Your Digestion: the anatomy

The digestive pipeline primarily has one way in and one way out ` though it also has many, many other smaller entrances and exit`s that help deliver nutrients throughout the body. Mouth ` Humans actually get the most energy possible from food because we don`t waste a lot of energy as we eat. You may already know about the four major taste receptors ` sweet, sour, bitter salty. But there`s another one ` one that delivers deliciousness ` called unami. It`s why we crave certain foods. And it`s partly what creates a dietary tug`of`war in your body. Your tongue wants to eat certain foods ` foods that have lots of taste and energy ` even though your body may not have place for all that energy to go. Sweet, sour, bitter and salty are inherited tastes ` so you either like them or you or don`t. But fat is a learned taste. That means you can also learn how not to like fat. (For example, if you drink whole`fat milk, you can train yourself to prefer skim milk by gradually diluting whole milk. The phenomenon takes only eight weeks). Your teeth can provide clues into your health like virtually no other outward part of your body. The biggest concern when it comes to aging and your teeth isn`t the presence of cavities; it`s the presence of periodontal disease, which can make you up to 3.7 years older. Gum disease (gingivitis) has been linked to many other health problems, presumably because the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger an immune response that causes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. The same plaque that causes tooth decay ` that sticky coating of bacteria, saliva, and three`day old cauliflower ` can also contribute to the plaque in your arteries. And that has a profound effect on all kinds of vascular problems including heart attacks. There`s a strong link between the inflammation of gum disease and an aging and unstable cardiovascular system. Esophagus `Once you`re done chewing your food, it passes into the esophagus. We are born to eat, and our stomachs can digest nearly anything, but in order to be able to experiment with new and sometimes poisonous foods, humans must have the ability to vomit food or burp gas. The esophagus makes a sharp angle as it enters the stomach to reduce this regurgitation, but if the junction is opened (the angle is reduced), we get burning and indigestion. Your esophagus enters at an acute angle, which kinks off after the food passes to prevent the stomach contents from going back into your esophagus. If the acute angle is distorted the acid can flow backward into the esophagus. When you produce a lot of stomach acid ` or overeat late at night ` you risk becoming bloated and having that fluid top off in your esophagus. Stomach ` Once your food drops down your esophagus, it lingers in the stomach. In your stomach, you have a very protective layer of mucus that lines the gut and helps keep it from being injured by acid and digestive fluids. But if the mucus erodes (from such things as inflammation, infection, alcohol, or spicy foods) and the protective layer is injured, you can develop a stomach ulcer ` which is a raw or open sore in the stomach lining. Sometimes that crater ` the ulcer ` erodes multiple of your stomach tissue and gets deep enough to hit the blood vessels and to cause bleeding within the digestive track. The next stomach condition is bad breath. Sometimes bad breath originates from your mouth, and it`s easy to check your teeth and gums for culprits. Often your mouth is only the porthole for bad stomach odours. As the bacteria in your stomach breaks down foods, it releases odours back up into and out of your mouth. Your digestive system has two main hormones that control hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and increases your appetite. When your stomach`s empty, it sends ghrelin in out requesting food. Leptin tells your brain that you`re full. When you eat, your fat cells secrete it so that you stop eating. One of the biggest evil influences on our diet is the presence of high`fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sugar substitute that itself is a sugar found in soft drinks and many other sweet, processed foods. The problem is that HFCS inhibits leptin secretion, so you never get the message that you`re full. And it never shuts off ghrelin, so even though you have food in your stomach, you constantly get the message that you`re hungry. If you want to eat less, get more sleep. When you don`t sleep enough, more ghrelin is secreted and less leptin is released. So lack of sleep can have the same effect as HFCS by causing you to eat more often. Intestines ` The small intestine comes after the stomach and is the tubing where most of food`s nutrients are absorbed; the large intestine, or colon, is wider and shorter than the small intestine and absorbs water to form feces. Chemically, your intestines are the organ most similar to your brain, in that the neurotransmitters and hormones are remarkably alike. Your intestines are loaded with neurons that keep the muscles that line your intestinal pipe working to move food down. They decide what stays and what gets tossed. Foods have such a huge effect on so many things that affect our life ` lethargy, depression, pants size ` and most people even realize how closely related the chemical compounds in our brains and intestines are. As feces gets harder and harder, it moves down to the muscular rectum at the bottom of your digestive system. Your feces should be S`shaped (the shape of your rectum as it nears your anus), as opposed to gumball size pellets. If it`s not the proper shape, it`s a sign that your intestines are temporarily not working as well as they should be. You can also do the sound test. The optimum feces enters the water without a splash. You want to hear a swish sound rather than (PopPopPopPopPop!) Ideally, it should be attached to you when it hits the water. The best ways to ensure smooth sailing is through adequate water intake (so it`s easy for the bowel to suck out fluid), physical activity (which helps speed up the process), and fiber. Your intestines are also responsible for the form of bad breath that comes from your body`s basement ` gas. All gas simply comes from the fermentation of certain foods by the trillions of bacteria in your digestive system. The bacteria love to process some food more than others, which creates more gas. The average person passes gas about fourteen times a day. So passing gas is really nothing to be ashamed of. Rectum ` Though everyone has different digestive frequencies for different types of foods, the average time from start to finish for the whole process is about four hours. One of the most common problems you can experience at this locale is hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the lower rectum and anus. Causing a lot of bleeding, irritation, and pain, they typically come about when the veins swell under heavy pressure ` which comes from having to strain when you`re going to the bathroom.

