Thoughts on digestion:
Although the human body is composed of billions of little cells and a handful of vital organs, I believe the key to unlocking optimal health lies within the digestive system. Often we look at our digestive system as the one thing that will never fail us, day in and day out we in our western lives consume anything within arms reach – food, nonfood, liquids, solids, chemicals, stimulants, relaxants, drugs, etc. Somehow we then have heigthened expectations that our systems will magically mix it up, break it down, sort it into good and bad, use the good and get rid of the bad…. and never let us down. When inevitably something in our body lets us down, we rarely look at our overloaded and exhuasted guts as the culprits.
When pondering digestion this past week, I was drawn back a few to years to my anatomy and physiology courses. I loved these course, and I had the pleasure of taking it in 3 different programs; Nutrition School, University and Respiratory Therapy School (paying for it three times I did not care for). Each time I took this course I was thoroughly astounded by the complexity of our digestive system.
Digestion starts in our mouths, all those juices are there for a reason with an incredibly important role, moving downward, food passes through a tube called the esophagus located behind our windpipe (trachea). Our esophagus penetrates through our diaphragm, to a special opening called the gastroesophageal junction and then it enters the stomach. Moving on we go through the stomach to the duodenum or the small intestine which also houses the common bile duct, a pathway from the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. After a marathon distance of football fields the small intestine ends and the ileocecal valve and the large intestine begins. Five feet of cecum, ascending, transverse and descending colon brings us to the rectum. From the rectum, we return to the earth what we have taken, in some way or another.
I say all of this because I think this is a very short, very condesnsed explanation of how our diet choices greatly affect our health. There are a lot of body parts, organs, cells and kilometers of guts that are affected by the choices we make, inevitably poor choices over a period of time can overload a very large and complex system, which will likely manifest itself as a very large and complex ailment. As an example, the liver is apart of our digestive system, after years of toxic overload, I would suspect it would become sluggish. The liver also plays a large role in our blood detoxification, blood circulates through our body affecting various things like gas exchange and cardiac function. A bad liver is garunteed to result in probles further on down the line as well.
I suppose ultimately this is just further to my interest in optimal nutrition. In my last post I talked about food and nonfood items, and when looking at the complexity of our digestive pathway, it becomes more clear how affected our health can be by our choices.
This week I will leave you one more healthy choice we can make: consider proper food combining. This is a topic I spent hours learning about in school, so to sum it up in a few short sentences is challenging. Mixing certain foods together is a problem because carbohydrates are first digested by alkaline juices from our mouthand proteins are digested by acid juices from our stomach. If eaten together, the result is a neutralization of the digestive juices and a massive increase in the time it takes to digest food. Extended digestion times increase fermentation and putrefacation of toxins being formed in our guts. Seperating the food groups leads to simpler, quicker and more complete digestion and less time for pests to party in our guts. Less toxic production means our body’s absorb nutrients, eliminate cell waste and maintain balance.
With all this said, I suppose it causes problems for our “meat and potatoes” western diet. This may also mean that our whole way of living and eating needs to be revamped. But we can also look at food combining more as a stepping stone to improving health rather than an absolute. Ultimately the purpose will be to power up digestion to the point that intestines will have little (or less) time to produce new toxins. If digestion is efficient then extra digestive energy is left over to go out to our blood stream and clean up the old accumulated toxins. Surplus digestive efficency can do some much needed housecleaning for the body.
Food combining is kind of a complicated topic that maybe I will tackle here for you further in the future. But for now, if you do one thing for your body this week, attempt to fill it with food only, no chemicals, preservatives, or other non food items. The less processed or altered your food is, the healthier your guts will be!
fig & fennel – if you have topics or questions you would like IronSister to answer, leave them here in the comments and she’ll try to get you some answers!