The NOURISH section is all about Nutrition, here we will review latest research, provide you with great recipes and tips and tricks to improve your nutrition. But before we dive in, we wanted to just get the basics of good digestion right.
So what’s involved?
Well, your digestive system is responsible for the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste…heaps! Your digestion works top to bottom… if something is broken at the top, it will have an effect on the rest of the digestion process.
So let’s start at the top! We often talk about the cephalic phase and gastric phase of digestion, so what are they? The cephalic phase starts before you have even started eating. It is the thought of food, the smell, and preparing of food when your body starts priming the body for digestion. This phase is when the all-important digestive enzymes, stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) and gastric secretions start.
The gastric phase starts once food hits the stomach.
As the stomach stretches more gastric secretions and enzymes are released. Ensuring you have the right properties to make up these all-important secretions and enzymes is paramount. If they can’t be made they can’t do their job, which includes: Breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates, aiding absorption of iron and B12, protecting against pathogens. Their presence reduces the risk of indigestion, reflux, constipation and diarrhea.
The mechanical action of the stomach helps breakdown the food ready for the next phase, the intestinal phase. During this phase foods enters the small intestine ready for absorption. Hormones send signals to the pancreas and gallbladder to begin releasing more digestive enzymes and bile. Again making sure there are the precursor to make pancreatic enzymes and bile is super important.
Bile will not only break down fats but also lubricates the intestines for eventual elimination via the bowel. About 90% of the food consumed, is now small enough it is ready for absorption across the enterocytes of the small intestine. The health of these enterocytes and the microvilli is critical in letting the right nutrients pass into the portal blood system, or keeping them out.
The final stage of digestion is the elimination phase. Not all components of food can be digested, some types are fibre found in plant foods will pass through the body undigested. This is great for adding bulk to the stool, cleaning the bowel and feeding the microbiome. In addition to excess food and water, toxins from the liver are also excreted via the bile, added to the stool ready for elimination. So making sure that bile is doing its job is another really important component of digestion.
Here are our tips for improving digestion:
1. Sit down to eat – Just the act of sitting down in preparation of food tells your body to turn on the digestive system. Eating on the run, quickly or on the move sends your brain mixed signals.
2. Turn your system on – The simple act of lemon juice squeezed into warm water 10 mins prior to meals, turns your digestive system on and starts the flow of secretions.
3. Turn down the stress – The gut / brain connection is powerful. When we feel stressed our digestive system switches off. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, just try sitting down and taking a few breaths in/ few breathes out before you begin your meal.
4. No caffeine at meal times – Caffeine increases your level of stress hormones, reduces digestive secretions and binds to micronutrients preventing absorption.
5. Portion control – Big meals overwhelm the digestive system, try smaller ones to prevent symptoms of bloating and fullness.
That is digestion 101 in a nut shell! We’ve got loads more nutritional advice coming your way. If you have any special interests, shout out and we will do our best to work into an upcoming blog!
That’s all for now!