Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Journey Through The Digestive System

Digestive Wellness for Children – Chapter 3

DIGESTION. In very basic terms, the digestive system is a 25+ foot tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the rectum. It includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and large intestine. It is the basis for the body’s nutrient supply system – turn food into particles the cells can use for energy, maintenance, repair, growth – and a block, malfunction or failure in one part impedes the effectiveness everything downstream. We never really think much about our digestive system, unless we have a problem.

MOUTH. It is an amazing, intricate system. It actually starts with our mouth and how well we chew! Foods need to be broken into small particles, not swallowed as large chunks, so that enzymes can later finish breaking them down.

ESOPHAGUS AND STOMACH. The esophagus is a tube that takes food from the mouth down to the stomach. In the stomach hydrochloric acid (HCI), enzymes, and the contractions of the stomach work to kill bacteria that can cause food poisoning, break protein bonds and begins breaking down fats. The stomach has completed its job when food is liquefied into chyme.

SMALL INTESTINE. Averaging around 17 feet long, if stretched, the small intestine in the primary area where absorption of nutrients takes place. However, that isn’t all that takes place – a lot happens in the small intestine. Digestion of food is completed and nutrients are absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. It also blocks the absorption of harmful things like chemicals, large food particles, etc. Also in the small intestine are billions of beneficial microbes that are critical to general health and to a strong immune system. 70% of the immune system is located in the gut.

PANCREAS, LIVER, AND GALLBLADDER. These organs all play a role in the digestive system. The pancreas although often thought of in its role of balancing blood sugars also plays key roles in digestion and absorption of nutrients through the production of enzymes.

The liver creates bile to emulsify fats, breaks down hormones, is critical in the processing of nutrients, chemicals, and drugs that are in the blood, determining which to keep, which to change, and which to eliminate. If the liver is congested, these functions can be greatly compromised.

The gallbladder stores bile for when a supply is needed. Bile emulsifies fats and breaks down fat soluble vitamins.

LARGE INTESTINE. The large intestine is primarily responsible for reabsorbing water back into the body and eliminating waste. Like the small intestine it contains beneficial microbes, necessary for health, digestion, disease protection, and the production of certain vitamins. The main issues to be aware of with the colon are frequency of movement and transit time. Ideally, you should have two to three bowel movements a day. And food should take between 12 and 24 hours from mouth to elimination. Anything less (diarrhea) or more (constipation) will have effects on health.

MY COMMENTS. The digestive system is a critical basis for health. The simplest things can make big differences – chewing food well (drink your food and chew you drinks!), taking digestive enzymes or eating raw foods, making sure the gut bacteria is balanced with beneficial bacteria, keeping the liver decongested.

For all children with multiple allergies, and for a huge percentage of autistic children, the health of the digestive system is the key to reversing the issues, particularly regaining the functioning of the small intestine and enzymes. At least 70% of the immune system is in the gut, specifically the small intestine. One of the common supplements used for autistic kids is L-glutamine, one of the reasons is because the small intestine uses L-glutamine (an amino acid) to repair itself and for energy. The small intestine is also where yeast starts to overgrow and can create leaky gut syndrome, a huge issue for many of these kids, but more about that in a couple of weeks.

Elimination is also key. These kids are sick because they are toxic. They have to eliminate toxins. The 4 avenues of elimination are: the lungs, the skin, the colon, and the urinary system. As relates to the digestive system, toxic kids need a decongested liver and bowels that move regularly. The liver needs to be able to filter the toxins out and the bowel needs to get rid of them, otherwise the toxins just keep recirculating.

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