Your digestive tract is your Highway of Life. If you don’t understand how to drive on this highway, you may have a fatal crash or at least a long, bumpy, painful ride. So put yourself in the driver’s seat and get ready to learn where the bulk of your immune system lives and where the fate of your health resides.
Digestion is a Physical and Chemical Process
The digestive tract is 25 to 30 feet long and will process 60,000 to 100,000 pounds of food during your lifetime!
The four primary functions of the digestive tract include:
- Secretion: Producing digestive enzymes and preparing food for absorption.
- Motor/Peristaltic Movement: Transporting food through the digestive system from the front door to the back door.
- Absorption: Assimilation of nutrients released through digestion.
- Elimination: Disposal of toxic waste products.
Before explaining your amazing digestive tract, I would like to say it is not how much you eat that matters, but what you eat. And not just what you eat, but what you digest.
Most people have a congested, toxic digestive tract lined with a thick mucoprotein, which makes it incapable of properly breaking down foodstuffs.
In fact, most people digest only 20% of their food.
However, with gentle daily cleansing, a whole plant-based diet, and structured water, digestion is increased to 80% or more. This is because of the improved digestive capabilities and restored immune system through the proper assimilation of nutrients and the elimination of toxic waste.
Just the sight, smell, or thought of food can trigger the release of digestive juices − the initial phase of digestion. Saliva from the sublingual and sub-maxillary glands is produced in the mouth and contain ptyalin, which changes some of the food starches into sugar.
The selection of fresh, raw, whole food is the most important factor. The next factor is proper food combining.
Do not make the mistake that many people make…
To exchange 4 inches of pleasure (i.e. that slice of pizza) for 30 feet of hell (that slice going through your digestive tract).
This can make for a very bumpy and painful highway.
Where Does Digestion Start? Or Better Yet, When?
There are six salivary glands, three on each side of the face. Salivary secretion is normally a reflex of psychic and physical stimuli. The enzyme in saliva is called ptyalin and is an amylase, which acts on starch. It also helps trigger gastric juices and makes the passage of food through the esophagus (throat) smoother.
Ingested food is broken into small particles by the teeth. The more you chew your food, the smaller the particles; the smaller the particles, the easier it is for enzymes to release the trapped nutrients. Before swallowing, chew your food thoroughly or digestion becomes incomplete before you’ve even started.
There is a saying that I live by, “To live Healthy to 100… Drink your solids and chew your liquids.”
The next process is swallowing your food. The food you’re swallowing is called a bolus because of its ball-like shape. As the tongue pushes the bolus back into the throat, you stop breathing. The epiglottis – otherwise known as the “trap door” – automatically closes the larynx, a funnel-shaped structure leading to the esophagus. The esophagus is the passageway to the stomach. When the esophagus is empty, it is flattened from front to back. It is 10 inches long and attaches the pharynx to the stomach.
The esophagus, like the rest of the digestive tract, has layers of circular and vertical muscles that produce a squeezing, rippling action called peristalsis. Peristalsis is similar to the movement of a snake. Food takes 10 seconds to go from the throat to the stomach. Have you noticed you can swallow food, and minutes later have or feel like you could have a bowel movement? This is called the ripple effect and is normal in babies and adults who have healthy digestive tracts.
The stomach is a pear-shaped elastic bag that can hold up to 2.5 liters/quarts of food when moderately filled, but it can hold 5 liters/quarts when full. You must avoid overloading the stomach; this is a silent killer for most of the population. Honey, are you full yet?!
The Role of the Stomach in Digestion
The stomach has two main purposes: storage and preliminary digestion. Food remains in the stomach for 2 to 4 hours, but very little nutrient absorption takes place in the stomach. The digestive liquids in the stomach, the chemical part of digestion are hydrochloric acid, pepsin, and renin. The bolus is then broken down by a chemical and physical action like that of a washing machine.
The physical action created by the stomach is created by the musculature called ruggae. The ruggae contract the bolus (swallowed food) down into what we call chyme (liquid found in the stomach). These digestive liquids help to break the food down into small components, which neutralize the salivary juices and kill most harmful bacteria and parasites. A healthy stomach is like a guard dog against unwelcome parasitic invaders. The stomach has 3 layers of muscles contracting in different directions, which also aids the breaking down of the bolus.
Note: We take in parasites each and everyday, whether or not they set up home will depend on whether you vibrate and live at their level.
Carbohydrates will leave the stomach in less time than proteins or fats because these substances are harder to digest.
Traveling Through the Intestines
As food leaves the stomach it reaches the pyloric sphincter muscle valve. This muscle regulates the flow of chyme into the duodenum allowing in only small amounts of food at a time. The length from the pyloric sphincter to the anus is 6 times longer than its owner (approximately 30 feet long). The horseshoe duodenum makes up the first 10 inches of the small intestine.
There are 3 parts to the small intestine: The duodenum, jejunum and the ileum. The length of the small intestine is 23 feet (7 meters) in length. It begins at the pyloric sphincter, which is at the bottom of the stomach and ends at the Ileocecal valve, the beginning of the large intestine.
The diameter of the small intestine at the pyloric sphincter is 1-3/8 inches (or 4 centimeters) and 1 inch (or 2.5 centimeters) at the Ileocecal valve.
Food is mixed with an alkaline solution in the mouth, becomes acid in the stomach and then alkaline in the small intestine and slightly acidic in the colon. The chyme entering the duodenum is full of hydrochloric acid, which is neutralized by alkaline digestive liquids. The hormone secretion is released by the duodenum and jejunum due to the stimulation of hydrochloric acid. This secretion helps to release the flow of bile and pancreatic liquids, which in turn further the breakdown of chyme, preparing it for absorption into the lymphatic system and portal vein.
