The Unseen Intelligence of the Digestive System
For those of us that tend to think being gassy or having indigestion is normal, think again!
Judging from the wide range of digestive disorders, it would seem that many of us have little or no understanding of the nature, functions, and uses of the digestive system.
The statistics are pretty shocking– everyday millions of people suffer from some form of digestive disorder such as heartburn, acid reflux, GERD (gastro esophageal reflex disorder), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.1
All these conditions are the body’s means of trying to get our attention, telling us that something is wrong with our current diet or lifestyle. It’s not just what we eat that makes a difference, but how we eat and how we eliminate can have a major impact on the overall digestive experience.
For example, how many of us really understand the purpose of our teeth? Much of the time we might lazily chew or rush the food past our teeth as if they are just for show. But the teeth, saliva, digestive juices, and digestive organs all play a very important role in the process of digestion, including absorption, assimilation, and evacuation.
“There is nothing in the body without purpose—not a single organ is without reason or intelligence.”
Nature has intelligently designed and built a beautiful machine for us. In fact it is always working to keep us healthy despite our best efforts to disregard it.
To truly appreciate the intelligence of our bodily system, we don’t need to look any further than our own digestion. Let’s take a closer look at this full and complete process.
How it All Works
Digestion begins when we get the first whiff of that glorious food. The aroma sets into motion the release of saliva in the oral cavity. Along with the chewing action of the teeth and the amazing acrobatics of the tongue, food is broken down and saturated with saliva. It is here in the mouth that we begin to break down sugars. If we don't chew our food long enough, it enters the stomach unprepared for the next phase. When this happens, we are essentially asking the stomach to do the work of the teeth and already we have hampered the process of digestion, which has the ultimate goal of providing nourishment to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body! Ideally, we should chew our food until it turns to liquid. Hard to do if we are talking, watching TV, or on the internet while eating!
Back to the digestive process! Once the food is chewed and saturated with saliva, it descends into the stomach where powerful digestive enzymes help to further break down the food. The stomach is the organ that “cooks the food,” transforming it into a substance the body can assimilate. Similar to a pot on the stove, it cannot be over filled with either liquids or solids. There is a certain amount of space necessary for proper “cooking,” or digesting, to occur. The excess of both liquid and/or solid can snuff out the digestive fire, literally diluting the digestive enzymes. After a meal, your stomach should contain 1/3 solids, 1/3 liquids, and 1/3 space for complete and proper digestion of food to occur. If you’re wondering how you’ll know when 1/3 of your stomach has been filled with food, it roughly amounts to the volume of food you can hold in two open hands. The water and other fluids liberated from the solids during the enzymatic process in the stomach become rapidly absorbed, carried away by the blood, and delivered to the body.
An important transition from the stomach to the intestines is the production and movement of chyme, which is a ball of partially digested food “stuff” containing gastric juices and enzymes. As the chyme passes from the stomach to the small intestine, further processing breaks it down into 3 parts—peptone, chyle, and glucose. These 3 parts are then absorbed by the blood, becoming part of it and delivering nutrition to all the different tissues, organs, and systems along the way.
Caring for Your Colon
Eventually, the digested food passes out of the small intestine through a valve into the large intestine (the colon). The colon is the body’s sewer system, and nature intends this sewage to be removed quickly. In our current society and fast pace of life, we often postpone the “call of nature” until it is more convenient. Lack of hydration will also disrupt this waste removal function of the body. Getting “backed-up” can be uncomfortable and stressful, but beyond that it can cause widespread disturbances in our health. When the colon is not being regularly emptied, it can result in the colon walls becoming encrusted with impacted waste matter, resulting in constipation, and eventually disrupting the entire system and creating a slew of potential problems. It’s best to heed the calling when it comes, and it’s natural (and ideal) to evacuate the bowels daily.
The Perfect Position
Squatting is nature’s intended position for complete and proper elimination. This position relaxes the puborectalis muscle, which normally constricts the rectum in order to maintain continence. Squatting securely seals the ileocecal valve, eliminating any possible leakage during evacuation that can contaminate the small intestine. Unfortunately, our conventional toilets do not support this valve and cause straining while sitting on the toilet. When squatting, the weight of the torso presses against the thighs and naturally compresses the colon, easing any need to push or strain, leaving you feeling light, empty, and refreshed!
The following guidelines will help to promote healthy digestion, assimilation, absorption, and elimination.
- Eat mindfully and slowly, and chew your food.
- Don't over eat (remember 1/3).
- Minimize overloading the system with a variety of foods.
- Be present by avoiding technology, talking, or standing while eating.
- Sit down, say thank you, and be with your food.
- Stay hydrated and try giving the squat a try.
- Try elevating the knees while having a BM.