Eating is only the first step in getting nourishment from the foods we consume. Everything that we eat must be broken down before it can be utilized by the body. This is the digestive system's purpose. The digestive tract provides the body with important nutrients available in the foods we eat.
Eating is only the first step in getting nourishment from the foods we consume. Everything that we eat must be broken down before it can be utilized by the body. This is the digestive system's purpose. The digestive tract provides the body with important nutrients available in the foods we eat. The digestive organs, liver, gall-bladder and pancreas, introduce vital ingredients for the proper digestion of food.
Digestion begins with the smell of food when we are hungry, which triggers the secretion of digestive enzymes in saliva, even before the first bite. Chewing food well increases these secretions. If small enough, some nutrients can be absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth directly into the bloodstream. Once swallowed, the food is pushed through the esophagus by the rhythmic action of its muscles. When it reaches the stomach, the food is churned and mixed with enzymes. The stomach's high acid levels destroy germs and catalyze further digestive processes. Foods with a high-fat content take the longest to digest, carbohydrates the least.
Food enters the small intestine, where it is broken down further and the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Bile, manufactured in the liver and stored in the gall-bladder, is released into the intestine during a meal. Bile helps break down fats, and eliminate some waste from the liver via the digestive tract. The pancreas provides many enzymes necessary for the final breakdown of food. Excess particles are pushed through the intestines to be expelled.
Highly processed foods, medications, alcohol, smoking and a stressful, sedentary lifestyle promote illnesses. Many stomach complaints are traced to an overabundance of anxiety, stress and unresolved anger. In order for the digestive system to work properly, the nervous system requires rest and relaxation. Pain, gas, constipation, poor appetite, abdominal bloating and nausea are typical symptoms of digestive problems. Noticeable weight loss, blood or changes in stools and bad breath are also indications.
The liver plays a key role in the metabolism of fats and proteins. It also produces the blood-clotting factors and proteins for the immune system that are necessary to build cell membranes and certain hormones. As a blood cleanser, the liver breaks down remnants of hormones, medications, alcohol and other toxic substances, rendering them harmless.
The gall-bladder is intimately tied to the liver, since it is a holding vessel for the bile that the liver manufactures. During a meal, particularly one high in fat content, the gall-bladder contracts, releasing bile into the digestive tract.
The pancreas manufactures enzymes for the digestion of all foods, and produces the hormone, insulin, which is necessary in order for the cells to use glucose, a simple sugar. Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, the major source of energy for the body. Without insulin, glucose is unavailable to the cells and remains in the bloodstream, causing problems such as hyperglycemia, polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive urine production). Collectively, these symptoms are known as diabetes. Sweets are detrimental because they are absorbed immediately, abruptly increasing blood-sugar levels and forcing the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin quickly.
The liver is an astonishingly complex organ. It is the body's master chemist, fuel storage and supply office, housekeeper and poison control center.
It carries out five hundred separate chemical functions. Any chemical that the body has not been able to use ends up in the liver for detoxification. Be kind to your liver by avoiding alcohol, table salt, commercially processed foods like ketchup and hydrogenated oils like shortening or margarine.