Your Digestion: The Live Younger Action plan

Most of the things you can do to improve your digestive health revolve around the things that should go into your mouth and the things that shouldn`t near it.

Action 1

Eat Fiber ` and Wash It Down

To prevent problems associated with your digestive system; these are the best things that can enter your intestinal pathway. Fiber ` fiber helps keep digested food bulky and soft ` so it passes through the colon easily. Fiber makes it easy for the food to move through your intestines without much pressure being placed on your tubing. It contains no calories but makes you feel full, which helps control overeating. Both kinds of fiber ` insoluble and soluble ` are good for you. Insoluble fiber doesn`t easily dissolve in water and is not broken down by intestinal bacteria. (This type doesn`t lower your cholesterol, but still has an effect on your digestive system.) It is found in Grapefruit, Orange, Grapes, Raisins, Dried Fruit, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Zucchini, but especially in Whole`Wheat or Whole`Grain Bread. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water; it regulates metabolism and digestion, and stabilizes blood glucose levels. It`s mostly found in grains such as Oats, Barley and Rye; in Legumes such as Beans, Peas, and Lentils; and in some cereals. People who eat 25 grams of fiber a day can be as much as three years younger than a person who eats only 12 grams a day. A 10`gram increase in the daily intake of fiber decreases the risk of heart attack by 29 percent ` and makes you1.9 years younger. Water (not soft drinks) `works as a natural lubricant that helps everything slide through your system. Water also fights bad breath. The empty calories and self destructive ingredients found in soft drinks will leave you bloated, hungry, and fat. Since the main cause of kidney stones is dehydration, it`s essential to keep your body hydrated with sixty`four ounces (eight glasses of eight ounces) of water a day.

Action 2

Change How You Eat

You can have a positive effect on your health by making some subtle changes not just with what goes into your mouth, but also with how you put it there.

Avoid Late Meals

Lying down so soon after eating encourages the flow of acid up your esophagus so you get that burning taste, which will intensify the symptoms of GERD. Avoid GERD` promoting items like foods or beverages containing pepper or peppers, caffeine, and alcohol.

Buy New Dishes

Eat on nine`inch plates instead of traditional thirteen`inch dinner plates. Research has shown that the visual effect of eating is a powerful signal to your stomach to slow down the digestion process. People who eat from smaller plates consume fewer calories ` but still have the same feeling of satiety as people who eat off larger dishes. Reducing portion sizes also has the effect of making you up to 3 years younger because it helps reduce arterial and immune aging.