Pancreatic liquids coming from the pancreas are protease for proteins, lipase for fats and amylase for starches. Bile is produced by the liver, stored in the gall bladder and dumped into the small intestine for the breakdown of fats. Bile prepares the fats, so that the enzyme lipase can complete its digestion. Trypsin completes the digestion of proteins, and amylopsin completes the digestion of starches in the small intestine.
The small intestine has hair-like tentacles (villi), which stick out of the intestinal wall. These hair-like tentacles (similar to the shag in a shag carpet) are responsible for the movements and the absorption of the smaller food particles and nutrients.
For every square inch of intestinal wall, there are 3,500 villi. An improper diet can destroy these hair-like structures, which therefore destroys the potential for nutrient absorption. This is serious as it can lead to premature aging and death.
Substances Harmful to Your Intestinal Villi
- Hot Drinks
- Fatty Foods
- Fried Food
- Processed & GMO Foods
- Pharmaceutical Drugs
These substances are all destructive to villi. Destruction of villi can lead to major intestinal complications.
The peristaltic action is the alternate contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscle tissue. This action breaks up and transports food and occurs every 2 to 3 seconds in the small intestine, but slows down as we get closer to the Ileocecal valve, which is the one-way door to the large intestine.
The villi separate, categorize, and distribute the nutrients. The lymphatic system carries the fat away from the digestive system and the blood vessels transport digestive protein and carbohydrates to the liver. The leftover acid residue spills over into the large intestine, aiding in the prevention of putrefactive bacteria.
After digestion is complete in the small intestine, the digested food moves through the one-way Ileocecal valve at the beginning of the large intestine. This valve helps to prevent a back-up of bad bacteria, parasites, and putrefactive material from entering the ileum.
The cecum is 2-1/8 inches (or 6 centimeters) in length and 3 inches (or 7 ½ centimeters) wide. The cecum is very tenacious; the toughest part of the colon. This is a major breeding ground for parasites. The length of the large intestine is 5-7 feet long.
The Role of Your Large Intestine in Digestion
The main function of the large intestine is the formation and excretion of feces from the body. There are two parts to the large intestine – the right and left half.
The right half: includes the cecum, ascending colon, and half way across the transverse part of the colon. It’s concerned with the completion of digestion and absorption of food.
The left half: includes the left side of the transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum. It’s responsible for storage and excretion of the intestinal debris.
The undigested food that may escape through the Ileocecal valve is broken down in the ascending and right side of the transverse colon. Water is readily absorbed by the colon, which is excreted 20 minutes later by the kidneys. As the debris reaches the mid-way point of the transverse, it loses its fluid-like consistency and turns into a semi mush-like substance.
The ascending colon is approximately 8 inches (or 20 centimeters) in length and it precedes the cecum. It passes in front of the right kidney and below the liver and gallbladder, where it becomes the hepatic flexure, which turns into the transverse colon running across the abdomen, from right to left under the stomach.
When you see someone with a spare tire, beer belly or “the roll,” it is mainly the transverse colon falling down and out, just like your energy and your health.
The transverse colon is approximately 20 inches (or 40 to 50 centimeters) long and runs to the splenic flexure. When the debris reaches the splenic flexure it is a semi-solid. At the splenic flexure the colon makes a right angle going downward towards the left hip. When food reaches the halfway point of the descending colon, which is in line with your belly button, it is in a solid state in front of the left kidney.
The descending colon is approximately 10 to 12 inches (or 25 to 30 centimeters) in length. From the descending colon, the debris enters the sigmoid, which is approximately 16 inches (or 40 centimeters) long. The sigmoid is horseshoe in shape, making a right turn into the groin region. From the sigmoid the debris enters the rectum, which is approximately 4 to 5 inches (or 10 to 12 centimeters) in length.
The diameter of the rectum, when empty, is 2 inches (or 5 centimeters). When full, its diameter is 3 to 4 inches (or 7.5 to 10 centimeters). There are two sphincters in the rectum; these are the internal and external sphincters. These sphincters control the outlet and inlet of the anal canal. The internal sphincter, you do not control, it is involuntary and the external is voluntary, which you do control.
The feces are made up of waste from the blood, mucus, epithelium tissue, bacteria and undigested residue of food.
Colon Function And Digestion
The colon is an endocrine organ; it directly influences the activity of the pancreas and other digestive organs. Gentle daily cleansing establishes and helps maintain proper balance in the process of secretion, digestion, and detoxification.
The major absorption function of the colon is found to be the conservation of water; however, recent animal and human studies indicates that short chain fatty acids, ammonia, and other bacteria metabolites are also absorbed. The amount absorbed is linked to the salt and water absorption, bowel habits, excretion of toxic substances. and metabolism.
On the average, 20 ounces of digested food pass into the colon each day.
About 16 ounces of this is water and minerals, which should be absorbed into the bloodstream, but this is not the case in the majority of the population. The majority of the population absorbs excessive amounts of toxins and putrefactive material. This is generally due to lack of proper knowledge and training on gentle daily cleansing to protect the organ that houses the majority of your immune system − the large intestine.
So now that you understand the importance of this highway, put yourself in the driver’s seat to become the Master of Your Health and you will finally have the trip of a lifetime filled with joy and bliss.
To help you on your journey, download my gift to you: my complimentary eBook “Healthy To 100”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2015.