About Your Gastrointestinal System (AKA, Your GUT!)
The GUT is one of the most important, very sophisticated and inter-connected system. It communicates with the brain (see more details below) and represents 70% of our immune system. I would say that is pretty important! Good gut health is absolutely essential for your overall wellbeing, but you probably don’t give it a second thought to the role of your gut (why would you?) I’m sure you have many more things in your life to worry about. Your gut may only grab your attention once it lets you down.
Your gut health is dependent on many different factors such as exercise, stress, medication, illness, alcohol and, of course, what you eat can have an impact on your gut which in turn can widely affect your body.
This is why it is best to know a little bit about the digestive system. Now don’t fall asleep!
The Digestive System
The Mouth – Where digestion begins! Teeth break down food and start to mix with saliva amylase and lipase and begin the breakdown of food molecules (so chew that food).
The oesophagus – Pushes food down into the stomach.
The stomach – Digestion continues through the release of stomach acid and peptic enzymes. This is also the first barrier to pathogenic bacteria entering the system. One of the steps that can cause problems in people who have insufficient function of digestive secretions.
The pancreas – Well known for its production of the hormone insulin, the body’s blood sugar stabiliser, it also plays a major role in breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates by producing pancreatic enzymes.
The liver – Is a very busy organ. It receives blood, filters, removes toxins, metabolises some drugs, stores nutrients and produces bile.
The gallbladder – Stores and concentrates bile, breaking down/digesting fats after each meal.
The small intestine – This is when your major food groups are broken down into amino acids (protein), fatty acids (fats) and sugars (carbohydrates) and absorbed into your blood stream. Home for some unwanted gut bugs.
The colon – The final stage of digestion. It is responsible for absorbing any left-over water, salts and nutrients from food, and colonic bacteria ferment to short chain fatty acids. Fuel for the gut! The luminal surface of the intestines contains billions of live bacteria whose total number is expected to be up to 1014 in colon.
Short Chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) – Are created when gut bacteria ferment non-digestible carbohydrates, ‘dietary fibre’. These end products of fermentation exert beneficial effects in reducing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon cancer and intestinal permeability (leaky gut), just to name a few.