Trick Your Digestion System

One of the ways you can turn those hunger triggers off is by making sure you don`t get to the point of feeling famished. The slower you digest food, the slower your stomach empties, the fuller you`ll feel. Fiber is one way to do that; here`s another: if you have a little fat before your meal, you`ll prevent your stomach from emptying quickly. Example: If you have tea and unbuttered toast in the morning, your stomach empties in about twenty to thirty minutes, leaving you craving a midmorning binge. But if you spread some jam or a little bit of cheese spread, it takes about three and a half hours for the toast to leave your stomach. Feeling full slows everything down. We recommend eating a little fat at each meal, but especially before your dinner. Eat about seventy calories in the form of healthy monounsaturated fats. That`s about six walnuts, twelve cashews, or twenty peanuts.

Try Different Desserts

Besides the damage desserts can do to your waistline, ending your meal with sugary foods helps promote the buildup of bacteria on your teeth. Instead, think about other ways you can end your meal. Why not do what many Europeans do ` and make salad the last thing you eat` Or even try three ounces of low`fat cheese or a handful of peanuts; they`re foods that help clear harmful sugars and plaque away from your teeth.

Action 3

Really Feel What You Eat

Look, when it comes to health, nobody`s perfect. But what`s our goal here` To improve your health, and to keep you young and active. So let`s say your overall digestive health ranks a 4 on a scale from 1 to 10; you don`t have to get to a 10 to live better. An 8 would make your insides feel as if they`re getting a Swedish massage. And you`ll live longer and better because of it. Since food has so much of an influence on our digestion, it stands to reason that you can change the way you live and feel by figuring out the foods that are causing you trouble. Since there are so many foods to choose from, the best way to experiment is through the food elimination test. In this test, you completely eliminate one group of foods for about three days in a row. During that time you should take notes about how you feel with regard to energy levels, fatigue, and digestive regularity. Take notes when you go off foods and ` just as important ` how you feel when you reintroduce them into your diet. That way, you`ll be in tune to those things that make you feel worse once you start eating them again. Here`s the order of groups of food we`d suggest you eliminate from your diet at different times, just for two or three days:

  1. Wheat products
  2. Dairy products
  3. Carbohydrates (including sugar)
  4. Artificial colors

When you eliminate a group from your diet, you`ll notice different things about the way you feel. For instance, you may have more energy when you eliminate the aging fats (saturated and trans) from your diet, and that`ll help you stick to a diet low in saturated fat because you`ll notice ` and like ` the changes. It`s all about awareness ` being in tune to which foods make you feel crummy and which make you feel energetic. This three`day elimination plan is an especially good test because you may be able to identify subtle food allergies through this method. Through this experiment, you can help make a diagnosis and avoid some of the foods that make you feel less well. Best of all, this experiment trains you to do something that`s good not only for your digestive system but for overall health and youth. It teaches you to eat smaller meals by restricting some of the usual that you would put in your mouth by habit.

Action 4

Spend 120 Seconds at the Sink

You already know to brush your teeth with fluoride, will help kill bacteria, but you also can live a lot healthier by hanging out just a little longer in front of the mirror.


Do it everyday. It breaks up more than five hundred kinds of bacteria that live in plaque between your teeth and helps reduce the inflammation associated with gum disease. (One note: it`s normal to bleed when you floss after a long layoff, but if you still bleed following each floss after a week, it`s probably a sign you have some level of gingivitis.) Brushing and flossing every day combined with seeing a dental professional every six months or so can have an effect of making you up to 6.4 years younger.

Scrape By

Many bacteria don`t just hang out between your teeth; they are also present on your tongue. Use a tongue scraper or brush your tongue while brushing your teeth to help remove some of the bacteria that causes bad breath.

Action 5

Clean Up

Food poisoning ` caused by the invasion of foreign bacteria in your system ` usually manifests itself with vomiting, diarrhea. One way to avoid it is to make sure your food reaches the temperature of 165 degrees on the inside for at least fifteen seconds. Just because food isn`t red or pink doesn`t mean it reached the temperature, either. Also throw away your cleaning sponges. It attracts all the bad elements. In fact bacteria grows on sponges, so every time you use one, you have the potential of passing bacteria from sponge to dish to food to mouth. Use cheap dishcloths to clean your kitchen and then clean them in diluted bleach once a week. That bleach will kill anything that tries to grow.

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