Digestion and Absorption

Digestion is the breakdown of food into smaller particles or individual nutrients. It is accomplished through six basic processes, with the help of several body fluids—particularly digestive juices that are made up of compounds such as saliva, mucus, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bicarbonate, and bile.

The six processes of digestion involve: (1) the movement of food and liquids; (2) the lubrication of food with bodily secretions; (3) the mechanical breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; (4) the reabsorption of nutrients—especially water; (5) the production of nutrients such as vitamin K and biotin by friendly bacteria; and (6) the excretion of waste products. Comprehension of the tasks or processes needed to break down food are essential to an understanding of how and when food really begins to function within the body. For example, not understanding that carbohydrates break down into glucose could lead one to believe that the best source of glucose is in liquid form such as a soft drink. This could cause one to miss out on the nutrients (and great taste) in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Likewise, not understanding the digestion process could lead a person to believe in the myth of "food combining," or perhaps to think it is normal to be hungry all the time. But, in fact, the digestive processes normal to human physiology can simultaneously handle carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—and allow people to go several hours between meals, especially if meals are balanced in fiber and the individual nutrients needed.

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