Your digestive system is attuned to your every mood. When we are happy, relaxed, and have a meal, all the digestive juices enzymes work and the food is absorbed in to the body and the waste evacuated. We just take it for granted that this happens on a daily basis.

How does digestion work?

When you eat a meal, the autonomic nervous system modifies the circulatory system so that more blood is sent to the digestive system.

Digestion is the process by which the body breaks down the food you eat into smaller, absorbable nutrients that can be used for energy, growth, and repair. It involves several organs and enzymes working together. Here's a simplified overview of how digestion works:

  • Mouth: Digestion begins in the mouth. As you chew your food, the salivary glands produce saliva, which contains enzymes (like amylase) that start breaking down carbohydrates in the food. Saliva also helps in forming a soft bolus (mass) of food that's easier to swallow.

  • Esophagus: After chewing, the food is swallowed and moves down the esophagus through a series of muscular contractions called peristalsis.

  • Stomach: The partially digested food enters the stomach, where it is mixed with gastric juices. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid and pepsin, which break down proteins. The churning motion of the stomach helps further break down the food into a semi-liquid substance called chyme.

  • Small Intestine: The chyme moves into the small intestine, where most of the digestion and nutrient absorption occurs. The pancreas releases digestive enzymes (lipase, amylase, and protease) into the small intestine to continue breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The liver also produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine to help emulsify fats and aid in their digestion.

  • a. Duodenum: This is the first part of the small intestine where most digestion takes place. Here, enzymes break down the remaining food particles into even smaller molecules.

  • b. Jejunum and Ileum: These sections of the small intestine are primarily responsible for nutrient absorption. The inner lining of the small intestine is covered in tiny finger-like projections called villi and even smaller microvilli, which significantly increase the surface area for absorption. Nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins are absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream.

  • Large Intestine (Colon): After the small intestine has absorbed most of the nutrients, the remaining undigested food, water, and waste products move into the large intestine. Here, water and electrolytes are absorbed, and the waste material is formed into feces.

  • Rectum and Anus: Fecal matter is stored in the rectum until it is ready to be eliminated from the body through the anus during a bowel movement.


Throughout the digestive process, hormones and nerve signals help regulate the release of digestive enzymes and the movement of food through the digestive tract.

It's important to note that the digestive process is highly complex and involves the coordinated efforts of multiple organs, enzymes, and systems in the body to ensure that nutrients are extracted and waste is eliminated efficiently. Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to support healthy digestion and overall well-being..

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is usually caused by eating too quickly, eating irregularly, or eating the wrong foods. This can can cause a feeling of heaviness, dull stomach pain, bloating, and/or heartburn. An infusion of herbs like fennel, mint, dill, chamomile, anise seed, or lemon balm have been shown to help flatulence when taken after a meal.

What are other stomach problems?

Here is a list of some of the other stomach problems people might have:

• Colitis
• Constipation
Crohn's Disease
• Diarrhea
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Nausea/Upset Stomach
• Water Retention/Bloating

Gastritis and peptic ulcers are an inflammation of the stomach lining and ulceration of the stomach. These require medical attention. Slippery elm powder seems to coat the lining of the stomach and protects against acid secretions. This herb is usually taken by mixing the powder with milk or water and taking a few teaspoons when you eat or feel pain.

An infection or irritation of part of the digestive tract usually causes diarrhea. When this occurs, it is wise to replace lost fluids by drinking plenty of water. Herbs that are known to help stop diarrhea are: agronomy and five-finger grass, with a pinch of ginger and cinnamon powder. For any diarrhea that last more that a day you should at once seek medical help.

Constipation is often the result of poor diet and lack of exercise. Long-term use of laxatives may also cause constipation. This condition can be relieved by regular exercise and abdominal massage and using herbs that increase the muscle tone of the digestive tract. A high-fiber diet is essential. An infusion of licorice, damiana, raspberry leaves, goldenseal, rhubarb root, ginger, and dandelion root also helps to relieve this condition.

As the liver plays a central role in cleansing the body, help regulate its function herbs such as dandelion root, barberry, bold, fringe tree, gentian, and century are good tonics.


Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach Li Dong - Yuan Translated and Annotated by Bob Flaws
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Balch and Balch
Handbook of Chinese Herbs by Him-che Yeung, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D

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