Our GI tract is split into two halves – the upper half of the digestive system which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. And then there’s the Lower half includes our small and large intestines.

In addition to breaking down our foods for energy and nutrition, our GI tract is also home to the largest part of the body’s immune system. The gut is one of our body’s first-line of defense towards pathogens and foreign microbes that enter through the mouth. The gut produces acids and beneficial bacteria that act as defense to protect us.

How does digestion work?

Digestion in the body is a complex combination of biological interactions and chemical reactions.

how digestion works infographic

Proper levels of stomach acid are not only necessary from an immune system perspective, but certain vitamins, minerals, food compounds, etc. can only be digested by high stomach acid.

For instance vitamin b12 is suggested for optimal health and it can only be digested in the stomach. If your stomach acid is low then you most likely are not absorbing this vitamin and your health could be negatively affected.

Symptoms of low vitamin b12:

  • Impulse control
  • Pins and needles in extremities
  • Balance issues
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • White spots on the skin due to decreased melatonin

Here’s what also goes on in the gut…

Digestion is more than just stomach acids breaking down foods so that we can absorb the nutrients. Assisting the acids that break down foods are tiny microorganisms in the gut; our intestinal flora.

If your gut flora is imbalanced where there are higher levels of bad bacteria, you’ll notice that you’re feeling a bit off-kilter. You may even experience some of the symptoms listed below.

keeping a healthy GI tract

A clean and balanced diet of whole, natural foods is key to a healthy gastrointestinal system. Processed unnatural foods can cause a lot of damage potentially leading to a slew of additional health issues.

Here’s what you should know about processed foods:

  • High-calorie and low nutritional value
  • Designed to be appealing to your senses with fats, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
  • Processed foods may be broken down into one or more toxic molecules
  • May produce undesirable biological effects
  • Your body may treat processed foods as foreign invader
  • Processed foods can cause ongoing mistaken attack on important components of your digestive system

You can read more about your digestive system and how it works here. Or learn more about B12 deficiencies and anemia here!