Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Digestive System – Listen to your Guts!

Smorgasbord Health 2017

We are reaching the end of our journey through the labyrinth that is our digestive system.  Today the intestines, but also a couple of glands that are essential to the process itself. I hope you have enjoyed the trip and if you were new to the scenery, found it useful.


The small intestine

The small intestine is made up of three parts, the duodenum at the entrance, the jejunum and the ileum.

The duodenum is joined to the stomach and receives the highly acidic mix that has now been produced by the gastric juices. There is a danger that the duodenum would be eaten away by this acid so it secretes a thick mucus to protect itself. Within the layers of the duodenum are also glands that produce an alkaline juice to neutralise the acid and provide the enzymes to continue the digestive process. Because of the corrosive effect of the hydrochloric acid in the food at this point the cells in the mucus membrane replicate faster than anywhere else in the body. At this point bile and pancreatic juices join the mix and the food moves about 10 inches down into the jejunum where nutrients are absorbed into the blood stream before the remaining liquid is passed into the ileum and then onto the colon for excretion.

The pancreas

The pancreas is one of the largest glands in the body and its main role is the secretion of hormones including insulin (when there are raised sugar levels in the blood), glucagon (when there is lower sugar levels in the blood) which maintains a normal balance. Also  pancreatic juices, which are vital for effective digestion.

It lies across the top of the abdomen, below the liver and tucked into the duodenum section of the small intestine.

The pancreas is made up of cells (acinar cells) that secrete into small ducts that connect together until they feed pancreatic juices into a main duct running through the centre of the gland which feeds directly into the duodenum. The pancreatic juice contains not only the enzymes needed to breakdown carbohydrates, proteins and fats but also sodium bicarbonate to help neutralise the acid.

Within the acinar cells are Alpha and Beta cells that produce insulin and glucagon respectively. These are taken from the pancreas via the Mesenteric vein into the blood stream where they will balance blood sugar levels.


The gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small pear shaped muscular structure on the underside of the liver on the right of the abdomen. It is attached to the common bile duct, which connects the liver to the duodenum, by the sphincter of Oddi. Excess bile leaves the bile duct at the cystic duct and is then stored and concentrated in the gallbladder until needed. Bile is used in the digestion of fats as they pass through the duodenum and is then either excreted or absorbed back into the bloodstream.

The colon

By the time the digested food (chyme) has reached the colon all the nutrients should have been absorbed leaving a mixture of insoluble fibre and assorted waste products from the body’s operating systems mixed with water.

The Colon is the last part of the 30 foot alimentary canal and is used to remove excess water and solidify waste products before they are excreted from the body. It is a muscular tube, which moves the waste in a series of movements similar in nature to a washing machine and piping bag. The contents are churned and then moved on mass by contractions whilst excess water is re absorbed into the body. As the faecal matter loses water it becomes more solid so the lining of the colon secretes mucous to ease its passage through to the rectum.

There is still a digestive role for the colon to play, as it is at this point that billions of bacteria in the colon synthesise the essential vitamins K as well as gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. Some of which make themselves more evident when we have consumed high fibre foods like beans.

From start to finish a normal and healthy digestive system will process the food you eat in approximately 12 to 24 hours. The longest period of digestion is in the colon where the process may take several days. Obviously what we eat will affect the timing of the process as harmful bacteria in food can cause the body to rush the elimination resulting in diarrhoea or the lack of fibre may result in constipation.

Ideally you should be eliminating food every 12 hours but certainly every 24 hours. As you will have seen there are many organs and processes involved and if only one of these is out of sync with the rest of the digestive system it can have a knock on affect that could potentially damage your overall health.

Eating a balanced diet is the best way to maintain a healthy digestive tract and so is some simple maintenance from time to time including dental care and detox programmes.

©Sally Georgina Cronin – Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this on your own blogs and social media thanks Sally

17 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Digestive System – Listen to your Guts!

  1. Thanks, Sally, for this informative post! Do we need to take extra Vitamin K or can we get it in our diet? Always enjoy these posts. I learn some helpful information which I need to remember. Blessings & hugs! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Digestive System – Listen to your Guts! | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Sally, what’s your opinion regarding (1) juicing and (2) fasting? I’m wondering if they might be good for the intestines but stressful to other organs? There are so many differing opinions that it’s difficult to know what’s beneficial and what isn’t. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tina.. Juicing is fine but I recommend that it is primarily vegetable with a small addition of fruit. The element that is missing is the fibre which is discarded usually as pith and that is where much of the goodness lies. The fiber element of most vegetable and fruit is necessary as a prebiotic to nourish our existing bacteria in the gut. Without that you are likely to be consuming a lot of sugar if only fruit is used. It also depends on what base you use.. for example a water based smoothie with some berries and vegetables would be about 150 calories but even non-fat milk starts off at 125 calories and with a banana and some vegetables you can be looking at 300 calories per smoothie.

