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PTH 03b - The Long Journey




PTH Blogs Series

03B THE LONG JOURNEY

Have you wondered how food can be changed from its natural state into human tissues, skin, blood, and organs? The digestive system performs the essential task of breaking up food into its chemical-building units. Complex food molecules are broken down to simple molecules that can be absorbed and carried into the blood. Metabolism is a chemical process by which these simple molecules of food are converted into energy and body tissue.

For much of the long trip through the digestive system, food is either squeezed or pushed by muscles. Thus, our intestinal tract often reflects muscle and nervous tension. The food is also dissolved by a series of digestive juices containing enzymes which produce chemical changes in the food.

Digestion begins in the mouth. The food is crushed and chopped by the teeth. The teeth at the front of the jaw cut and tear the food into smaller pieces. Molars in the rear grind the food. While the food is being pulverized into a mass called a "bolus", the digestive juice of the salivary glands begins a breakdown of starches or carbohydrates. An enzyme in the saliva splits the molecules of starch into smaller molecules of simple sugars. You can see the importance of taking time to eat slowly and chewing your food well.

The stomach is a J-shaped organ about ten inches long. Since it is a muscular organ, it cannot grind up the food which has not been chewed thoroughly. Present in the stomach is hydrochloric acid so corrosive that it would blister your skin. Also present is a protective substance, mucus, so effective that nothing can penetrate to the stomach wall, including the acid. The stomach is protected from digestion of itself by the mucus produced by glands in its walls and also by an adequate blood supply.

If your stomach is normal, it is a tough organ not affected by food, unless it is extremely hot, cold or spicy. "Hot" spicy foods such as black pepper, and chili pepper irritates the tiny nerve endings in the wall of the stomach by burning them. Pepper has no taste, but produces its effect by burning the nerves, which tells us of hot and cold sensations in the tongue, mouth and throat as well.

Pepper accidentally sprinkled in the eye causes a severe irritation. Tears flow quickly as the body tries to dilute the irritant. The extra amount of acid is also harmful to the stomach.

Since pepper is not a food, it irritates the delicate lining of the entire intestinal tract. Some of it is absorbed into the blood. The blood wants to get rid of it as soon as possible, also, and sends it to the kidneys, where it irritates the tiny filters in the kidneys as well.

So be kind to your stomach and body. Avoid irritants of all kinds.

The stomach is also affected by your emotions. The effect depends upon the emotion. Anger will produce violent churning in the stomach and fiery red areas on the walls. If the anger is prolonged or intense enough these areas will actually bleed. On the other hand, if you are frightened your stomach lies still and the inner lining becomes pale. Emotional tension, fear, anger, and frustration increase secretion of acid and also decrease the supply of blood by constriction of the blood vessels. The stomach may then digest itself and form what we know as peptic ulcer. You can understand, therefore, the importance of avoiding harmful emotions. Plan your meal time so that you will enjoy an unhurried pleasant occasion.

Next Blog: How Long Does Digestion Take
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