Vitamins Nutrition Minerals

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Vitamin and Mineral Digestion Taken For Granted

Nutrition Essentials

Nutrition Facts

Vitamins Nutrition Minerals Series Content

 

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Vitamin and Mineral

                    Digestion Taken For Granted

Author: Kristy Haugen

The body is a complex web of systems. Most are not fully aware of the complexity of the digestive system.  However, most know of its opposite, indigestion.  Most do not realize how amazing the body can be, especially the digestive tract.  When the process of digestion is described as fascinating, passing gas isn’t going to be the major focus (flatulence), but more so the process of how gas is produced. 

The digestive system’s primary role is to convert the food into substances that are capable of being absorbed. The digestive system is comprised of the following structures: the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and the anus.  The liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and salivary glands also play a role in digestion but are not considered part of the alimentary canal (primary digestive organs).

 

Digestion begins in the mouth when food is ingested. This is a mechanical process.  Through mastication, (the biting and chewing action of the teeth) the breakdown of food from larger particles into smaller particles takes place.  This process does not chemically alter the food but increases the total surface area of the food.  This in turn increases the speed and efficiency of enzyme activity.  An enzyme is a protein that catalyses, or speeds up, a chemical reaction.  Enzymes are essential to sustain life because most chemical reactions in the body would occur too slowly or would lead to different products without the assistance of enzymes. 

Saliva also plays an important part with digestion in the mouth. Saliva is secreted by the salivary glands which lubricates the food to facilitate swallowing.  The salivary glands begin to produce saliva in response to food; whether stimulated by smell or taste.  Some may experience a mouth-watering sensation in response to a big juicy steak.  Also, saliva initiates the digestion of carbohydrates.  Amylase is the digestive enzyme found in saliva that helps with carbohydrate digestion.    

 Once the food has been sufficiently chewed, the tongue rolls it into a ball (bolus) and pushes it into the pharynx (the cavity that leads from the mouth to the esophagus).  Swallowing (deglutition) propels the bolus downward into the upper esophagus using a peristaltic contraction (wavelike motion).  At this time, the epiglottis blocks the trachea (airway) to prevent food from entering the lungs and interfering with breathing. 

Peristaltic contractions continue to move the bolus (food) downwards to the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the ring of smooth muscle fibres at the junction of the esophagus and stomach; it is also referred to as the cardiac sphincter. When food approaches, the sphincter relaxes to allow food into the stomach.  After the food has passed through the sphincter, the muscle fibres contract to keep the food and digestive juices from re-entering the esophagus. 

Heartburn results when the cardiac sphincter relaxes and allows the digestive juices to re-enter the esophagus. When this happens too often, the smooth muscle of the esophagus is eroded, which can cause bleeding and persistent heartburn referred to as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease).  This can become a serious condition.

The stomach is a large muscular organ; the walls are lined by a thick gastric mucosa. The stomach is also lined by two types of glands: gastric and pyloric glands.  These glands contain mucous cells which secrete mucus that protects the stomach lining from the harsh stomach acid (pH of 2). 

Chief cells located in the gastric glands secrete pepsinogen, which is a zymogen. A zymogen is an inactive form of an enzyme.  The gastric glands also contain parietal cells which secrete hydrochloric acid. This aides in the conversion of pepsinogen to the active enzyme pepsin and secrete intrinsic factor which helps to absorb vitamin B12.  Hydrochloric acid is essential to kill bacteria in the food, and to help breakdown the food into an absorbable form.

 The pyloric glands contain peptic cells which also secrete the zymogen pepsinogen.  Gastrin cells are located in the pyloric glands.  These cells secrete the hormone gastrin for hydrochloric acid production in the parietal cells; and stimulate the churning of the stomach to help produce the acidic, semi-fluid, partially digested mixture referred to as chyme.  Protein digestion is initiated in the stomach.

 

The chyme then empties into the small intestine by way of the pyloric sphincter. The pyloric sphincter is the ring of smooth muscle fibres located at the joining of the stomach and small intestine.  The small intestine consists of three regions: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. 

The bulk of digestion will be done in the duodenum. The jejunum and ileum have a primary function of absorption.

 

The small intestine has the perfect anatomy for absorption. The extended length, highly coiled structure, along with surface villi (small finger like projections), and epithelial cells with a brush border microvilli allow for increased surface area for absorption.  Nutrients are absorbed across the epithelium villi and are carried to the bloodstream through capillaries (small blood vessels) or lacteals (small lymph vessels that serve as extensions of the lymphatic vessel in the villi). 

