Nutrition: The body’s key systems

Strengthen the Weakest Link. Our bodies are like a chain of independently linked organs and systems – like a chain our overall health is only as good as the weakest link. The approach to natural health is really quite simple: find the weakest link and strengthen it before it snaps. System weakness may be inherited, influenced by the environment, or the result of injury. Stress resulting from lifestyle choices however, is the greatest source of deterioration on the system links in our chain of life:
 
Today Brenda Marshall writes about the System Approach to Natural Health dealing with The Digestive system
 
Digestive System – Supplying the Spark of Life
Breaks down food extracting nutrients and assimilating them for use throughout the body.
Common Concerns include: Indigestive, Heartburn, Insufficient Enzymes, Acid Reflux, Stomach Ulcers and Stomach Cramps
 
The digestive system is the means by which the body transforms food into the energy it needs to build, repair and fuel itself. On average, an adult body processes roughly two and a half gallons of digested food, liquids and digestive secretions each day.
 
Digestion begins in the mouth, where food is chewed by the teeth and mixed with saliva. The saliva helps lubricate both the mouth and the food and dissolves food particles to enhance taste and facilitate swallowing. Saliva also cleanses the mouth.
 
Chewing is important because as food is ground into increasingly fine particles, digestive juices containing enzymes mix with it. The more thoroughly food is chewed, the more complete the digestive functions are that occur at this point.
 
Once food is swallowed, it travels through the throat or pharynx to the oesophagus. Both the pharynx and the oesophagus are muscular tubes that work through a series of contractions to move the food along and eventually empty it into the stomach. The stomach then churns it into a paste called chime, which is easier to digest. Some of the components of the food, such as water and sugar, are absorbed directly from the stomach into the bloodstream.
 
The next stop is the pyloric sphincter, which serves as the gateway to the small intestines. The digestion of starches, proteins and fat occurs in the small intestine with the help of secretions that originate in the pancreas, liver and intestinal villi.
 
How different nutrients are digested
 
Carbohydrates (starches and sugars) proteins and fats are made up of extremely complex molecules that must be broken down or digested in order to be useful to the body. The process of digestion changes starches and complex sugars into simple sugars, proteins into amino acids, and fats into fatty acids and glycerine. In these forms the nutrients can finally be absorbed into the bloodstream.
 
The digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth. Saliva contains the enzyme ptyalin, which changes some of the starches into sugar and makes them available to the bloodstream. The process continues in the stomach.
 
Proteins begin the digestive process only after reaching the stomach. This is due to the presence of hydrochloric acid and another enzyme called pepsin. Only a small amount of absorption occurs between the stomach and the bloodstream; most of it takes place after the contents have moved on to the small intestine, where it is met by pancreatic secretions that contain the enzymes amylase, trypsin and lipase. Amylase works to change starch into simple sugars, trypsin breaks down partially digested proteins and lipase splits fats into fatty acids and glycerine.
 
In addition to these fluids, the intestinal walls produce secretions that, while milder than pancreatic juices, perform similar functions. Bile, which is produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder, also flows into the small intestine through the bile duct. Bile helps to further digest and absorb fats. In addition to producing bile, the liver stores fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. It also absorbs poisons and toxic substances before neutralising them.
 
About 90% of absorption takes place in the small intestine. Food is digested when it has been broken down into particles small enough to be absorbed by the tiny blood and lymph capillaries located in the walls of the small intestine. From there the nourishment is circulated to all the cells in the body.
 
Factors in digestive health
 
There are many ways to abuse and weaken the digestive system. Overeating, constant snacking and diluting digestive secretions with liquids can all place undue stress on digestive organs. Eating too fast or feelings of emotional stress may adversely affect digestion. In addition, as people age, the amount of hydrochloric acid (HCI) their bodies produce decreases. The decrease starts between ages 35-45. By age 55, almost everyone has low levels of HCI.
 
Heredity may also be a factor in digestive health. Some people begin life with digestive organs predisposed to problems. Of course, when this is the case, any kind of abuse only compounds the problem.
 
The importance of enzymes
 
Enzymes are the catalysts of all chemical changes that occur in the body. They are found in both the food we eat and in our bodies. Without enzymes, body functions would be too slow to sustain life. Unfortunately, although they are absolutely essential, each person is born with a limited potential for enzymes. That’s why maintaining an adequate supply of enzymes plays such an important role in supporting the health of the body.
 
When the enzymes that exist naturally in foods are destroyed by heat, wilting or other abuse prior to digestion, the body must create new ones before it can properly digest the food. One of the best ways to help maintain a healthy supply of enzymes in the digestive system is to each fresh, raw fruits and vegetables as often as possible. In addition to the enzymes these foods contain, fruits and vegetables are a rich source of the vital coenzymes (vitamins) needed by the body on a constant basis
 
Brenda Marshall,
Nature’s Sunshine
Your personal guide to Natural health,
Full information can be found here
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