Digestion - Yangseed

Digestion: How it Works and How it Could Work Better

The old adage of “you are what you eat” is actually only partially true. Yes, the quality of nutrition and calories that you consume are important factors of overall health. But how much of that nutrition your body is able to assimilate and incorporate into its muscles, neurons, and tissues is just as vital. And all that depends on your digestive system.The old adage of “you are what you eat” is actually only partially true. Yes, the quality of nutrition and calories that you consume are important factors of overall health. But how much of that nutrition your body is able to assimilate and incorporate into its muscles, neurons, and tissues is just as vital. And all that depends on your digestive system.

The Importance of Digestion

The two main roles of the digestive system are to help the body absorb essential nutrients and to remove toxins.

When you eat, the food consumed is carried through the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine via the gastrointestinal tract. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are other vital components of the digestive system, responsible for breaking down food and liquids and assimilating the subsequent fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into nutrients. These nutrients can then be absorbed and used as energy, allowing the body to build and repair cells as needed.

Everything else (the useless, nutrition-less, vitamin-less remnants of digested food and drink) are then excreted from the body, including harmful substances. The liver and colon play a critical role in clearing out toxic substances. If the colon is unhealthy, absorption of essential minerals is disrupted and undigested food, due to problems with digestion, will linger in the colon and rot.

Normal digestion can be disrupted by a host of factors: pathogens and bacterial infections, physical injury, or the interaction with harmful toxins, either via consumption or through the external environmental. But an unhealthy diet can also negatively affect digestion and make people more susceptible to bloating, abdominal pain, and nutrient deficiency. Considering 70% of the immune system resides in your gut lining, any abnormalities in the gut could seriously impact your overall health.

These physiological disturbances may also have emotional/mental consequences. There is a direct communication link between the cognitive centers of the brain and peripheral intestinal functions, commonly referred to as the gut-brain axis. This means that what happens in your gut is often reflected in your mood, behavior, and even pain perception.

Ways to Support a Healthy Digestive System

  1. Be grateful - Take a moment before you eat to be grateful for the food you have and the company with whom you are sharing it. I know this may sound a bit overly sentimental, but enjoying the sight and smell of food you’re about to eat has practical benefits. This is considered the cephalic phase of digestion, where the stomach secretes digestive enzymes in response to the mere smell, sight, and thought of food, thereby, allowing your system to prepare.
  2. Eat well – Eating organic whole foods (like grains, fruits, veggies) is a great way of getting nutrients and enzymes that will aid overall digestion. Avoid processed food, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, chemical additives, and preservatives, which are difficult for the body to digest. Grass-fed beef and wild caught fish are perfectly fine. The main concept here is to ensure that you’re consuming more nutrients and less toxins.
  3. Eat fermented foods – Ferments like krauts, kimchi, yogurt, ginger, and polyphenols like blueberries, acai, and green tea feed the large intestine’s microbiome. Fun fact: your body contains more bacterial cells than human cells. Don’t worry, these are good bacteria, residing in your stomach and aiding the digestive system in breaking down food.
  4. Avoid environmental toxins – Too much exposure to external plastic, pollution, smoke, and pesticides stress your internal environment, thereby, weakening your immune system and making it more susceptible to disease.
  5. Have plenty of water and fiber – You may have to run to the bathroom more often, but a healthy operating digestive system is worth it. Some studies recommend 6 to 8 cups of water a day while others prescribe 11 to 15 cups. The main thing is to be drinking water regularly and often. Fiber could be gained from eating foods like lentils, whole grains, brown rice, avocado, broccoli, and berries. Regular healthy bowel movements support a healthy colon which in turn eliminates toxins from the body.
  6. Chew – Perhaps a bit obvious, but excessive chewing ensures the proper breakdown of food, making it easier for the stomach to handle. Taking small bites and eating slowly can also help regulate appetite. It takes a while for the “I’m full” signal to reach your brain from your stomach. Pausing between mouthfuls allows time for that message to reach your brain.
  7. Take pre/probiotics – If you suffer from an intestinal disorder (IBS being one of the most common conditions), you may want to consult a physician about taking probiotics. They can be an effective and safe option for improving digestive function and overall gut health.

All of these will feed, nurture, and protect the lining of the stomach, which is vital to protection against foreign bacteria. Remember that a healthy digestive system means a healthy immune system, healthy brain function, and positive mood.

 

Summary:

The old adage of “you are what you eat” is actually only partially true. Yes, the quality of nutrition and calories that you consume are important factors of overall health. But how much of that nutrition your body is able to assimilate and incorporate into its muscles, neurons, and tissues is just as vital. And all that depends on your digestive system.

The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food and liquids and assimilating the subsequent fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into nutrients. These nutrients can then be absorbed and used as energy, allowing the body to build and repair cells as needed. Everything else (the useless, nutrition-less, vitamin-less remnants of digested food and drink) are then excreted from the body, including harmful substances.

Considering 70% of the immune system resides in your gut lining, any abnormalities in the gut could seriously impact your overall health. These physiological disturbances may also have emotional/mental consequences. There is a direct communication link between the cognitive centers of the brain and peripheral intestinal functions, commonly referred to as the gut-brain axis. This means that what happens in your gut is often reflected in your mood, behavior, and even pain perception.

Maintaining a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water help feed, nurture, and protect the lining of the stomach, which is vital to protection against foreign bacteria. Remember that a healthy digestive system means a healthy immune system, healthy brain function, and positive mood.

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