Remember when you were a kid and mom would badger you on the importance of chewing your food? Whether you had to recite the alphabet with each bite or
simply count every bite, mom was actually teaching you a very important lesson in digestive health. Even though mom was probably just making sure a big chunk of food didn’t get stuck in your throat, she was teaching you a lot more than how to survive each meal.
Often we pay a lot of lip service to the word ‘digestion’ but the truth is that ineffective digestion can cause a host of digestive problems including bowel gas. But beyond the discomfort and embarrassment of untimely gas, proper digestion will ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to run like the well-oiled machine it is.
It probably sounds strange and counter-intuitive to drink your foods and eat your drinks but by the end of this article you will understand why it’s important.
Intro To Your Digestive System
Often when we talk about digestion and our digestive system we immediately think of words like stomach and intestines, but that is just a small part of digestion. There are plenty of so-called hollow organs such as the mouth, esophagus, liver, pancreas and anus just to name a few more. These organs join together in a super highway of sorts starting at the mouth and making a long, winding path to the anus.
This path is lined with mucosa, which is made up of very small glands that produces juices—digestive juices—that aid the body in digesting food. Two specific organs, the liver and pancreas, produce digestive juices (or digestive enzymes) that help the body absorb the nutrients of the broken down foods and help the waste slide easily through the digestive tract.
When this process works properly in a healthy body, one should experience healthy bowel movements and a minimal amount of bowel gas. Dr. Bernard Jensen reminds us that people who do not produce sufficient digestive enzymes are more prone to bowel gas, particularly the elderly.
The all-important digestive juices we need are available, in a healthy body, at just about every stage of digestion. The lead is the salivary glands that start digesting starch and moves on to the digestive glands inside the lining of the stomach. They produce hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) as well as an enzyme for protein digestion. Once the stomach empties this food and liquid mix, other juices from digestive organs (pancreas and liver) are added to continue digestion.
Why Digestion Is Important
When you look at a delicious meal of grilled salmon and asparagus you just see an enticing yet healthy meal you can’t wait to devour, right? Well as delicious as that pink flaky salmon looks your body can’t use it while it is in its whole enticing form. That salmon, the asparagus and the water, wine or juice you wash it down with must be transformed before it can be of any nutritional value to your body. This is actually pretty strange to most people because we think our eyes connect to our stomachs in that way, but the body has a lot of work to do to make this food ready for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
In order for the body to make the best use of fruits, vegetables and yes, even beverages they must be broken down into smaller nutrient molecules. Those molecules will be absorbed into the blood and then carried to cells throughout the body. This is how we get the essential vitamins and nutrients, not to mention energy, from our diets.
Although the body doesn’t need food in its whole form, it is important that the diet is made up of mostly whole foods to ensure the body can take as many of those big nutrient molecules and convert them to small ones for absorption. Foods that have been stripped of some of its nutritional content via harsh cooking methods (like frying), processed or refined foods (simple carbohydrates like white pasta or bread) and pre-cooked foods start you out at a nutritional disadvantage. This is a very important part of overall good health because the more nutrients your body is able to soak up, the better able it will be to aid in flushing out toxins that may putrefy inside the digestive tract.
If your body is highly toxic this may be impacting your ability to produce the proper digestive enzymes for absorption, regardless of how healthy your current diet is. Dr. Jensen makes an excellent point that is helpful to remember when it comes to nutritional absorption: the body can only utilize what it is able to absorb. A myriad diseases and illness can reduce the production of digestive enzymes, which is why the early days of a detox diet contain mostly fruit and vegetable juices.
An unhealthy body full of toxins will not be able to maximize the benefits of an all-natural raw (or mostly raw) food diet. The bowel in particular will not be prepared to handle the coarseness of raw foods like salad until it has begun to heal. This is why the detox diet and after progresses as follows;
- Fruit & vegetable juices and broths
- Pureed steamed and fruits and vegetables
- Pureed raw fruits and vegetables
- Whole raw fruits and vegetables
This gives the body time to heal so that it can, not only accept these foods easily, but also maximize nutrient absorption.
Most of us take for granted that our bodies will simply do what they are supposed to when it comes to digestion. But any type of dysfunction, blockage or disease can inhibit the production of digestive enzymes that liquefy foods for absorption and digestion.
What does this mean for you?
Put simply it means that as the food moves from the small intestine to the lower bowel, there will be large chunks of partially digested food (known as chyme) making the trip. This means that your body will not have the energy and nutrients from that partially digested food, so whatever cannot be absorbed through intestinal walls will be considered waste by the body and sent to the colon so it can exit the body.
One of the best things you can do to help your body digest food properly and reap as many nutritional benefits from every meal is to ensure your digestive system as a whole is working properly. A healthy diet is no guarantee of proper digestion if your body isn’t producing enough digestive enzymes to convert starch, carbohydrates and protein into usable (and absorbable) nutrients. A proper detox diet will help you clean away any dysfunctions or illnesses making it difficult to break down nutrients, absorb them and get rid of waste in a timely manner.
Some of the things you can do to help you drink your foods and eat your drinks include;
- Chew food slower and take smaller bites to making chewing easier. Chewing is the first step in the breakdown process, allowing the salivary glands to start the digestive process. Think back to the alphabet chew.
- Limit liquid intake during meals. Instead drink 20 min before and 30 min after meals.
- Add at least one glass of pureed fruits and/or vegetables to your diet to kick start a healthy digestive process.
- Replace canned, pre-cooked or prepackaged fruits and vegetables with raw fruits and vegetables. You may have to steam them or juice them while your body heals, but remember you want to start out the maximum amount of nutrients so your body can absorb as much as possible.
Good luck and…happy digestion!
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