It may come as a surprise to learn that the digestive process actually begins with your mental attitude! Never begin a meal when you are under tension, watching television, thinking about a financial problem or arguing with a spouse or the foods you are consuming may go undigested for hours forcing your body to work longer hours and at a poor efficiency level.
When the food remains in the stomach for longer periods of time than it should, the result may be poorly digested food, resulting in improperly absorbed nutrients, leading to problems such as bloating, gas, nausea, and constipation.
THE DEMOLITION CREW
In the mouth, the food begins its demolition process and is mixed with saliva for easy movement down the esophagus (utilizing muscular actions) and into the stomach.
It is important to chew food thoroughly, otherwise, the stomach acids and enzymes cannot reach all the food particles and they may escape into the intestines and a loss of nutrients will occur.
THE MIXING BOWL
After the food reaches the stomach, it is then combined with digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, pepsin and other digestive factors. These digestive juices are vital to the proper breakdown and absorption of the nutrients needed by the body.
When food enters your mouth, nerves in your cheek and tongue send a message to your brain which, in turn, sends a message to the stomach, stimulating glands and prepares the stomach for food to arrive. Remember, this process is very reactive to negative mental influences and stress.
As the digestive juices go into action and the stomach starts to churn, your food is then broken down into even smaller particles. With the exception of some water, a few minerals, and alcohol, nutrients will not be absorbed from the stomach at this point. The stomach is not the location of absorption of the majority of nutrients that we ingest. It breaks the food down then sends it on its way.
However, when we mix high fat and protein foods with fruits and other heavy sugar foods (desserts), this process is upset and the nutrients may remain in the stomach for many hours trying to place the proper enzymes with the right foods so that they will break down efficiently.
Since fruit and other sugars ferment easily. This usually causes gas, bloating, and other digestive discomforts.
The digestive process may also be affected by excess fluid intake (drinking water) during a meal, which may tend to cause acid and enzymes to become diluted and lose a percentage of their effectiveness.
THE PLOT THICKENS
When the food reaches the small intestines, it is further mixed with secretions from glands located in the intestinal wall. The pancreas, gall bladder, and the liver contribute additional digestive juices that allow the body to break down and absorb the needed nutrients.
The small intestine is the site where the final breakdown of proteins and fats occur and absorption will take place. While hydrochloric acid in the stomach began the process for proteins, pancreatic enzymes now take over and are the vital element. Fats are now broken down by bile acids from the liver and together, with other enzymes preparing the nutrients for absorption into your bloodstream, allowing the cells to utilize the nutrients.
Possible causes of stomach upset:
- Food poisoning
- Motion sickness
- Virus infection
- Pregnancy (morning sickness)
- Migraine headache
- Lack of digestive enzymes
If chronic stomach upset is happening too frequently, it may be best to keep a food diary.