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Understanding Digestion - The key to good health

Most of us, when we think about digestion, think about what is going on in the stomach, but did you know, that digestion actually starts in the brain, followed by what we put in our mouths, the resources the body has to break down foods, then our body's ability to absorb nutrients and lastly, how it eliminates.

Our brain registers the sight, smell and thoughts about our incoming foods. This will then start the production of saliva and needed enzymes to break the foods down when it enters the body.

As we chew, more saliva is produced to moisten our foods so that it can travel down the esophagus without causing damage. These secretions contain water, mucous, mineral ions and the enzymes amylase and linguial lipase which start the break down of our fats and carbohydrates. These also help the receptors on our taste buds convert the chemicals to recognisable tastes. The minerals also act to protect our teeth and the GIT lining from acidic foods.

Food then enters the acidic nature of the stomach, where protein digestion starts. The gastric juices in the stomach are secreted from parietal cells that line the stomach, along with chief and mucous cells, comprising of hydrochloric acid (HCL for short). These help kill off any harmful invaders like fungi and bacteria, helps ready calcium and iron for absorption, provides the digestive enzymes pepsin and gastrin lipase to aid digestion of proteins and fats, secretes intrinsic factor for vitamin B12 absorption and further lubricates our food. Thankfully the mucous cells also protect the stomach lining if no protein has been eaten.

The stomach also holds onto foods for an appropriate amount to time to allow for efficient break down. If this takes to long or is hindered, we know this as feeling fuller for longer.

From the acidic nature of the stomach, foods then move into the alkaline nature of the intestines where the last of our enzymes are released from the pancreas and bile from the liver for fat digestion. The absorption of nutrients enter the blood supply and travel to the liver for circulation throughout the body. This is also where you may have heard the term leaky gut happens.

The last of the nutrients are then absorbed along with any fluid that the body requires from the colon, along with feeding our healthy gut bacteria, with any leftovers being sent to the rectum for elimination from the body.

If this process is to quick, there will be inadequate time for proper digestion and insufficient absorption of nutrients

If the process is to slow, food can sit for too long causing fermentation of bacteria, further absorption of fluids and removed toxins being reabsorbed back into the body for circulation

Along this whole chain of digestion the body has muscular and sphincter contractions that must move in the right places at the right pace and time while also following a one way rule to allow for proper digestion and absorption to take place. These rely on proper digestion of proteins to preform their functions.

If the sphincter of the esophagus/stomach reopens, this allows fluid to return upwards, burning the esophagus and is know as reflux. If the sphincter of the small intestines/colon reopens, this allows healthy gut bacteria to relocate causing SIBO

Without the work that our saliva, enzymes, stomach acid and bile does along with both the acidic and alkaline nature of our organs, the body would work too slow and become unhealthy.

But these guys are also at the mercy of a healthy functioning digestive system. They can be destroyed with low or high body temperatures, certain health conditions and medications, pH levels in the stomach and intestines, our diets and low levels of vitamin and minerals.

When digestion is being problematic you may notice

A sense of fullness after eating




Acid reflux/heartburn/GERD

Silent reflux/LPR

Stomach cramping


Burning and flatulence after meals

Skin issues - acne



Nutrient deficiencies, iron, zinc, B12

Multiple food allergies/intolerances

Undigested food in stools

lack of energy

Leading to more serious issues like

Chronic candida, parasitic infections

Dysbiosis/Leaky gut


So what can you do?

  • First and foremost eat a whole food healthy balanced diet consisting of all the food groups and colours, so think protein, fats and carbs as these provide the body with vitamins, minerals and fiber needed to support the body's organs and production of enzymes

  • Start your meal with a couple of bites of protein to start their enzymes off in the stomach

  • Chew your food thoroughly. The smaller the pieces are that are sent to the stomach, the easier it is for the HCL and enzymes to do their job

  • Eat mindfully

  • Reduce stress as much as you can

  • Identify food intolerances and remove them from your diet as they cause inflammation in the body

  • Get regular exercise, ones that you enjoy

  • Get 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night

For those with heartburn/reflux/GERD, a hiatal hernia should be ruled out by your GP.

If you would like further help to really get to the root cause of these symptoms for you and implement the best strategies for your body

Just click the link below to book a call with me or you can get started with my eBook

Restoring digestion naturally for more tips, tricks and solutions.

Just click the picture

Nutrition consultations now conducted on line using zoom or in clinic


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