Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - FEATURES -

Its pri­mary role is to break food down so it can be used by the body. But it also does so much more than this. Un­der­stand­ing how the gut works can help you keep things run­ning more smoothly.

The mouth, teeth and saliva break food down into man­age­able pieces by chew­ing. An en­zyme in saliva starts di­gest­ing car­bo­hy­drates.

The oe­soph­a­gus is a long tube be­tween mouth and stom­ach that squeezes food as you swal­low, mak­ing it smaller and mushier. Chew bread or meat well, or you may feel it go­ing down your chest.

In the stom­ach changes in acid­ity caused by food trig­ger cas­cades of en­zymes and hor­mones. En­zymes start break­ing down pro­tein, fats and starches. Hor­mones trig­ger feel­ings of full­ness. The stom­ach makes 2–3 litres of gas­tric fluid each day, which makes the food wa­tery and thin.

In the small in­tes­tine foods are bro­ken down into smaller par­ti­cles so nu­tri­ents can be ab­sorbed ef­fi­ciently into your blood­stream. The in­tes­tine’s in­side is cov­ered in tiny, fin­ger-like bulges to help your body ab­sorb nu­tri­ents. Bac­te­ria found here help keep the in­tes­tine cells healthy, and also pro­duce nu­tri­ents and hor­mones.

The colon or large in­tes­tine is your body’s last chance to sal­vage un­ab­sorbed ‘good­ies’ from the small in­tes­tine. You’re left with fi­bre, old cells, waste prod­ucts and dead bac­te­ria. In a word – ‘poo’.

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