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Listen to learn more about Supporting the Digestive System or read the information yourself below.
The Digestive System
Each part of the digestive system is important to your health. Understanding how the digestive system works will help you on your wellness journey.
It all begins in the mouth. Teeth are an important part of the digestive system and food rich in calcium like spinach, broccoli and kale are great for the teeth. Chewing up the food increases the saliva which has enzymes which are important to break down food.
- Raw food has the enzymes it needs to break itself down.
- Cooked food needs your enzymes (born with or made from healthy bacteria in the colon) to breakdown food or from enzyme supplements.
What is an enzyme? It is not living, yet it can become inactive or denatured. There are over 20,000 different enzymes found in the human cell. Combining with vitamins and minerals, enzymes form nearly 100,000 various chemicals that enable you to see, hear, think, feel, move and DIGEST food.
You must have enzymes to live.
4 Digestive Enzymes
- Protease– breaks down proteins
- Lipase– breaks down lipids- fats
- Amylase- breaks down carbohydrates-
- Cellulase– a form of amylase breaks down cellulose, or the fiber in vegetables.
The esophagus is the muscular tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach. Food must be chewed up to move smoothly down. Green and Yellow vegetables and fruits high in carotene and Vitamin C and E, have been found to be great for the esophagus.
Peppermint has been found to be great for the digestive system including the esophagus. A great way to use this is to make a Peppermint tea or to take a drop of peppermint vitality in your mouth and swallow.
Two important chemicals in our stomach when mixed together is called chyme and helps with digestion.
- Hydrochloric Acid – sterilizes food and and breaks down proteins, fats and minerals to be absorbed.
- Enzyme: Pepsin- secreted in the stomach to digest proteins.
Cayenne Pepper has been found to support the stomach- Why? It promotes mucus secretions that cover and protect the stomach lining.
Soaked almonds releases nitrogen which sets up proper HCI production.
Note: Sugar in a warm stomach begins to ferment causing excess gas, bloating and indigestion.
The chyme moves from the stomach into the small intestine and triggers the release of hormones to stimulate the liver and gallbladder to release bile and more enzymes.
This is where most of digestion occurs. Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants now move to the cells through the villi, which gives us energy, vitality and the building blocks for bone and tissue growth.
Everything you eat is what feeds your cells. What are you feeding your cells? Sugar, synthetic flavorings, chemical toxins? Or vitamin and mineral rich foods?
The liver is not only the largest organ but also a gland.
How does it work as part of the digestive system? It may be our best defense against the not so good for us food we may choose to eat. When we bring in harmful toxins through our food, drugs, alcohol and the environment the liver begins its detoxification process.
The liver is also the organ that stores and metabolizes fat, including fatty acids, and carbohydrates for us to use as energy.
As mentioned above it also creates bile (approximately 3 cups a day) which is needed to aid in intestinal absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
The gallbladder and liver work very closely together. The liver produces the bile, but it is the gallbladder that stores it and secretes it when needed. Bile is very important in breaking down fats into smaller pieces so that the enzymes can finish the job.
The pancreas like the liver is both an organ and a gland. It’s job as an organ for the digestive system is to secrete enzymes which breakdown carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
What is the appendix and do you really need one? God designed our body and parts for specific functions. Even if we do not understand all the functions that does not mean it is not needed. Doctors at the Duke University Medical Center believe that the appendix may be a safe house to store good bacteria.
Interesting Note: The tonsils, gallbladder and appendix tend to be organs that are removed and also appear to be the first line of defense and storage tanks. We could benefit from much more research in this area to see how protecting and supporting these organs could help us with our health and wellness.
The last stage of digestion happens in the large intestine, also known as, the colon, this is where most of the water absorption occurs and any remaining vitamins or minerals are, also, absorbed at this stage.
Fiber scrubs clean the colon. It is recommended to have 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Soluble fiber is like a sponge and absorbs water. Insoluble fiber adds bulk since it is not broken down and works to keep the colon clean.
Some great ways to include fiber in your diet: flaxseeds, chia seeds, seeds, nuts, fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and lots of vegetables.
A healthy colon is populated with some 100 trillion bacteria, which continually multiply. These bacteria synthesize vitamins like B Vitamins and Vitamin K, killing off harmful bacteria, stimulating the immune system, and producing short-chain fatty acids- which is the energy source for the lining of the colon.
High sugar consumption may cause an overgrowth of certain bacteria and yeast that may cause digestive issues. Getting probiotics into your gut is a good way to promote healthy bacteria. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, miso soup, sauerkraut, kefir, kambucha, pickles, tempeh, kimchi.
A good probiotic will allow these super strains of bacteria to adhere to the colon wall and promote the development of good bacteria colonies.
Good colon foods include: apples, pears, beats, bananas, dried peas, okra, carrots, cabbage, barley, legumes, grapes, berries, brown rice, wheat bran, rice bran, green leafy vegetables, garlic, flax seed, chia seed, psyllium husk, aloe vera juice, green drinks or juice.
Digestion from beginning to end takes between 6-18 hours. Less than six hours is not enough for all of your nutrients to be absorbed and more than 18 hours and the food will begin to putrify. Yuck!
Now that we have traveled down the digestive system are you ready to discover ways to optimize your digestive system? Click here.