Goblet cells located in the small intestine secrete mucus on the surface epithelium of the villi for protection from the digestive juices.

 

The pancreas releases a pancreatic juice in response to the hormone secretin that is secreted by the duodenum. This hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted in response to the acidity of the chyme in the small intestine.  The pancreatic juice that is secreted has an alkaline pH to neutralize the acidity of the chyme.  The pancreatic juice contains many enzymes (inactive & active) that digest carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats). 

The liver plays the role of secreting and synthesizing bile. Bile is a non-enzymatic digestive fluid that is used to breakdown (emulsify) fats.  The gallbladder simply stores and concentrates the bile.  Bile is made up of bile salts, bile pigments, and cholesterol.

 

Meals high in fat tend to spend a longer amount of time in the stomach since it takes more time to digest. The hormone enterogastrone is released by the duodenum.  This hormone inhibits the peristalsis in the stomach, slowing the release of chyme into the small intestine.  This also gives more time for the bile to properly digest the fats. 

The remaining food passes from the small intestine to the large intestine. The large intestine consists of three parts: cecum, colon, and rectum.  The large intestine plays a smaller role of digestion, mainly to absorb any electrolytes and water that has not already been absorbed.  This process is done in the colon. 

Many normally harmless bacteria colonize the large intestine, such as E. coli. E. coli is important because this type of bacteria produces vitamin K as a by-product.  This is a good source of vitamin K.  Also, the amount of time spent in the large intestine determines the consistency of the stool. 

 

If too little time is spent in the colon, diarrhea and dehydration result.

If too much time is spent in the colon, constipation will result.

 

Lastly, the stool passes into the rectum. The rectum stores the faeces (stool), which consist of unabsorbed digestive secretions (enzymes), water, undigested food (cellulose and fibre, etc.).  The anus is the opening through which wastes are eliminated. 

The anus is separated from the rectum by two sphincters that regulate elimination.

 

The digestive process is just one extremely complex process that occurs without question. It is often taken for granted.  The complexity isn’t easy to understand. 

The next time you eat a juicy steak, understand the journey the meal is sent on is much farther than the trip to the restaurant.

Copyright Kristy Haugen

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/health/article_3547.shtml

 

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Nutrition Facts

Facts about nutrition are becoming important to a greater number of people and that is terrific news for your health. There is an old saying that states: “You are what you eat.” – This holds true today just as it did centuries ago; even if it was originally coined when the majority of people received insufficient food. Today it refers more to the worldwide trend of over-eating. 

Fortunately packaging now gives more advice on calories and servings. The major fault is that we ignore serving sizes; many people are quite happy to eat double size servings and then wonder why the pounds keep going on and the inward curves turn outward. 

The US label regulations force manufacturers to be more open with Nutrition facts and here are few tips concerning what you should check on the label. 

Check serving size and use it.

This figure is nutritional fact.

 Check calories.

A healthy adult requires at least 2,000 each day in total. Try to keep it below 2,750. The average American adult currently eats around 3,500 calories each day. 

Avoid sugars.

Sugar is calorie high and each one of us should check whether we need the amount of sugar that we use. I avoid sugar in beverages so that I can eat sweet things from time to time. 

Know your fats.

Foods that are low in saturated fats, trans-fats and cholesterol are good foods and will help reduce the risk of heart disease. (5% DV or less is low, 20%DV or more is high). Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. Keep total fat intake between 20% and 35% of total calories. 

Reduce salt intake.

Research indicates that our total sodium (salt) intake should never exceed 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) each day to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. You should also know that the majority of salt is taken in from processed foods rather than from the saltshaker. -

Watch those processed foods. Also look for foods that are high in potassium because they counteract the effects of salt on blood pressure. 

Finally we come to exercise.

The whole world seems to have forgotten how important it is to exercise and exercise burns calories which reduces weight. We should slowly work our way up to one hour of exercise each day. This can be done in 12 five-minute periods or 6 ten-minute periods until you are able to exercise for longer periods. 

 (c) David McCarthy

 

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Vitamins Nutrition Minerals

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 ==================================

 The Team and I wish that this has been of some help for you in your search for healthier and fitter you and/or your family! 

Have a look at our main site to check out some of our other series concerning other health issues >> http://www.growinggracefullyolder.com 

The Team and I thank you for checking out this and wish you a long and healthier life.

Lawrence S Mills