Healthy Herd | Know Your Gut

I’m not a teacher and I don’t have a Ph.D., but I do have a simple understanding of how food works its way through the body.

I’m sure you have all had basic anatomy, but how well do you know the way your insides work?

To start, where does digestion begin?

If you said in the mouth, then congrats. If not, well you tried.

Digestion begins in the mouth as you’re chewing your food. Saliva mixes with the food. The enzymes and electrolytes in the saliva help break down carbs and fat.

When you swallow the food, it moves down your esophagus in a bolus, which is just a fancy word for food mixed with saliva. If your body’s working correctly, it will close off the trachea so that food doesn’t get into your lungs and kill you. Moving on.

The bolus passes the “gate” of the stomach called the gastrointestinal sphincter. It enters the four chambers of the stomach. In order, it’s the cardia, fundus, body and antrum. All sections have glands that release more enzymes to break down food.

The main job of the stomach is to break down protein. Very little breakdown of carbs and fats happens in the actual stomach.

The bolus has now turned into a mixture called chyme (gastric juices and food). When it is ready to leave the stomach, chyme passes through a gate called the pyloric sphincter to get to the first segment of the small intestine, the duodenum.

The price the chyme has to pay to pass is having an equal pH level as the juices in the small intestine on the other side of the gate.

The small intestine is the primary site for nutrient absorption. The wall of the small intestine is made up of cells that absorb the nutrients.

The small intestine is covered with villi, which look like small fingers that come out of the inside wall. On top of the fingers are microvilli, which are small hair-like pieces that help grab the particles. If the image in your head is of fingers covered in hair, that’s good enough.

Without boring you with the hairy details about absorption, the chyme moves through the other segments of the small intestine. Food is moved from the throat all the way to the “exit” by peristalsis, a word that basically means your stomach muscles use a wavelike motion down the GI tract.

Once the chyme passes through another gate (sphincter) it moves into the large intestine, where most of the water absorption occurs.

From here on out the chyme is dehydrated and turns into feces and then preferably enters a sewage system.

There are many more details that go into this process, but you now have a firm, little more than basic, understanding of how the digestive system works and how you receive your energy.

Remember to treat your colon well so it can continue to do its job.

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