Have you ever wondered how your digestive system works and what is happening to that meal before it reaches the toilet?
The digestive system is made up of a complex set of organs, starting at the mouth and ending at the anus. For proper digestion and absorption of nutrients to occur, your digestive system needs to be fuctioning at its best. Lets take a look at the journey your food goes through in the digestive system.
The mouth and teeth are an essential beginning to the digestive process. Chewing your food not only helps to break food down into pieces which can be swallowed and more easily digested, but the act of chewing also lets your stomach and pancreas know to get ready for action and produce the stomach acid and enzymes required to break your food down.
Your saliva also has a role, containing digestive enzymes which begins to break down carbohydrates, so make sure you chew your food well!
Once swallowed your food will make its way down your oesophagus and into the stomach. The oespohagus pumps food into the stomach, and has a sphincter at the bottom to help keep you food in the stomach. If this sphincter is not tight enough it can cause reflux or heartburn.
Once your food reaches the stomach it begins to get broken down by stomach acids into smaller particles as the stomach contracts. This is the main site for breaking down protein, so if your stomach acid is too low you can get smelly gas from the proteins fermenting in your bowel.
Other signs that you may not have enough stomach acid are reflux (caused by the stomach having to pump harder), burping, low appetite and bad breath.
The pancreas is located at the start of the small intestine (duodenum), and has the job of producing enzymes to break down carbohydrates, protein and fat. When you eat, the body signals the pancreas to produce enymes. If you have low pancreatic enzyme function you may get belching, burping, bloating, indigestion and constipation.
The Liver and Gallbladder
The liver is essential for breaking down the fat that you eat. Your liver produces bile, which is then concentrated in your gallbladder for release into the small intestines. Signs that your liver may not be functioning well include nausea, intolerance to fatty foods, diarrhoea and bloating.
The Small Intestine
The small intestine has the big job of completing digestion and absorbing you food, so it’s no wonder that they are around 3m long! The walls of the small intestine are made up lots of cells with different functions, from carrying vitamins and minerals across the intestinal wall to absorbing glucose and fats so that your body can make energy.
The small intestine also contains billions of bacteria that work as part of your immune system and keep the intestine nice and healthy. An imbalance in these bacteria is called dysbiosis, which means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Symptoms of dysbiosis are bloating, indigestion, irregular bowel movements and smelly gas.
The Large Intestine
The Large Intestine has the job of absorbing excess water from the bowel movement, which is why you can get constipated if you do not drink enough water. The large intestine also helps to create and absorb some B vitamins and vitamin K. If the bowel is not working effectively you may have incomplete bowel movements, excess gas and digestive discomfort.
As you can see your food has got quite a journey to to through, which is why it is so important that you have good digestive health.
Naturopathy can help to improve digestive function quickly and easily, so call 07 3367 0337 to make an appointment if you would like some help!