Gut Health 101: Digestion

Digestion : Gut Health 101 by Dulwich Health

The significance of digestion often goes underestimated, particularly in light of the current state of food quality and the prevalence of digestive disorders. Yet, understanding digestion is paramount, as it directly impacts our daily well-being and mental state. Recent research underscores the critical role of digestion in our overall health. Let’s delve into the intricacies of the digestive process and uncover essential insights for safeguarding digestive health.

The Digestive Process

Digestion unfolds through three primary phases: the cephalic phase, the gastric phase, and the intestinal phase. Here’s a breakdown of each phase:

  1. The Mouth: Enzymes in saliva, notably amylase, kickstart the breakdown of food as it’s chewed.

  2. The Esophagus: This muscular tube facilitates the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach. Hydrochloric acid further breaks down food particles while safeguarding the stomach with a protective mucosal layer.

  3. The Small Intestine: Responsible for nutrient absorption, the small intestine hosts villi, finger-like projections aiding in absorption. Beneficial bacteria, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, also contribute to digestion.

  4. The Large Intestine: This final stage involves the reabsorption of water and salts before waste elimination.

Essential Components

Four vital components drive the digestive process: stomach acid, enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics.

  1. Enzymes: Protease, lipase, and amylase break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, respectively. Enzyme supplementation can benefit those with deficiencies or impaired function.

  2. Probiotics: Beneficial bacterial colonies aid in digestion, vitamin synthesis, and mood balance. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are prominent strains.

  3. Prebiotics: Derived from fiber, prebiotics like inulin nourish probiotics. They’re found in various foods, including yogurt, garlic, beans, and oats.

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References

  1. Jane A. Foster. Gut Feelings: Bacteria and the Brain. Cerebrum. 2013 July-August; 2013: 9.
  2. Roxas M. The role of enzyme supplementation in digestive disorders. Alternative Medicine Review. 2008 December;13(4):307-14.
  3. Farmer AD, Randall HA, Aziz Q. It’s a Gut Feeling – how the gut microbiota affects the state of mind. The Journal of Physiology. 2014 March 24.
  4. Benton D, Williams C, Brown A. Impact of consuming a milk drink containing a probiotic on mood and cognition. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007 March;61(3):355-61.
  5. Desbonnet L, Garrett L, Clarke G, Bienenstock J, Dinan TG. The probiotic Bifidobacteria infantis: An assessment of potential antidepressant properties in the rat. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2008 December;43(2): 164-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.03.009.
  6. Roberfroid MB. Prebiotics and probiotics: are they functional foods? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000 June;71(6 Suppl):1682S-7S; discussion 1688S-90S.