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The questions can go on and on but the point is that many people tell me “my digestion is great”, only to find out later that they have all kinds of signs and symptoms suggesting otherwise. The digestive health lessons listed here were created to give you the answers above, but more so to help you understand how things work and when and where dysfunction occurs. Through this you can improve your digestive health and through its connection to the other process of the body, improve your overall health.
Most of you have probably heard of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and diarrhea. But have you thought about what is actually happening and why these conditions are not good for your health? Have you thought about what these conditions might be telling you about how your body is processing the food you eat? For that matter what is actually involved in the processing the food you eat anyway?
The main purpose behind your digestive health is to extract nutrients from the food we eat. Seems easy enough right…..?
Take a moment to think about that….. “extract nutrients from food.” Most of us see something that looks good and we scarf it down without thinking twice about how it can help or hurt our health. Foods that are beneficial are the ones we get the most nutrients out of and feed the cells throughout the body. Foods that can hurt us are the ones that actually impair the process of digestion in one way or another and/or cause problems in other areas of the body. When the digestive tract is compromised, like in the case of the above mentioned digestive conditions, its ability to process foods is compromised and our food choices should reflect this. Even those without a formal diagnosis of digestive condition can pay attention to the different signs and symptoms to identify where problems may arise and what corresponding dietary choices would be best.
Exactly how and where these problems occur can be difficult to know without knowing how the process is suppose to work and the role of all the organs. In this and the following lessons, you will discover how digestion works, the assisting organs and systems involved, and how it relates to holistic digestive health.
Now, starting from the initial stages of digestion lets look at some of the details involved in the process.
The various steps and stages involved in the digestive process are so elegantly coordinated that it is really difficult to separate out when one aspect starts and another begins. Digestion requires the assistance of many different organs outside the stomach and intestine like the Heart and vessels, the Liver and Gall Bladder, and even the Spleen and Immune System. It is this coordinated effort among all these organs that makes nutrient extraction possible.
To explain the connection of hunger to digestion, we need to look more closely at the major function of eating. It’s to give us energy or fuel, right? Every process in our bodies from breathing to walking burns calories or energy. Every cell in your body needs this energy on an ongoing basis. In order for these processes to continue, your body has to keep its energy level fairly constant. If the energy level falls, the ability of these cells, and their corresponding organ function, will fall too.
If you have been hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) before, you might have experienced changes in how your brain works. For instance, you might have felt light headed, dizzy, nausea, blurred vision, headache, or sweating. The reason is your brain is particularly sensitive to changes in energy levels. We will explore the concepts of energy production in other sections. For now, lets just say that the reason you experience “hunger” is because your body is sending you conscious and unconscious signals because your blood sugar is low.
Do you remember the last time you felt really hungry, when you had to wait 5 or more hours before eating? You start thinking about what you might eat almost salivating as you prepare to eat the meal. Then you take that first bite. Mmmmm, the taste is so good.
When we are hungry the food seems to taste so much better, doesn’t it? As you are eating there are hundreds of process taking place without you thinking or worrying about them. One such process is the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These neurotransmitters give us a sense of pleasure when we eat. The hungrier we are, the more pleasure involved and the more neurotransmitters released.
Once you eat the food, your body has to turn it into a small useable form so it can then be taken into the body and turned it into energy. What do you think has to take place to turn the food you eat into sizes the body can use?