You are not what you eat, you are what you digest and assimilate. ~ Tony Robbins
Healthy and effective digestion is a tell-tale sign of a healthy body. It determines vitamin and nutrient absorption which directly affects how your body uses food for fuel. This in turn affects how you look, think and feel. The human digestive system parts play a major role in your health.
In this blog post series, I will briefly explain how digestion works, give a list of signs to look for in healthy versus unhealthy digestion, and finally offer you tips on what YOU can do to improve your own digestive health. If you missed Part 1, check it out HERE!
Now Entering the Small Intestine
Your food now enters one of the most highly detailed, meticulously clean organs of your body, the small intestine. It’s anywhere from 10 to 20 feet long and resides below the stomach in your abdominal region. Your liver and pancreas produce digestive juices which are injected into the small intestine through the walls by pappilla. These digestive juices contain a variety of enzymes that break down protein, fat and carbohydrates.
The walls of your small intestine look similar to the consistency of velvet under a microscope. There are rows of tiny finger-like structures called villi which move in little waves. There are approximately 20,ooo villi per square inch of your small intestine! To get even more detailed, on each villi, are similar finger-like structures called micro-villi. Each micro-villi contains a blood vessel, a tiny capillary, which aborbes the nutrients from your food and sends those molecules to your liver.
Why so many folds and villi, and micro-villi? Because the small intestine is responsible for the brunt of the work in breaking-down and absorbing your food. Therefore it needs as much surface area as possible. In fact, if all the villi, micro-villi and the surface area of the walls of your small intestine were to be ironed out, it would measure approximately 4 1/2 miles!
Now Onto the Large Intestine…But WAIT!
Just before your food is transported from your small intestine to your large intestine, it will pass through your appendix. Although often deemed as useless, your appendix serves two main purposes: protects you from bad germs and is a storehouse for good gut bacteria. Your appendix is mostly comprised of immune tissue. Therefore, it acts as a powerful defense shield against evil germs. When the appendix is unable to effectively dispose of the evil germs it surrounded, it will swell with inflammation often leading to the ever so common common appendectomy.
The second purpose of our appendix is that it serves as a storehouse for extra healthy gut bacteria. However, do not be alarmed if you have had your appendix removed. Your body can manage just fine without your appendix as you can always reseed your large intestine with good microbes if needed.
Finally, the Large Intestine
Finally, your food enters the large intestine. This intestine is not as complex as it’s relative, the small intestine. It’s job is to digest and absorb any last bit of nutrients from your food that the small intestine might have missed, often taking approximately sixteen hours to throughly process your last meal or two. That is crazy! This slow, methodical organ is the home of all most all your gut bacteria. Yes, this is where all the action happens with your gut microbes. They live on the walls the large intestine and help absorb important vitamin and minerals such as B Vitamins (Vitamin B 1, 2, and 12) and Vitamin K.
The blood vessels in the walls of the large intestine absorb these nutrients and send them to the liver. The liver then filters any toxins that might have slipped through. After everything has been checked and is confirmed safe, the liver sends the filtered blood to your heart to be pumped.
And there you have it!
Oh yeah….well, whatever is left over from the large intestine is eliminated in your hopefully daily visit to the bathroom. There is much to say about poop but we’ll leave that for another blog post. It’s fascinating but….not my favorite thing to talk about.
1. ENDERS, GIULIA. GUT: THE INSIDE STORY OF OUR BODY’S MOST UNDERRATED ORGAN. SCRIBE, 2015. PRINT (BOOK)
2. ‘THE GUT’ ARTICLE (SOURCE)
1.Digestive Tract Image. See Page for Author (CC by 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0), via Wikimedia Commons
2. By Mariana Ruiz Villarreal(LadyofHats) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (source)