How Does Digestion Work?

So often we gulp our food down and hope our system will handle it. But getting the nutrition out of our food is a little more complicated than that.  Absorbing all of the carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients we need from food is a background process that goes on automatically. When the digestive system is out of balance, we can become less efficient at breaking down food and absorbing what we need from it. It also causes a lot of common issues like nausea, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Steph from Grateful Grazer describes it well.

The digestive process begins as soon as we see, smell, or even think about food.  We salivate to get ready for swallowing and begin to break down a small amount of carbohydrates as soon as food enters our mouths.

Once we swallow, food travels through the esophagus and into the stomach.  In the stomach, food is combined with acid and enzymes that break down our food a little bit more.

Once our food reaches the first 100 centimeters of the small intestine, there’s instantly a ton of activity.  Just the presence of food in this area leads to the secretion of powerful digestive enzymes (from the pancreas) and bile (from the liver) that helps us break down food and absorb nutrients.  As our food travels through the small intestine, almost all of the macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein), vitamins, minerals, and fluids are absorbed.

Our colons help absorb what’s left of the fluids and nutrients before we form stool to get rid of what we don’t need.  Fiber, as well as some sugars and amino acids, are fermented in the colon with the help of our gut bacteria.  Fermentation can cause gas but it also leads to the production of beneficial short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that help keep our digestive tracts running smoothly.

Keeping enough dietary fiber in your diet is critical to good digestive health. Eating your fresh fruits and veggies supplies most of it. The Grateful Grazer provides more tips of keeping your digestion in great shape.

Inspiration: TThe Grateful Grazer

Image thanks to The Daily Good

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