di·ges·tion (dī-jĕs'chən, dĭ-) n.
- The process by which food is converted into substances that can be absorbed and assimilated by the body. It is accomplished in the alimentary canal by the mechanical and enzymatic breakdown of foods into simpler chemical compounds.
Digestion occurs at the multicellular, cellular, and sub-cellular levels. This process takes place in the digestive system, gastrointestinal tract, or alimentary canal. It is the process of metabolism whereby a biological entity processes a substance, in order to chemically and mechanically convert the substance into nutrients. When you eat, you are eating to nourish or fuel your body. Healthly choices will feed you at the cellular level. Otherwise, choices that are not healthy or contain chemicals, additives and other forms or non-foods, the body will not recognize and now needs to figure out how to process them until they can be eliminated or stored in the cellular structure (usually in fat cells).
Digestion is usually divided into mechanical manipulation (CHEWING) and chemical action. It is a multi-stage process. It is separated into five separate processes:
1) Ingestion: Placing food into the mouth. Here is where our choice makes the difference.
2) Mechanical digestion: Mastication, the use of teeth to tear and crush food, and churning of the stomach. OMG! This is one of the most important things that we should be doing to improve or maintain health...how well do you chew your foods?
3) Chemical digestion: Addition of chemicals (acid, bile, enzymes, and water) to break down complex molecules into simple structures. This is a completely natural process, however, many people have reduced levels of these natural chemicals and will suffer with indigestion or begin supplementing to assist the body in its effort.
4) Absorption: Movement of nutrients from the digestive system to the circulatory and lymphatic capillaries through osmosis, active transport, and diffusion. Here is where intestinal health is so important. If the small intestine is compromised, nutrients will not be able to get through the mucosal lining and malnutrition may occur.
5) Elimination: Removal of undigested materials from the digestive tract. How many ads have you seen for relief of constipation or loose stools? When elimination is off, you can either be autointoxicating or nutrients are moving too fast through the system to be absorbed. You should be concerned.
Underlying the process is muscle movement throughout the system, swallowing and peristalsis (the movement of the bollus or now broken down food through the system). It is a beautiful dance of conscious and unconscious functions.
Just a brief overview here. Please take away at least this one thing. The importance of chewing your foods. Some people start with chewing 10 times before swallowing. If you can...stretch it to 20+ times. Foods should almost be chewed until they are liquid.
Since we are starting with new beginnings, why not start with improved chewing?! It is a conscious effort that makes the difference. ~j