The Foundations of Health: Digestion. (Part One)

I am excited to start the first of a new series for you all! Introducing: The Foundations of Health.

Through my Nutritional Therapy training, we are taught that on top of a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet, there are FIVE Foundations that we must support for optimal health + vitality: digestion, blood sugar regulation, essential fatty acids, hydration, mineral balance.

Today’s topic will be Part One of The Digestion Foundation! Why will there be multiple parts to digestion? I just thought “what goes in, must come out” pretty much sums it up.

NEWSFLASH: If you aren’t properly breaking down that gorgeous grass-fed steak, you can pretty much throw your nutrition out the window. #justkidding #kindof #butnotreally #keepreading

Read on what all goes into the processes of digestion and stay tuned for Part Two!

Proper Digestion functions in a North to South process of 5 STEPS.

This little graphic is a great visual to understand the digestive processes, but they left out one IMPORTANT + very FIRST step in the digestion process!

Can you guess where digestion actually starts?

It starts in the brain!

ONE: Yes, the sight + smell of your food is the very beginning stages of your digestive processes. This triggers the salivary glands in the mouth to begin producing an enzyme that helps break down carbohydrates called salivary amylase.

TWO: The next step to the digestive process is the mouth. Duh. We see food, we eat food. But what happens in the mouth? Along with the help of the enzymes in your saliva, you are mechanically breaking down your food into digestible pieces. Those gorgeous pearly whites are for more than just giving you a sparkly smile! 😉 Taking the time to properly chew our food is very important, but often overlooked. Why? Because we are always in a hurry!

THREE: Once you are done chewing your food, it then passes into the esophagus and lands in the stomach, where the “burn + churn” stage of digestion starts to happen. With the help of good stomach acid levels + digestive hormones to help better break down proteins + fats. Stomach acid not only helps break down your food, but it helps fight off the bad guys, too! Any bad parasites or germs that could have been in your food, are toast when it comes to stomach acid.

FOUR: After the stomach acid further breaks down your food, it then becomes an acidic paste that passes into your small intestine. Your small intestine works as a digestive organ + gland, releasing more digestive hormones to further help with the digestion + absorption of fats, by signaling your liver/gallbladder + pancreas to help out with the work. The small intestine is where the majority of your nutrition is absorbed into the bloodstream as tiny molecules, that then become transported or stored throughout the body to properly support it’s functions.

FIVE: After nutrient absorption, the remains (indigestible fiber, bile, water, toxins, etc.) get passed into your large intestine through a small valve. Your large intestine recycles water, waste, captures any lost nutrients with the help of good gut flora by converting the nutrients to vitamins K, B1, B2, B12 + butyric acid, and then finally, expels of the remaining waste.

Pretty neat huh?! Bet you didn’t know all those things your body is up to while you are enjoying your favorite meal over dinnertime.

But let’s be real. Digestive distress is SO common and often overlooked. We feel bloated, gassy, uncomfortable after meals, but just think it’s normal or attribute it to our poor food choices and move along. WRONG! If something isn’t quite working right in your innards, there is digestive dysfunction going on in the body. When trying to understand the proper North to South process, and what might be really going on, we want to look to the step above in order to hopefully determine the underlying issue.

Check back for Part Two of Understanding the Foundation of Digestion, and what digestion dysfunction might look like, and how you can remedy it!

Do you have any nutrition/health questions related to digestion? Feel free to comment them below, or shoot me an email and I will address you directly or in the next post!