Digestion occurs in four stages beginning with the mouth, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.
There are two actions that take place when you put food in your mouth. One is to start breaking down food by chewing. While you are chewing saliva further breaks down food because of the enzyme amylase. Not chewing your food enough causes strain on the stomach to break down larger chunks.
The stomach produces about 3 quarts of acid per day. This in combination with enzymes further breaks down the food. It is in the stomach that proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are processed for nutrient absorption. The hydrochloric acid also kills off viruses and bacteria.
The pancreas, which releases enzymes, and the gallbladder, which releases bile salts, assist the small intestine in further breakdown. It is in the small intestine that most of the nutrient absorption takes place. Unfortunately, today's poor diets from over processed foods, pollutants in our agriculture and misinformation, has created a nation susceptible to poor health and disease. Long term poor diet results in the body literally starving for nutrients while we gain unwanted weight, fatigue and immune system difficulties.
The large intestine takes the remaining mass and absorbs water, electrolytes and some left over nutrients. The indigestible mass remains until it can be excreted.
What Can Go Wrong
Most everyone has experienced diarrhea or constipation in their lives and someone who is in relatively good condition will find this to be temporary. Diarrhea is when the muscles in the intestines move the mass along too quickly and there is not enough time for the water to be absorbed in the system. This is why doctors get concerned about dehydration. The opposite is true for constipation where the waste moves along very slowly so the water gets absorbed and the waste hardens making it difficult to excrete.
There are several conditions that cause havoc in the intestines that can cause poor health.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, is where the muscles in the colon are not working properly. This can cause constipation or diarrhea, bloating and cramping, a very uncomfortable condition.
Colitis is a chronic inflammation of the intestines where the top layer of lining of the intestinal wall can be damaged and ulcers occur. This causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and possible bleeding. Ulcerative Colitis can be difficult to diagnose because it is similar to IBS and Crohns disease.
Crohns disease mainly affects the small intestine but can affect any part of the digestive system including the mouth and stomach. This disease causes inflammation even deeper in the intestinal lining.
The stomach and esophagus are not immune to irritation. The esophagus can get inflamed from acid reflux or GERD. The acid from the stomach can move up to the esophagus and damage the lining. The stomach can experience ulcers which can be quite painful.
There are other digestive disorders that can make one's life miserable, but, there is hope for any of these conditions. Lifestyle changes and eating habits can do much to ease or reduce symptoms. The fuel you put in your body has everything to do with how efficiently your body runs. It is a well known fact that if you put bad gas in your car it will run poorly or not at all. The same holds true for a body. If you have spent years abusing your body by giving it bad fuel, it stands to reason that it will not function well. So what do you do?
Start by evaluating what you eat on a daily basis and keep notes. Get educated in health and nutrition. The grocery stores are full of canned and packaged processed foods. Processed foods are truly an enemy to good health. Some nutrition is taken out, preservatives put in to ensure shelf life, great for the shareholders who are happy with their profits but bad for proper health.
Next time you go to a grocery store try this little exercise. Avoid all the center aisles for food items. This means no canned or processed foods, only non food items such as toothpaste, paper towels etc. Do go to the meat dept. for all natural meats, (but do keep portions way down, you really don't need much more than 3 oz). Then go to the produce section for fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, preferably organic. This means actual cooking which may not be as convenient as processed foods, but by far much healthier. If you don't have time to cook daily, take a Sunday afternoon and prepare meals to place in the freezer.
Drink a lot of water! Just drink up all day long. You would be amazed at what drinking water can do for your health. (Note, the more dehydrated you are, the more pain you feel) Water is so important in flushing your system of toxins and waste. Your toilet will not flush without water and this is true for your body as well. Most Americans are semi dehydrated and don't know it. You can get some of your liquids from fruits and vegetables, teas etc., but not drinking water through out the day will make it tough on your entire body. Some times when you feel a bit hungry you may actually be thirsty. Drink a glass of water first. If your craving for food goes away then you know it was thirst.
Your body relies on the digestive system for your very survival. A malfunctioning system impairs water and nutrient absorption. It can go like this for a long time but at your own peril. *** Long term neglect can result in conditions such as GERD, IBS which includes chronic constipation, diarrhea, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitisor Celiac disease or even cancer.*** While you may enjoy the cookies, pies, cakes and fatty foods that you know are not good for you, you will pay later! No matter the state your body is currently in with regards to the digestive system, you can do something about it. So DO something about it! You'll live longer, lose weight and feel so much better.
Willie Jones has sinced written about articles on various topics from . Willie is a freelance writer and researcher whose own health problems prompted her to take responsibility for gaining as much information on health as possible and to share that knowledge with others. She is co-owner of. Willie Jones's top article . Bookmark Willie Jones to your Favourites.
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