      I don’t agree with crash diets which I consider extended fasting to be. It depletes nutritional stores, intestinal bacteria and can take months to come back from depending on the length of the fast. You only have to see how weak people are who have had a lengthy illness or recovery from surgery who have not had much in the form of solid food.

      I do however advocate a form of intermittent fasting where you only eat within a certain window during the day between 8 and 10 hours. Provided that the food eaten in that period is nutritionally rich then the body will still be receiving the necessary nutrients but you can drop the calories down provided they do not drop below an average of 1500 for women and 1800 for men. Particularly if there is a normal range of physical activity. If someone is not very active then it is important to make sure that the calories are still sufficient to run the operational activities in the body that all take calories. This means eating a lot more vegetables with some healthy fat and reducing carbohydrates which tend to be high in calories. For example swapping pasta and rice (130 calories 100gm for potatoes 75 calories per 100gm)
      Intemittent fasting provides your body with longer periods of rest and repair and it helps organs such as the liver to complete its processes and maintenance programmes. If you take your sleep periods it is not difficult.. I usually eat between 12. midday and 8pm. I have done for three years and I think that I am the healthier for it. Certainly I have had no recurring problems with my gallbladder which has a hereditary glitch! I hope that helps.. hugs ♥♥

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, Sally. This is extremely helpful, and I really appreciate your lengthy reply. One last question: How long a period of time do you recommend for intermittent fasting (days? weeks?), and how often throughout the year (twice? 3 or 4 times?)? My body feels like it needs this. Aside from a juicer, I have a Nutri Bullet that liquefies pulp, so I can drink the entire vegetable/fruit. Glad to hear your gallbladder is behaving itself 🙂 Hugs ♥♥

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have been doing intermittent fasting for two years Tina.. Occasionally if we are out or away I might have something earlier especially if we are going out for the day but usually I eat between 12 – 8 or 1-9 – it is better not to have anything substantial after that as it is better to leave 3 hours after eating before going to bed. That way our digestive system is not working overtime while you try to sleep. This is why the Spaniards might eat at 9 or 10.00 but rarely go to bed before midnight or 1.00a.m. You will find that you will fall into a rythm that suits your body. I find it works for me without any problems. hugs ♥♥

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderfully done – with many thanks for the clarity, as well as for the illustrations. LOVE these articles. No wonder med students groan about all the memorization of the first year – and this is only a small part of what they ALL need to have on tap.

    “washing machine and piping bag” – lol – great image – and how dainty to explain methane release as “[gases making themselves] more evident when we have consumed high fibre foods like beans.” 🙂

    Have you written anything about pro- (or pre-) biotics and their effect on the gut biome? I’ll click to read the 3 suggestions from WordPress below your article, but I’m wondering where you stand on the ones in bottles, and what foods to eat to avoid having to buy them.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Madelyn glad you enjoyed the post. And one must be a little delicate when describing exhalations of air from the derriere! I have written about pro and pre biotics and I will be repeating the series on Candida in coming weeks after I work through some of the major organs on the way down.. the liver is next. There are times when I recommend taking additional support for the gut in supplement form.. after a course of anti-biotics or following a severe case of gastric upset particularly for children and the elderly who might not have a robust gut bacteria. For someone using dairy products (live yoghurts) regularly the probiotics in the gut can be maintained. However, despite the hype on the sides of the packet of live products most do not make it intact to the gut.

      Prebiotics are processed from insoluble carbohydrates in most fruit and vegetables including Apples (skin on) bananas, beans, artichokes etc (which is why we need to eat several portions of vegetables and fruit daily) This survives the stomach acid and digestive process and reaches the gut where it acts like a fertiliser for the existing probiotics and maintains a healthy balance. Unless you need to replenish the probiotics after illness I recommend getting prebiotics from vegetables and food and taking a prebiotic supplement at three month intervals during the year. Particularly as we get older and our digestive system is not working as efficiently as it should it will help the gut perform its job to keep us healthy. hope that helps hugs xxx


      • Interesting. Thanks for this comprehensive response, Sally.

        I learned about the gut/neurotransmitter connection the hard way, early on, before much was written about it. After a protracted period of antibiotics I slipped into a DEEP depression that, despite medication, only responded once I began a course of pricey probiotics. I was fortunate that a friend doing a masters in psychology had just learned the information and suggested it, or I might have been one who eventually had to deal with ECT.

        I now recommend taking them before, along with and/or following any antibiotics usage for my clients – along with adding yogurt with live cultures to their diets ongoingly.

        I am going to add supplements at 3-month intervals to my own diet after reading this. THANKS!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Waterford 1930s, Rock Legends 1990s, Authors 2017 | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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