Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breaking down of food into smaller components that can be absorbed into a blood stream. This allows your body to get the nutrients and energy it needs from the food you eat. Food and drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients before they can be absorbed into the blood and carried to cells throughout the body. Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into their smallest parts so the body can use them to
build and nourish cells and to provide energy.

Digestion involves mixing food with digestive juices, moving it through the digestive tract, and breaking down large molecules of food into smaller molecules. Digestion begins in the mouth, when you chew and swallow, and is completed in the small intestine.

Saliva produced in the mouth contains an enzyme that begins to digest the starch from food into smaller molecules. An enzyme is a substance that speeds up chemical reactions in the body.

The stomach lining produces stomach acid and an enzyme that digests protein.

After the stomach empties the food and juice mixture into the small intestine, the juices of two other digestive organs mix with the food. One of these organs, the pancreas, produces a juice that contains a wide array of enzymes to break down the carbohydrate, fat, and protein in food. Other enzymes that are active in the process come from glands in the wall of the intestine.

 

The second organ, the liver, produces yet another digestive juice—bile. Bile is stored between meals in the gallbladder. At mealtime, it is squeezed out of the gallbladder, through the bile ducts,
and into the intestine to mix with the fat in food. The bile acids dissolve fat into the watery
contents of the intestine, much like detergents that dissolve grease from a frying pan. After fat is dissolved, it is digested by enzymes from the pancreas and the lining of the intestine.

 

Food is a very complex mixture of different types of very large molecules-the proteins and some carbohydrates; mid-range sized molecules-such as fats; and a wide variety of smaller molecules
including vitamins, minerals, small carbohydrates like sugars, and other phytonutrients, which are protective substances found in plants (phyto = plant). Most foods you eat are a mixture of all of these different molecules, and since you need a variety of types of nutrients, your body
must be able to digest these varied types of molecules in food.

 

 

Proteins Provide Amino Acid Building Blocks For Growth and Repair

In order to make the protein your body needs, it must obtain the protein building blocks, the amino acids, from the proteins in food. Although vegetables and grains do provide some protein, you get most of your protein from nuts, legumes, eggs, fish, meats, and dairy products. When you eat these protein-containing foods, your body must take the large protein chains in them and cut them down to either individual amino acids or dipeptides (two amino acids, di=two, peptide=amino acid) before
you can absorb them. Once absorbed, the amino acids are transported through your bloodstream to the tissues that need them, such as muscles. Then, your body uses these amino acids to reconstruct its own proteins in the forms you need to support your tissue's growth and repair.
Your body produces enzymes called proteases to help break down the proteins in food to the amino acids. Proteases cut proteins between specific amino acids to produce the smaller peptide chains. Proteins are denatured in the stomach, with the help of the stomach acid (hydrochloric acid), the mixing action of the stomach, and the protease pepsin.

There are many different types of fats, but only a few are essential, which means your body cannot create them internally, so you must take them in through your diet. These essential fats include an omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic acid), and an omega-3 fatty acid (linolenic acid), and are found in the highest amount in nuts, seeds, and fish. As well as being a necessary part of your diet, during digestion, fats also act as carriers of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and the carotenoids, thus enabling their absorption.

Digestion begins in the mouth with the chewing of food. When the food enters the fundus and body of the stomach, the lining of the fundus (called the gastric fundal mucosa) produces hydrocholoric
acid (HCl). This acidic environment is critical for destroying toxins in foods, such as bacteria, as well as for untwisting the complex three-dimensional protein chains, a process called denaturation of the
proteins.

Effective digestion:
Chew thoroughly.
Promote adequate amount of stomach acid.
Identify and eliminate food allergens.

Glutathione, a small peptide found in the highest concentrations in fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats is also beneficial to the small intestine, since it can directly act as an antioxidant in the
intestinal tract and help decrease damaging molecules that may be produced during inflammation. Vitamin C, from citrus fruits, and vitamin E, found in whole grain cereals and nut oils, are important
antioxidants for the small intestine and work with glutathione to support intestinal healing.


Support the growth of probiotic bacteria.

Learn how to deal with stress effectively. Research has shown that the intestine responds negatively to stress, during which the intestinal lining becomes leaky, absorption is less effective, and your body is unable to selectively take up the nutrients it needs.


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