To start, I know this picture doesn’t have anything at all to do with digestion in the body but this was the first picture that popped up when I typed “Digestion” into the search bar so I’m going with it.
It is necessary for food to be broken down into nutrients. The body uses those nutrients for energy and growth and cell repair and it is not a simple process so as usual, we can’t just start with an easy answer to this question. The body is complicated as I keep telling you. Amazing, but complicated.
Let’s walk through the process of how food travels through our body and what happens to it along the way.
Hopefully, you are chewing your food well.
Chewing breaks down the food into pieces that are more easily digested. We want the body to make sure the pieces have enough time to digest before moving on to bigger and better things so chewing well is really important. Saliva also mixes with your food inside your mouth, beginning the digestive process. Saliva helps break your food down further.
When you have had enough chewing, you swallow moving the food into your throat which then moves it into the esophagus. Don’t breathe in your you will end up with food in a place that can make breathing difficult. Then you gag and look silly in the restaurant. Ya, don’t do that.
The esophagus is kind of amazing. It uses contractions to push the food down into a high pressure zone and through a valve actually called the lower esophageal sphincter. I just had to put that in here. It is such a silly word and I bet the 7 or 8 year old in you just snickered as you read that. Don’t lie to me, you did.
Once the food is in the stomach, it is a little like a very muscular blender.
It also uses enzymes that also work to break down the food even more. The stomach is so good that it takes the food from a solid state to a liquid/paste state. I told you the body is amazing.
From the stomach, this liquid/paste moves into the small intestine. It is small, smaller than the large intestine but still about 20 ft long. I know, gross. Wanted to know what your pancreas and your gallbladder are doing for you. Well, your pancreas makes more enzymes to help with further breakdown and the bile is provided by your liver and store in the gallbladder to supply additional help. The bile helps in the digestion of fats.
And again, contractions are at work, moving the food through while it mixes with the enzymes and bile. This all happens in the duodenum part of the small intestine. Once the now very broken down mixture of food makes it into the jejunum and ileum inside the small intestine, nutrient absorption begins to happen.
Anything that isn’t needed is then passed through to the large intestine or colon to be eliminated.
Amazing right? I told you. I mean, when you think about it, who designed the way we work? I’m an engineer and I’m telling you, designing all the parts necessary for cars to work the way they do is hard but that isn’t anything compared to the thing we live in all day, every day.
How does this go wrong?
I know, you are thinking omg is she going to talk about leaky gut again. And I have at nauseum so I won’t today. If you are relatively new to my blog, and you want to know more, you can read about it here. Leaky gut is definitely a result of digestion going wrong.
What else can happen? Stuff like the following
- SIBO – an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (which is relatively bacteria free or should be)
- Imbalance of gut microbes, meaning the balance between the good and the bad stuff
- Chronic gut infections like parasites, bacteria, or fungus. Yuk, and it is more common than you think. And some of them are nasty little buggers. No pun intended. Ok, well, maybe it was.
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Low stomach acid and/or digestive enzymes
What can be the result of these?
- IBS – irritable bowel syndrome
- GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
And since this month is about weight loss, we are going to circle back to the effect of this on your ability to lose weight. When your digestion is struggling like this, with any of these, it is going to be very difficult to lose weight. When your body is compensating, and having difficulty just digesting foods, it is going to be very hard to digest fat you are trying to burn off. Especially the visceral (belly) fat as it is very, very toxic. Your digestive system just won’t be able to handle that toxic overload. Your body will hang onto it all until you improve the health of your digestive system.
The moral to the story is “To Lose Weight, You Have to Get Healthy”.
It was a short but informative story today. And you might think I’m leaving you without the solution for getting healthy. I would never do that. For those of you that are diligent followers and readers, you know what I am going to say next. Paleo. Yup. Paleo. And again, if you are new, you can find so much more about Paleo and Why Paleo, here and here.
Hope you have a great rest of your week. Next week we are going to talk about contributors to weight gain. Riveting stuff!!!