Chew Your Food
The purpose of chewing is to masticate (liquefy) food, the first step in breaking foodstuffs down to the molecular level. Most people put food in their mouths, chew a few times and swallow. But food’s contact with saliva is extremely important, because saliva contains enzymes that contribute to the chemical process of digestion by breaking down carbohydrates. Many people are unaware that the first stage of fat digestion also occurs in the mouth with the secretion of an enzyme called lingual
lipase. This is why we recommend that you “chew” your shakes, green juices, and soups, again allowing adequate time for saliva to mix with the food. Rather than recommending a specific number of times to chew each bite, it is much more personalized for you to get a sense of your own eating and develop a better awareness and relationship with the food you eat. Obtain a baseline of where you are now and simply strive to improve your chewing, which will cause you to slow down, making more time for enjoyment—and improved taste—of your meals. Proper chewing is one of the easiest ways to improve your digestion.
After swallowing, the food enters the esophagus, which serves as an air lock between the outside world and the digestive tract, and opens into the stomach. The stomach serves as a holding and mixing tank for food, churning and liquefying food, and breaking down proteins, preparing them for absorption. The stomach produces hydrocholoric acid (HCl), creating an acidic environment, which is critical for destroying potentially harmful microorganisms that may have entered with your food and
for assisting in the breakdown of proteins into individual amino acids. The lower part of the stomach contains a sensor mechanism that secretes the hormone gastrin for
regulating the level of acid produced in the body of the stomach. Contrary to popular belief, many who suffer from heartburn don’t produce enough HCl and have difficulty digesting proteins. The common treatment is to take antacids, which further decreases the necessary acidic environment of the stomach. Then, gastrin starts signaling the stomach to produce more and more acid, resulting in both a rebound output of acid and the discomfort most heartburn sufferers feel. With long-term use of acid blockers, the stomach ceases to function normally, resulting in low or no stomach acid creation, thus completely impairing digestion.
Once the food leaves the stomach, it is called chyme and passes into the small intestine.
The small intestine is where 90 percent of all your nutrients are absorbed. As the chyme enters the small intestine, it is mixed with potent digestive enzymes from the pancreas. The pancreas also secretes bicarbonate to lessen the acidity in the intestine, allowing more enzymes to continue the breakdown of large food molecules that may still be present. The lining of the small intestine contains small finger-like projec projections called villi, which serve to increase the surface area and absorption capabilities. These villi must have tight junctions between them to protect unwanted bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other organisms from entering into the bloodstream. Think about a tiled shower with grout in between the tiles. If the grout were cracked, then water would get into the cracks and possibly create mold behind the wall. Damages to the villi can cause intestinal permeability, otherwise known as “leaky gut.”