Is Your Digestive System Healthy?

by Vanessa Labelle

Have you ever wondered whether your digestive system is functioning optimally? To answer this, I propose considering the following issues:

  • Do you experience chronic fatigue, insomnia?
  • Do you think your metabolism is too slow?
  • Do you have trouble losing weight despite efforts related to an increased level of exercise? 
  • Do you have thyroid or digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, cramps, gas, etc.)?
  • Do you have unstable emotions or a tendency towards depression?
  • Do you feel you have skin problems (acne, pimples, redness, etc.)?

These are all issues that can be related to a congested digestive system, operating below its potential and which you have the power to improve. To understand how it works, let's start with the definition of digestion: the complex process in which various organs of the body work together to transform food into nutrients that can be assimilated into the blood. When digestion is compromised, your body's equilibrium and your well-being may be affected.

The Different Stages of Digestion 

Everything begins with chewing and we can never say enough about its importance. Keep in mind that your stomach does not have teeth! Instead, salivary enzymes help to break down food, and assuring their efficacy is the easiest way to optimize your digestion. Food then goes via the esophageal tube to your stomach where it is broken down into the molecules you need to fuel the body: primarily proteins (which are tiny molecules consisting of amino acids). During this process, which may last from 3 to 5 hours, the stomach fragments the amino acid molecules. Our cells, our muscles, and our tissues are composed of amino acids and they are necessary for the proper functioning of our body. 

The contents of the stomach then pass through the small intestine where the the nutrients are absorbed through its small walls. The blood then transports nutrients to the body's cells. Meanwhile, the pancreas has two functions. The first is to secrete insulin to regulate the level of sugar in the blood and the second is to synthesize and extract pancreatic enzymes that help in digestion. For its part, the large intestine makes use of fibre in eliminating and disposing of all waste from the body. There are 2 types of fibre: insoluble fibres (bread and cereals, potatoes, green beans, the skin of fruits and vegetables, etc.) that help prevent constipation and promote satiety and soluble fibre (rice, dried vegetables, apples, carrots, oranges, oatmeal, oat bran, etc.) that help lower cholesterol.

Which organ of the digestive system do you think works the hardest?

The liver! Among its 561 functions, the most important is to filter out waste and toxins and neutralize them so that they do not affect the body negatively. Therefore it is important to pay attention to it and allow it some downtime. Because when overworked with harmful substances like alcohol, drugs, processed foods, refined sugar, and chemicals, it cannot do its job effectively. This may result in weakening the immune system, disrupting hormones, and even causing weight gain. According to Chinese medicine, the liver sustains the emotions of anger and sadness. It is therefore important to effectively manage these arguably more negative emotions, because they could interfere with the positive energy of the liver's function if repressed.

Now that you are familiar with the steps, how can you optimize your digestion? Here are some suggestions towards changing your habits and optimizing your inner well-being:

  • When possible, choose unprocessed, unrefined, healthy, whole, fresh, local, and organic foods.
  • Eat more often and in smaller portions to avoid overloading your digestive system.
  • Eat slowly and attentively.
  • Avoid eating in response to stress or anxiety as it may hamper your digestion.
  • Drink plenty of water to remove toxins.

 Remember that the choice of food consumed is as important as how you eat it.


Vanessa Labelle
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Vanessa Labelle

As a graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Academy of Toronto, Vanessa Labelle spends her time as a nutrition coach while also teaching her clients how to cook and updating her blog Pomme et Sucre.


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