July 12, 2017
Digestion is the breakdown of large insoluble food molecules into small water-soluble food molecules, so that they can be absorbed into the blood plasma.
Digestion is a form of catabolism divided into two processes: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical digestion is the physical breakdown of large pieces of food into smaller pieces that can be accessed by digestive enzymes. In Chemical digestion, enzymes break down food into small molecules the body can use.
Food enters the mouth and mechanical digestion begins by mastication (chewing). Saliva is then secreted which contains salivary amylase, an enzyme which starts the digestion of starch. This mixture travels down the esophagus and into the stomach. Gastric juice in the stomach then starts to digest the protein. Gastric juice mainly contains hydrochloric acid and pepsin, which can damage the stomach wall, so mucus is secreted by the stomach, to protect it from the damaging effects of these chemicals. Peristalsis also occurs which further mixes the food.
After some time, this mix called chyme, enters the duodenum. There it mixes with digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile juice from the liver. Then it passes through the small intestine, where digestion continues. When the chyme is fully digested, it is absorbed into the blood. 95% of absorption of nutrients occurs in the small intestine. Water and minerals are reabsorbed back into the blood in the large intestine. Some vitamins, such as biotin and Vit. K produced by bacteria in the colon are also absorbed into the blood in the colon. Waste is then eliminated.
Digestion is a complex process in which the body goes through three phases.
- The first phase is digestion – the breakdown of the food. This phase is mainly completed during 12 pm, noon, to 8 pm at night. This is also the time when we eat the most.
- The second phase is assimulation. This phase is from 8 pm at night until 4 am. During this time, the body’s main focus is on assimulating the nutrients it has ingested.
- The third phase is: Elimination. This happens from 4 am to 12 pm, noon. During this time, the body mainly works on elimination. This is why when we wake up in them morning, we have bad breath, it is the natural time to have a BM, mucus discharge from the nose, even eyes. The body is in an elimination phase.
Knowing these 3 phases of digestion, helps us understand two important factors:
Chewing food thoroughly is a very important part of digestion. We should “drink” our food and “eat” our beverages. This simply means that we should chew our food until it is like liquid, and taste our drinks, swishing it in our mouth instead of gulping it down.
The main time we should eat is between noon and 8 pm. Eating a heavy breakfast stops the elimination cycle and puts us into the digestion phase. Eating a light breakfast with easy to digest foods is ideal. This would be fruit, yogurt, fermented foods, and raw goat milk.
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Amy Willis, MH
Your Local Herbalist