what is good digestion?

DigestiveSystemDigestion should be the natural process of an exquisitely complex system that converts food into the materials needed for life: vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids (proteins), and sugars (carbohydrates).

From the average person’s point of view, it is a relatively easy, even unremarkable process, something you take for granted. But from a medical viewpoint it is truly fascinating.

Much happens between the time you eat a piece of food and the time the waste products leave your body. Most people are concerned only with the two parts of the digestive system that require some active participation on their part – the food going in and the waste coming out. The steps between these two poles are involuntary, and you probably don’t pay a lot of attention to them, or need to, as long as things are working well.

Elimination itself is fairly straightforward. Eating causes the colon to contract, beginning the process of peristalsis: contraction followed by relaxation, over and over again along the tube, moving things down to the exit. Between thirty to sixty minutes after eating (depending on various factors, such as how much was in the intestinal tract to begin with), a person will normally feel the urge to have a bowel movement.

About 60% of the fecal mass is made up of water, although this figure can vary widely. When you have diarrhea, for example, the percentage of water is much higher. About 30% of a normal stool consists of dead bacteria, which gives feces its characteristic odor. The rest is made up of indigestible fiber, fats (such as cholesterol), inorganic salts, live bacteria, dead cells and mucus from your intestinal lining, and protein.

Relaxation is a key to healthy bowel movements. In fact, the whole of digestive function is based on relaxation. This is why stress is often blamed for bad digestion. When you are relaxed, the parasympathetic part of your nervous system is dominant. This same part allows your digestive system to “do its thing.”

Although the number of bowel movements a day that is considered “normal” varies, the average is one or two. Stools should be well formed; not watery; generally dark brown in color; and passed easily, without straining, cramping, or pain. Lighter brown stools, which usually float, generally mean you’re not digesting fats very well. Ideally, at the end of the bowel movement you should feel like you are fully “through.”

Evacuation is a fine balance and everyone is a little bit different, but the general rule is that if you experience discomfort, especially regularly, then things are not functioning normally. Pooping is a natural experience and should be comfortable and – dare we say it? – even bring an enjoyable feeling of release.

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Digestion should be the natural process of an exquisitely complex system that converts food into the materials needed for life: vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids (proteins), and sugars (carbohydrates). From the average person’s point of view, it is a relatively easy, even unremarkable process, something you take for granted. But from a medical viewpoint it is truly fascinating.

A lot happens between the time you eat a piece of food and the time the waste products leave your body. Most people are concerned only with the two parts of the digestive system that require some active participation on their part – the food going in and the waste coming out. The steps between these two poles are involuntary, and you probably don’t pay a lot of attention to them, or need to, as long as things are working well.

Elimination itself is fairly straightforward. Eating causes the colon to contract, beginning the process of peristalsis: contraction followed by relaxation, over and over again along the tube, moving things down to the exit. Between thirty to sixty minutes after eating (depending on various factors, such as how much was in the intestinal tract to begin with), a person will normally feel the urge to have a bowel movement. 

About 60% of the fecal mass is made up of water, although this figure can vary widely. When you have diarrhea, for example, the percentage of water is much higher. About 30% of a normal stool consists of dead bacteria, which gives feces its characteristic odor. The rest is made up of indigestible fiber, fats (such as cholesterol), inorganic salts, live bacteria, dead cells and mucus from your intestinal lining, and protein. 

Relaxation is a key to healthy bowel movements. In fact, the whole of digestive function is based on relaxation. This is why stress is often blamed for bad digestion. When you are relaxed, the parasympathetic part of your nervous system is dominant. This same part allows your digestive system to “do its thing.”

Although the number of bowel movements a day that is considered “normal” varies, the average is one or two. Stools should be well formed; not watery; generally dark brown in color; and passed easily, without straining, cramping, or pain. Lighter brown stools, which usually float, generally mean you’re not digesting fats very well. Ideally, at the end of the bowel movement you should feel like you are fully “through.”

Evacuation is a fine balance and everyone is a little bit different, but the general rule is that if you experience discomfort, especially regularly, then things are not functioning normally. Pooping is a natural experience and should be comfortable and – dare we say it? – even bring an enjoyable feeling of release.

Image thanks to buzzlol

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Bad bacteria. (image thanks to purevidanutrition.blogspot)

What makes a bad bacteria bad? The worst bacteria (the ugly) either directly destroy tissue by feeding upon it or produce a toxin that destroys tissue. Other bacteria (the bad) react negatively to food, or are poor fermenters of food, creating IBS symptoms like gas and diarrhea. And some species of yeast and bacteria are bad simply because they take up space, thereby crowding out the good bacteria and depriving your body of all the health-giving benefits that friendly bacteria provide, resulting in the poor digestion of food and the poor absorption of nutrients.

The ugly bacteria are never regarded as normal flora within the body. They are not usually considered to be causes of IBS, but they do cause severe, often life-threatening, conditions. Ugly bacteria include Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter, and certain strains of E. coli. Just a tiny amount of the most virulent strains of bacteria in a person’s body is enough to begin the process of infestation. The symptoms of these bacterial infections usually include severe watery diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some cause vomiting, muscular cramps, dehydration, and permanent intestinal damage. If untreated, they may even cause death. In short, they are nothing to fool around with. Luckily, the medical community is generally good at identifying and treating these kinds of bacterial infestations.

Less dangerous, but still unwelcome, are the bad bacteria, which include the Enterobacteriaceae family of Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Proteus, and Serratia, as well as Clostridium difficile and Pseudomonas. At very low populations, these bacteria may be considered normal flora in the intestinal tract. However, being normal doesn’t make them good. Each has been documented as causing IBS-type symptoms, and they often need to be eliminated.

Unfortunately most doctors rarely test for them, since the symptoms they cause are usually not immediately dangerous. But, if a bad bacteria has managed to increase its population and gain territory in your intestinal tract, you may experience gas, bloating, abdominal pain, or loose stools. You’re probably not dying, but you are very uncomfortable.

You may be surprised to learn that another bacteria considered normal flora is one strain of E. coli. Due to some recent well-publicized cases of E. coli infestation, the name itself now seems scary. Some types of E. coli are scary, but the strain of E. coli normally found in the intestines is not the toxic strain that causes bloody diarrhea and other symptoms. In fact, we all have E. coli living in our intestines.

Image thanks to purevidanutrition

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