Robert J Sullivan

Introduction by

President and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Texas Heart Institute Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston, Texas

CHELSEA HOUSE

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A Haights Cross Communications^ "^Company Philadelphia

Digestion and Nutrition

Copyright © 2004 by Infobase Publishing

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ISBN-10: 0-7910-7739-X ISBN-13: 978-0-7910-7739-9

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sullivan, Robert J. (Robert James)

Digestion and nutrition/Robert J. Sullivan.

  1. cm.—(Your body, how it works) ISBN 0-7910-7739-X
  2. Digestion. 2. Nutrition. 3. Digestive organs. I. Title. II. Series. QP145.S86 2004
  3. 3—dc22 2004002744

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Table of Contents

Introduction 6

President and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Texas Heart Institute

Clinical Professor of Surgery at the

University of Texas Medical School, Houston, Texas

1. Digestion and Nutrition: 10

An Introduction

  1. Nutrition and Major Nutrients 12
  2. Minor Nutrients and Metabolism 22
  3. Digestion, Absorption, and Elimination 30
  4. Chewing and Swallowing 40
  5. The Stomach and Small Intestine 50
  6. The Large Intestine and Elimination 64
  7. Guides to Healthy Eating 74
  8. Common Health Problems 90

Glossary 94

Bibliography 106

Further Reading 107

Websites 109

Conversion Chart 110

Index 111

Introduction

The human body is an incredibly complex and amazing structure.

At best, it is a source of strength, beauty, and wonder. We can compare the healthy body to a well-designed machine whose parts work smoothly together. We can also compare it to a symphony orchestra in which each instrument has a different part to play. When all of the musicians play together, they produce beautiful music.

From a purely physical standpoint, our bodies are made mainly of water. We are also made of many minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, and iron. In order of size, the elements of the body are organized into cells, tissues, and organs. Related organs are combined into systems, including the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

Our cells and tissues are constantly wearing out and being replaced without our even knowing it. In fact, much of the time, we take the body for granted. When it is working properly, we tend to ignore it. Although the heart beats about 100,000 times per day and we breathe more than 10 million times per year, we do not normally think about these things. When something goes wrong, however, our bodies tell us through pain and other symptoms. In fact, pain is a very effective alarm system that lets us know the body needs attention. If the pain does not go away, we may need to see a doctor. Even without medical help, the body has an amazing ability to heal itself. If we cut ourselves, the blood clotting system works to seal the cut right away, and the immune defense system sends out special blood cells that are programmed to heal the area.

During the past 50 years, doctors have gained the ability to repair or replace almost every part of the body. In my own field of cardiovascular surgery, we are able to open the heart and repair its valves, arteries, chambers, and connections. In many cases, these repairs can be done through a tiny "keyhole" incision that speeds up patient recovery and leaves hardly any scar. If the entire heart is diseased, we can replace it altogether, either with a donor heart or with a mechanical device. In the future, the use of mechanical hearts will probably be common in patients who would otherwise die of heart disease.

Until the mid-twentieth century, infections and contagious diseases related to viruses and bacteria were the most common causes of death. Even a simple scratch could become infected and lead to death from "blood poisoning." After penicillin and other antibiotics became available in the 1930s and '40s, doctors were able to treat blood poisoning, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and many other bacterial diseases. Also, the introduction of modern vaccines allowed us to prevent childhood illnesses, smallpox, polio, flu, and other contagions that used to kill or cripple thousands.

Today, plagues such as the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918-19, which killed 20 to 40 million people worldwide, are unknown except in history books. Now that these diseases can be avoided, people are living long enough to have long-term (chronic) conditions such as cancer, heart failure, diabetes, and arthritis. Because chronic diseases tend to involve many organ systems or even the whole body, they cannot always be cured with surgery. These days, researchers are doing a lot of work at the cellular level, trying to find the underlying causes of chronic illnesses. Scientists recently finished mapping the human genome, which is a set of coded "instructions" programmed into our cells. Each cell contains 3 billion "letters" of this code. By showing how the body is made, the human genome will help researchers prevent and treat disease at its source, within the cells themselves.

The body's long-term health depends on many factors, called risk factors. Some risk factors, including our age, sex, and family history of certain diseases, are beyond our control. Other important risk factors include our lifestyle, behavior, and environment. Our modern lifestyle offers many advantages but is not always good for our bodies. In western Europe and the United States, we tend to be stressed, overweight, and out of shape. Many of us have unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, or using drugs. Our air, water, and food often contain hazardous chemicals and industrial waste products. Fortunately, we can do something about most of these risk factors. At any age, the most important things we can do for our bodies are to eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and refuse to smoke, overuse alcohol, or use addictive drugs. We can also help clean up our environment. These simple steps will lower our chances of getting cancer, heart disease, or other serious disorders.

These days, thanks to the Internet and other forms of media coverage, people are more aware of health-related matters. The average person knows more about the human body than ever before. Patients want to understand their medical conditions and treatment options. They want to play a more active role, along with their doctors, in making medical decisions and in taking care of their own health.

I encourage you to learn as much as you can about your body and to treat your body well. These things may not seem too important to you now, while you are young, but the habits and behaviors that you practice today will affect your physical well-being for the rest of your life. The present book series, Your Body: How It Works, is an excellent introduction to human biology and anatomy. I hope that it will awaken within you a lifelong interest in these subjects.

President and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Texas Heart Institute Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston, Texas

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