingly complex body. 
We spend a lot of time thinking about what we are eating, where it is coming from but how many of us think about the next step? What happens when it goes in our mouth and we start to chew?

First question, how many of us actually properly chew our food? In order to properly break down your food you must chew approximately 20-50 times. Taking the time to properly initiate the digestive process is key to how the rest of the processes, by other organs, may proceed. It can also affect how you feel as improper chewing leads to improper digestion, presented by symptoms such as gas and bloating. 

It is typical to rush when we are eating, as that is the way of the world right now. We are often on autopilot or we may be multi-tasking. The first step is to take a 15-20 minute break and pay attention to what you are eating such as the taste, the smell, and the texture. Simply, enjoy your food!

The breakdown or mechanical digestion of food begins before it even leaves the mouth. If, for example, a complex carbohydrate is chewed a lot you may taste a sweetness to it. Physical digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth, and for protein and fats it begins in the stomach. Chemical digestion also begins in the stomach for proteins only. Carbohydrates and fats are not chemically broken down until the small intestines. 

The small intestine is the body’s major digestive organ and it is where chemical digestion of all food happens.  It is also the body’s major absorption area. It is a muscular tube extending from the pyloric sphincter to the ileocecal valve and is actually the longest section of the intestinal tract, but “small” due to its diameter.

Next our food enters the large intestine where the major function is drying out any remaining indigestible food residue. It absorbs water to produce solid feces.

If all of these are functioning top notch then your system will be running smoothly.  However, if we take in to account what we are eating, drinking and ingesting through the environment you can imagine how the organs have to work hard to keep the good stuff (nutrients) in and the bad stuff (toxins) out.  

What happens if food is not properly chewed or our system is overloaded? A commone  problem may arise is when we do not have adequate Hcl levels to activate pepsin to digest proteins. When undigested food particles leave the stomach and enter the next the small intestines, it can place stress on the accessory digestive organs such as the pancreas, liver and gallbladder.  The intestines may be irritated. The large undigested particles now have a chance of seeping in to the body via increased intestinal permeability. This can lead to the body creating defences against harmless foods, thinking they are an invader in the body. 

Read more about leaky gut symptoms and ways to improve your digestion here!

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