At this point you have probably been hearing about digestion just about everywhere – but is it truly something we should be spending so much time thinking about?
Digestion actually begins in your mouth and not only includes your stomach and intestines, but your esophagus, liver, gallbladder and pancreas also contribute. Various digestive juices allow proteins, carbohydrates and fats to be broken down into smaller particles, so your body can actually use them.
What does your body use these nutrients for?
Well, for just about everything! We need nutrients for a variety of processes, including cell repair, growth and energy. Proteins are converted into amino acids, which are used to repair old cells, create new cells, as well as create enzymes and hormones. They also help maintain a healthy immune system! Fats are converted into fatty acids, which also help your body generate new cells, restore old cells and they help move certain vitamins through your body. Vitamins and minerals perform a variety of tasks including keeping your bones strong, as well as your nails, hair and skin healthy, creating some hormones and maintaining balance in your body. Water is also an essential part of this process – it helps move nutrients around your body, regulate your temperature and get rid of waste. Don’t forget that up to 60% of your body weight is water.
Does digestion always work the way it’s supposed to?
Unfortunately, no, things don’t always go to plan and sometimes this process doesn’t quite work the way we want it to. There are many reasons your digestion may not be optimal and while this could be caused by an infection or an allergy, commonly it is related to poor nutrition. Much like your body needs nutrients to perform all body functions, this includes your digestive system. It is why a well-balanced diet, full of water and fibre (think leafy greens!) is vital to your digestive health. If one part of your digestive tract is struggling, it puts an extra burden on the other parts and can cause a domino effect.
What does all of this mean?
Essentially, we want to eat a well rounded diet, full of nutrients to help our body – including our digestive system – function properly. This ensures that our body can stay healthy and continue to maintain itself. It also enables our body to digest food properly and absorb the minerals it needs to do so. Digestion is an incredibly important function that leads to the overall success of our other body systems.
How can you improve digestion?
Start by giving your body what it needs: whole foods, fibre and plenty of water! It may not seem like a lot, but a little fibre can go a long way and your body will thank you for it. Eating fermented foods (like sauerkraut or kimchi) can also help ensure you have enough “good” bacteria in your gut. If you’re interested in learning a few more tips to set yourself up for digestive success, check out 5 Ways You Can Improve Digestion Today.