The process of digestion for our bodies works similarly to a giant food processor. Our internals use chemical and mechanical means to break down the food we consume on a daily basis into the necessary nutrients and energy for survival. The entire process has been known to take up to 40 hours in order for the processed food to reach the colon. If your body is unable to fully process all of the food you eat, you will likely find yourself in a nutrient deficit and can affect the way your body functions. As you may know, this process isn’t uniform for each of the food groups that we eat every day, but the details below should help a great deal in understanding how these processes differ.
Beginning with the largest source of energy for our bodies, carbohydrates. Carbs are one of the four major macronutrients and are responsible for providing our bodies with fuel day in and day out. This group of nutrients includes sugars and fibers that are often found in foods like grains, different fruits and vegetables, dairy products, nuts, and legumes. The digestion of these nutrients begins in the mouth, as our saliva produces an enzyme known as salivary amylase which is needed to break down the molecular structure of the carbs into polysaccharides.
This enzyme breaks down the food we eat into a mixture known as chyme which is a pulpy acidic fluid that then travels through the small intestine. Further molecular breakdown of the polysaccharides takes place here as the pancreas releases an additional amylase to transform these polysaccharides into disaccharides. Additionally, lactase, sucrase and maltose are released to then break these disaccharides into monosaccharides. These are single sugars which can be absorbed into the small intestine. These sugars are utilized immediately for energy if necessary, or stored in various forms throughout the liver, muscles, or tissues of our bodies for future use. The carbs that failed to be digested or absorbed continue their journey to the colon where they are broken down by intestinal bacteria and wait to exit the body.
The process our body goes through to break down the fats we consume is different from that of the carbs. These fats support a number of our body’s functions and supplies it with additional energy if our body is lacking carbohydrates. The digestion of these fats once again begins in the mouth where lingual lipase breaks down these fats into diglycerides. The broken-down picture then travels to the small intestine, where the pancreas releases lipase and the liver provides bile in order to breakdown these fats into fatty acids.
Though these processes differ, one thing is for sure: the choices you make when it comes to food has a great deal of impact on your body and its digestive system. In order to maintain positive digestive health, specialists often recommend a high-fiber diet. Foods that are rich in fiber help you feel more full, while increasing the weight and softness of your stool. This ensures that bowel movements remain regular and can prevent feelings of constipation. Including soluble and insoluble fiber into your diet can ensure positive digestive health.
If a diet high in fiber is unachievable for you, probiotics are the next best alternative. These are live micro-organisms that can help restore the natural balance of bacteria found in the gut. These organisms are often found in products like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, and other fermented foods. These organisms can ensure proper digestion and proper gut health. For more information on how your body processes the food you eat, check out the accompanying resource below. Courtesy of Quadro Liquids.