Want to Know How Digestion Works?

Digestive System

by Shamsul
Digestive System
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  How Does Digestion Work?

Digestion is key in understanding our health and the necessary food “rules”. Knowing the basics to understand it better and getting knowledge from all the benefits of good digestive comfort is strongly recommended.


Digestion, What is it Exactly?

Digestion is a mechanical and chemical method of transforming food into nutrients that the body can assimilate.

It is ensured by the digestive tract and its annexed glands: salivary, hepatic and pancreatic glands.

Digestion begins when food enters the oral cavity through chewing and saliva production. Chewing well is, therefore, essential for good digestion. It also participates in the regulation of appetite (and weight).

It makes it possible to transform and make assimilable the complex molecules of food into small simple molecules, absorbable by the cells of the digestive tract and usable by the body.

The nutrients obtained will cross the wall of the digestive tract to pass into the blood or the lymph and will be routed to the liver and then to the cells as needed.

Digestion can be altered by stress and physical effort, which puts the body under dependence on the sympathetic system, primarily vascularizing the motor organs (muscles, heart, etc.). The digestive system is then broken down. You now better understand the importance of eating calmly with a clear conscience.

It is advisable to avoid leaving the table with a full stomach to facilitate the digestive process. Even gradually cultivating a form of frugality, it is a secret of longevity.


Elements of the Digestive Tract (the actors)

The digestive tract comprises hollow organs through which food passes during digestion. It consists successively of the following:

The mouth ; the esophagus; the stomach; the small intestine ; the colon ;

The rectum and the anus.

Associated with the digestive tract, there are solid glandular organs with the function of secreting various substances necessary for the assimilation of nutrients: Mainly enzymes, a kind of “little scissors” which cut nutrients into simple elements that can be assimilated and then used by our cells (e.g. starch transformed into glucose).

Other elements having a role in digestion:

The liver and gallbladder: bile salts for the digestion of lipids (emulsion)

The pancreas: secretes enzymes transforming starches/sugars, fats/lipids, and proteins

The salivary glands: amylase, which converts sugars/starch

The vagus nerve and the parasympathetic system stimulate digestion at the nervous level.


Digestion Step by Step

The Mouth

It begins with the mouth; food undergoes two actions: mastication (mechanical) and salivary impregnation. The latter contains salivary amylase, which allows the digestion of carbohydrates (chemicals) to begin. Chewing is a necessary action, and saliva will serve as a lubricant.

The Esophagus

Then the food bolus arrives in the esophagus, where it will transit to pour into the stomach. It is an essential organ of digestion. Its muscles will allow it to continue the mechanical work and many digestive juices will be secreted:

Hydrochloric acid, a very acidic liquid, will lower the stomach’s pH, destroying any bacteria that may be in food and activating certain enzymes.

Proteolytic enzymes – which reduce proteins – as well as gastric lipase, which acts on lipids.

The mucous membranes of the stomach will also secrete the intrinsic factor essential for the absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestine.


The stomach, therefore, does a lot of work for the digestion of proteins. At the stomach’s exit in the duodenum, the beginning of the small intestine, the food bolus takes the name of chyme. The mucus ensures the protection of the stomach walls in this acidic environment.

The bile salts at this level, coming from the bile, will emulsify the fats, and a first cut of the large fat molecules will be carried out.

At this stage, the pancreas contributes to digestion by releasing its enzymes: proteases, lipases, and amylase (to digest respectively: proteins, fats/lipids and complex sugars/starch). The bicarbonate will alkalize the chyme.

Intestinal Assimilation

The small intestine will allow the absorption of nutrients, which pass into the internal environment, the blood. It benefits from a brush border to increase the assimilation surfaces. This surface is wholly abraded (smooth) in celiac disease, resulting in significant assimilation disorders and deficiencies.

Nutrients Absorbed:

These are carbohydrates, with the notable exception of fibers which will serve as food for bacteria in the colon. The microbiota, all of these bacteria, plays an essential role in immunity in particular.

The fats or lipids will pass through the lymph or the enterocytes (intestine cells).

Proteins in peptides and amino acids will also be absorbed here and pass through the blood to the liver.

Vitamins and minerals are also absorbed at the intestinal level.

The colon will recover a significant part of the remaining water. Finally, the fibers will also play a mechanical role in evacuating stool.


Food incompatibilities: Avoid Difficult Digestions!

Do you regularly feel discomfort/pain in the esophagus or stomach after eating? It may be food incompatibilities.

