You may be surprised to learn that digestion begins before your first bite. This is called the cephalic phase of digestion, and it begins with the mere sight or smell (or even thought or taste) of food as your body prepares to eat.
Once you take your first bite, our mouth saliva both moisturizes and helps digest food, for example amylase for carbohydrates and starch. Nutritionist Ashley Jordan Ferreira, Ph.D. Featured.
From our mouths, food, drinks and supplements we travel through the throat and esophagus to the stomach where they break down further. This endless digestion is done by unique acidic compounds, as well as protein- and fat-digesting enzymes, in the stomach. “Muscle contraction in the stomach also contributes to the digestive process,” Ferreira added. From chewing our food to digesting the stomach, this movement of food takes about two hours.
Your food, or “digested food bolus, known as chime,” the ferries explain, then travels through the pyloric sphincter to the small intestine where digestive enzymes, many of which are secreted by the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder break it down into the bloodstream from the intestine. For use by the whole body in small pieces before being absorbed.
“These tiny components transported and used throughout our bodies are peptides that make proteins, sugars that make carbohydrates, fatty acids that make fats, plus vitamins, minerals and even phytonutrients,” Ferreira shares. “A unique array of probiotic species lives in the small intestine, also interacting with our dietary inputs,” Ferreira added.
Depending on what you eat you can expect food to travel for one to five hours through the muscular small intestine (more on that later.) Immediately following the small intestine is the large intestine (aka colon) where the intestinal muscles slowly digest any remaining Indigestible compounds run along.
The part of the large intestine of the intestine where the intestinal flora microbiota is another unique habitat. “Of course, this assumes that our dietary and supplemental inputs are nourishing the intestinal germ abundance and diversity on a daily basis,” Ferreira added.
Another important task is achieved in the colon: bulk. Although significant amounts of water are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream of the small intestine, “the ultimate water absorption activity occurs in the colon, making feces to effectively solidify the remaining indigestible components of our food,” Ferreira explains.
Colon is also where some bacteria work by fermenting key residual nutrients (e.g., prebiotic fiber) to collect extra nutrients and “create unique nutritional by-products such as short-chain fatty acids that provide health benefits,” Ferreira says. In fact fiber consumption will have a direct effect on how long the food stays in the large intestine and helps to increase the fiber stool which will be excreted from your body (through the anus and finally through the anus) at the end of digestion.