Most everybody presupposes digestion, that is, you eat food, and your body breaks it down into its necessary constituents for energy and tissue repair.
Where’s the problem?!
The problem is, given the American diet, that doesn't always happen.
Dr Edward Howell MD¹ spent his career identifying and quantifying the digestive enzymes and their need. Protease to digest protein, Amylase - carbohydrates and Lipase - fats. Everything you eat is made up of these 3 things and a lot of un-necessary additives and "therein lies the rub" or at least part of it. A subject for another day. Carbohydrates, the bodies primary and immediate source of energy, Protein energy when it is properly metabolized is a longer source of energy and most importantly your only source of tissue repair i.e. cuts, scraps or cells destroyed by illness. Lastly, fats are the basis for hormones and a stored energy source and as such are much harder to access. Once these are gone you are literally "out of gas".
"So where’s the problem? We eat, things get broken down into usable sources of energy and we go merrily on our way!"
"Ya, not so much!"
Those few chemical reactions are the basis for approximately 30,000 more reactions that take place in your body each and every day. If we are lacking the basic digestive enzymes, there are many opportunities for things to go awry and I'll address some of those in my next offering, Entitled "Digestion 101".
¹ Dr Edward Howell MD, Enzyme Nutrition, The Food Enzyme Concept,
I’m sure you’ve been told to chew your food. No? Well, here’s why you should.
Last time I said carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. Up to 40% of carbs can be predigested simply by chewing your food thoroughly. You have the enzyme amylase in your saliva and it gets mixed with your food IF you chew your food thoroughly. If you don’t chew then you swallow chunks of food and only the outer layer gets broken down into the particles your body can use as energy, but more on that later.
So you have chewed, swallowed and down the esophagus it goes and into the upper part of the stomach, the fundus, the pre digestive stomach. The food swallowed stretches the fundus and that stretch sends a signal to the gall bladder telling it to ‘get ready’ to squirt some bile into the small intestine. The gall bladder in turn sends a message to the stomach’s chief/parietal cells to start making “mucous” which protects the stomach lining from the gradual acid buildup.
The buildup of acid takes about an hour. If I may, your stomach NEVER has and NEVER will make TOO MUCH acid. If you have “heart burn” it is due to a breakdown in that signal from the gall bladder to the stomach and is usually due to the liver making bile that is too thick and not stretching the bladder enough and or not getting the signal off to the stomach soon enough or strong enough. So why blame the gall bladder and remove it when the liver is at fault for making bile that is too thick? Bile thickens even more as it stands still in the gall bladder and eventually becomes so thick it becomes a solid and then “stones”.
Persuading the gall bladder to make thinner bile will soften the stones and eventually they will be reabsorbed into the bile which can then traverse the bile duct to the small intestine as intended. This improves the signal to the stomach which then makes more mucous to better protect the stomach lining from the acid buildup. So now the carbs have been broken down into an acidic ‘slurry’ in the lower stomach that suddenly gets dumped into the small intestine and is immediately neutralized by that thin, bile (which is a base) being squirted over by the gall bladder.
Bile is what I like to call the bodies Tide, it acts like a detergent scrubbing the the fats off of the proteins so they can be digested. A story for another time.
Fats and proteins are primarily digested in the first third of the small intestine and the carbs in the second third of the small intestine. Carbs were the first food group acted upon by that amylase in the saliva and are the very last food group broken down into particles/molecules small enough to get across the gut wall. It is the crossing of the gut wall that gets these particles into the blood steam where they are delivered to the organs, organ systems and individual cells as energy.
Water is primarily pulled off of the waste in the last third of the small intestine. Did I mention that throughout this process and with the exception of up to 40% of the carbs everything is still out side of your body. That from food in to waste out it all takes place in a tube that is, essentially open at both ends. Getting into the body is what takes place in the first two thirds of the small intestine and after that all that is left is to eliminate the waste.
And there you have it Digestion 101 as it relates to Carbohydrates.