We talk about the gut an awful lot around here, but what does that really mean?
What is the gut? Where is it located? How does the food get down there? Let’s journey together as we follow a taco’s journey through the human gastrointestinal tract (GI), from start to finish.
Let’s tacobout it.
This company is founded on the consumption of tacos. You name it: steak, chicken, chorizo, brain, they’ve been eaten at least once a week as a company. It’s the ideal food to follow because it has all three of the macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat with the added bonus of being supremely delicious.
The GI also goes by many other names.
- Alimentary canal
- GI (Gastrointestinal)
- Digestive Tract
Call it what you’d like but it includes the organs making up the route taken as food passes through the body from top to, ahem, bottom.
Believe it or not, digestion begins right away in the mouth!
Mastication, or chewing, is the first step to physically breaking down the tacos while the saliva secreted contains the enzymes to begin the chemical process of digestion. It’s also the first place we can mindfully begin to improve digestion by simply taking the time to chew food well. The taco bites get formed in to a bolus, or swallow size amount of chewed food.
Those chewed up morsels of deliciousness then travel down the esophagus with the help of involuntary contractions and relaxations of canal muscles.
These wave-like motions keep the taco bolus moving to the next stop: the stomach.
There’s a lot going on in the stomach from the chemical side of things.
Hydrochloric acid is secreted and mixes with food to convert it into chyme while killing pathogenic (bad/disease causing) bacteria that may have been ingested. There is always going to be individual variation, but the typical stomach pH is around 1.5 – 3.5, up to 5 while eating. Part of what makes flourish and flourish Junior so unique is that our product is naturally fermented. During that process, the bacteria kickoff beneficial byproducts, which create an acidic environment. Our bacteria are happily growing in an acidic environment all the way to through your stomach, to their final destination. The majority of protein and fat digestion occurs here in the stomach thanks to the activation of enzymes due to the acid. The taco chyme is then slowly released to the small intestine.
The majority of absorption and continuation of digestion takes place in the small intestine.
The small intestine was created in such a unique, and specific way to absorb. Fingerlike folds called villa increase the surface area of the intestine, furthered by the microscopic microvilli. These folds upon folds have “brush boarder” projections to further increase the surface area of the small intestine to roughly the same size as a tennis court! This creates such a huge potential to absorb, even more nutrients than humans typically eat in a day. Another noteworthy fact about the small intestine, it’s typically less than an inch in diameter and about 20 feet in length, not exactly small. But compared by diameter to the large intestine, it is small, giving its namesake. By the end of the small intestine, the taco chyme is a watery mass, not looking like it was in its prime.
Next stop: the large intestine where the chyme is officially referred to as feces. Travel slows through the large intestine, also known as colon, taking 18 – 24 hours for material to pass through. The majority of water is removed with very little absorption of micronutrients taking place. This is where the microbiome is located, or what we lovingly refer to as the gut. Our friendly bacteria choose this luxurious location, aiding humans by further digesting fibers that the body is not able to digest on its own, insoluble fibers. They also feast on products that make it through that should have been digested. For those who may lack the enzymes required to digest lactose found in dairy products, the bacteria present in the colon process the rogue lactose, causing some uncomfortable gas, bloating, and loose stools. Friendly bacteria create Vitamin K as well as short-chain fatty acids, both play important roles in the human body.
The goal of probiotics is to get beneficial bacteria into the colon. Our natural fermentation process allows bacteria to thrive in an acidic environment to make it through the stomach and take up residence in the gut. Additionally, all of the beneficial byproducts produced by the bacteria during the growth phase are retained and available for the body to use as well.
Probiotics are transient in nature, meaning they are temporary tourists visiting the gut, so being consistent in regularly taking in flourish for maximum benefit is recommended. You may ask yourself, but how do tourist bacteria help if they don’t take up residence and make lasting changes? Absolutely! Many studies have shown that probiotics can positively impact the resident gut bacteria as well as altering the digestive tract in other ways through metabolites. They also create a more acidic colon, which is not a good environment for pathogenic bacteria to grow.
It’s a long journey for that taco from top to bottom, and not always glamorous. This brief summary only begins to scratch the surface of detail that makes up the GI system. As we are at the end of the journey, let’s stop to remember the purpose of the GI system: to breakdown food into small enough molecules to be absorbed into the body. These are both the building blocks the body uses to grown and maintain, as well as the fuel to keep our body moving. If we take care of our GI system, it will take care of us!
Nutrition: Jones & Bartlett Learning, Burlington, MA, 2017 6th Edition, Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, Melissa Bernestein
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/ visited 9/23/19
https://isappscience.org/is-probiotic-colonization-essential/ visited 9/23/201