Do you know the path your food navigates through your body when you eat? Even if you’re not paying attention, your body does. The path your food takes through your body is designed to do very specific jobs to do along the way. At any point, if there are problems, your body will send signals that you need to take as warning signs.
Digestion begins in the mouth. Eating slowly and mindfully makes for better digestion. Saliva excreted by the salivary glands in your mouth makes it easier to chew and swallow food. It also helps us taste the variety of flavors in food. The enzymes in saliva start to break down the starch and fats in food.
The muscular tube between the throat and the stomach is the esophagus. Its role is to push food down that tube and keeping it out of the windpipe. The muscles at the lower part of the esophagus help keep acid from traveling back upwards. When that does happen, it’s called acid reflux. When it continues over a period of time it’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This is a warning sign that could indicate there may be other issues, such as a hiatal hernia.
Positioned under the liver, the gallbladder is a small egg-sized sack of bile. The liver makes the bile and stores it in the gallbladder. The gallbladder pushes bile into the small intestine to help digest fats. Problems that could arise in the gallbladder are formation of gallstones, cholecystitis (an inflammation of the gallbladder) and gallstone pancreatitis (a gallstone blocking the duct to the pancreas). Simple nutritional choices help keep these inflammations at bay. Lose excess weight slowly and keep it off. Don’t skip meals but eat at well-spaced times without overfilling your stomach.
The stomach is the resting area for food. It’s a large, muscular sack that agitates the food with acid and enzymes to break them down into smaller particles. Periodically, the stomach contracts and dumps these particles into the small intestine. If the stomach gets irritated, it can cause an ulcer eruption. It’s most likely that the bacteria H. pylori are the cause. Although antibiotics can successful treat H. pylori, it’s best to take preventive measures. Make certain to maintain sanitary eating conditions, reduce stress, avoid spicy foods and don’t smoke.
The longest portion of the digestive system is the small intestine which absorbs nutrients and vitamins from food. It connects to the lower portion of the digestive system, the colon. People with the autoimmune disorder called celiac disease may experience gas and bloating after eating foods with gluten. Fortunately, this can be managed through dietary choices. As the food particles move through the small intestine to the colon, it mixes with enzymes to further break it down.
The large intestine reabsorbs the fluids secreted by the stomach and small intestines to solidify waste products to be excreted. There are many different types of inflammations that can occur in the colon. Eating a variety of brightly colored and leafy green vegetables will help with ease the movement in the colon. Adding foods high in antioxidants, plant foods rich in phytochemicals and limiting fatty animal products will help keep the colon healthy.