Indeed, be aware that certain food combinations can cause digestive problems such as fermentation, putrefaction, decomposition, gasification and excessive acid production.

Some of these combinations can also impair nutrient absorption and cause abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and slow digestion.

Here are the main food incompatibilities:

Simple starch and sugar, such as honey, combined with bread. More curious, combining two different starches, such as bread and rice, also proves to be very difficult to digest.

Lean proteins with starch, for example: chicken breast with bread and/or fries, yes, it is very indigestible! or even bread and yogurt…

Animal proteins and pulses, for example: chicken and lentils

You should avoid taking fruit at the end of a meal when you are also eating protein in the same meal. Ideally, take fruit 20 minutes before your meal.

Finally, avoid drinking during meals. You would dilute the gastric digestive juices. Your digestion would be more difficult.

Food incompatibilities: Avoid difficult digestions!

Do you regularly feel discomfort/pain in the esophagus or stomach after eating? It may be food incompatibilities.

Indeed, be aware that certain food combinations can cause digestive problems such as fermentation, putrefaction, decomposition, gasification and excessive acid production.

Some of these combinations can also impair nutrient absorption and cause abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and slow digestion.

We have some simple explanations for these phenomena. Protein slows the digestion of carbohydrates. In fact, proteins are digested mainly in the stomach in an acid bath, which stops the digestion of sugars and starches. These are digested or cut into simple molecules in the mouth with salivary amylase at neutral pH. The digestion of carbohydrates will continue at the stomach’s exit, in the duodenum.

These haunts must be known but remain in contact with your feelings, which are an excellent guide, as well as your taste pleasure.


1- How long does digestion take?

In general, the total digestion time can last 24 hours and break down roughly like this:

Stirring phase in the stomach: between 3 and 4 hours,

Absorption phase of nutrients by the intestine: between 6 and 7 hours,

The unabsorbed residues then spend about 7 hours in the colon,

Before joining the rectum for about 6 hours.

Finally, they are evacuated by the stools.

But it can be less or more (up to 72 hours!!) depending on several factors such as the nature of the food consumed, metabolic rate, digestive health and level of physical activity.

The digestion time can therefore vary considerably from one person to another.


2- What are the symptoms of poor digestion?

Bloating, gas and abdominal pain

Acid reflux and heartburn

Diarrhea or constipation

Nausea and vomiting

Tiredness and lack of energy

Weight loss or weight gain

Headaches and insomnia

Regular stomach aches

Oily or foul-smelling stools

Frequent and painful bowel movements

Obviously, if you feel one of these symptoms, it is not necessarily linked to digestion; the cause may be something else.


3- How to facilitate digestion?

Here are the best tips to aid digestion:

Eat slowly and chew food carefully.

Avoid eating just before bedtime.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Include high-fiber foods in your diet.

Avoid consuming carbonated drinks and fatty or spicy foods.

Practice physical activities regularly.

Unwind and relax after meals.

Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.

Maintain good food hygiene and general good health.

What to eat in case of digestive disorders?

In case of digestive disorders, it is recommended to eat easily digestible foods such as:

White rice or pasta cooked al dente

Steamed or grilled skinless chicken or turkey

Steamed vegetables such as carrots, zucchini and spinach

Ripe bananas and baked apples

Non-fat milk or yogurt

Clear vegetable soup

Wholemeal rye bread or toast

It’s also important to avoid fatty, spicy, fried, and high-sugar foods, which can aggravate symptoms of digestive upset.


4- How to diagnose digestive mycosis?

A digestive mycosis is an intestine infection that occurs when pathogenic fungi grow in the intestine. This infection disrupts digestion and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Digestive mycoses are more common in people with weakened immunity (people with cancer, diabetes or diseases of the immune system). Do you have a doubt? Here are the different ways to diagnose it:

Blood tests: Blood tests can help detect the presence of fungi in the system.

Feces sample: a feces sample can be tested for the presence of fungi.

Endoscopy: An endoscopy can be used to visualize the digestive lining and take a sample for analysis.

Medical imaging: Medical imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI), may be used to visualize internal organs.

Culture test: A tissue sample may be taken for a culture test to identify the type of fungus that is causing the yeast infection.


Conclusion – How Digestion Works

Digestion is a complex affair involving several organs and numerous secretions.

Absorption is different depending on the nature of the nutrient: “Slow” sugars, for example, undergo many stages before being absorbed.

The purpose of digestion is, therefore, to nourish the cells of our body.

If an element of this chain does not work correctly, the impact on our health can be very significant (a deficiency, immunity, etc.).


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