Focus on Digestion for Optimal Health

Did you know your digestive system processes use up the majority of energy in the body?
Did you know that up to 80% of your immune system is located in your small intestine?
Did you know there are nerves directly connecting your digestive system to your brain?
Did you know that many of your neurotransmittors are actually created in your gut, not the brain?
Did you know that a deficiency of just one single enzyme could result in the manifestation of more than one hundred diseases?

These are illustrations of just how intimately and intricately the digestive system works with the rest of your body, and why you should start thinking about digestion first if you want to achieve optimal health.

Your Digestive System
Starts in your mouth! Chewing and saliva start the breakdown of food before it moves into the esophagus. The stomach uses acid to break down protein and dissolve large food particles.  From there, the food (which is now basically a liquid) travels to the small intestine where nutrients get absorbed. Finally it passes through the large intestine/colon where water and electrolytes are reabsorbed, and bacteria do their work. The leftover material is eventually excreted, and this whole process can take anywhere from 12-18 hours from first bite to final “goodbye”.

You have important accessory organs playing a part here too. Your liver cleanses any toxins and takes a final look at the nutrients before sending them through the bloodstream to the heart. It also produces bile which helps breakdown fat. Your gallbladder stores the bile until it is needed. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes to breakdown nutrients, and produces the hormones insulin and glucagon to control your blood sugars.

What Connections Can be Made?
Here is a simple breakdown of the link between your gut and the rest of your body.

Skin Health – great skin comes from proper breakdown and absorption of essential fats, zinc, sulphur, protein and vitamins (A and D). It also comes from a smoothly running liver and proper hydration through drinking lots of clean water. If you struggle with skin blemishes or inflammation try out some digestive enzymes with lipase (to break down fat). Send love to your liver (which is filtering out toxins for you) with lemon water and bitters like rapini or dandelion tea.

Lung/Respiratory Health – Your lungs take in oxygen, and breathe out carbon dioxide. Oxygen is taken up by your red blood cells, which get their health and robustness from the nutrients you eat, like iron, folate, vitamin B12 and B6.

Cardiovascular (Heart) Health –  Your heart is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood all around the body. The blood going to your heart first gets cleansed by your liver, so if your liver isn’t in tip-top condition, neither is your blood. Inflammatory foods (or foods you are sensitive to) can start to wear and tear your arteries.

Kidney Health – Your kidneys filter out water and nutrients, then send waste liquid to the bladder to get peed out. Kidney filtration is a complicated process and can be altered by water intake, sugar, protein, caffeine, alcohol and inflammatory foods. FYI, “good” pee should be clear with a tinge of yellow, and be neutral-smelling. Check out this article from Time Magazine for interesting info.

tahini, full of calcium AND magnesium!

Bone Health – not eating or absorbing enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, boron, silica, or vitamin K2? Say goodbye to strong bones. Bone health also can be impaired by an acidic diet, pop, sugar, caffeine and DAIRY. Yes folks, dairy has been implicated in having an imbalanced ratio of calcium to other minerals, meaning that while you are getting great calcium, there aren’t enough supporting cast members to help it actually deposit in your bones.

Nervous System and Stress Health – the gut is rightly nicknamed “the second brain”. There are millions of neurons located in your gut, and neurotransmitters like serotonin (your happy hormone) can be found there as well. The probiotics in your colon can help with mood and stress too!

…….and on for every body system. Digestion is something I could talk about for a long time, and connect to any ailment from a client. Consider the info given to you today and reflect on how you are treating your digestive system! Any step in the right direction is an important one 🙂

-Emily

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