Digestion for (not-so) Dummies: GPS

(Note: This postal service is business office of an ongoing series. For previous entries, click here.)

In the certification programme I late completed to travel a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, our teacher said that the abbreviation GPS is a practiced way to recall iii of the mind organs of digestion: the gallbladder, pancreas, together with stomach. Since we’ve already beaten the tummy to expiry (not literally), I gauge that agency it’s fourth dimension to verbalize almost the those other two. If you lot think your pancreas is entirely practiced for blood refined saccharify regulation, together with you lot have got no idea what your gallbladder does, travel along reading. It’s fourth dimension to plough over these ii underappreciated organs their due.

I know last time I said nosotros would teach to the modest intestine halt along the route of our digestive train, but nosotros genuinely can’t brand feel of the modest intestine without start making picayune detours for the pancreas together with gallbladder (GB). See, the pancreas together with GB create digestive enzymes together with other helpful secretions that terminate upwards inward the modest intestine, together with nosotros desire to tackle things inward the proper order. 

Let’s start amongst geography. Even though the modest intestine is the real side yesteryear side business office of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract due south of the stomach, its climate couldn’t live to a greater extent than different. While the tummy is highly acidic, digestive enzymes inward the modest intestine (SI) piece of work best inward an alkaline environment. And the interesting matter is, what makes the SI alkaline metal is genuinely the acidity of the tummy contents! Say what?!

Here’s how it works: 1 time nutrient is mixed amongst tummy acid together with other gastric juices, together with it becomes all gnarly together with partially broken down, it’s called chyme (hard "c"). Assuming our stomachs were sufficiently acidic, the chyme volition also live real acidic. The potent acidity of the chyme triggers a hormone called secretin, which tells the pancreas to secrete bicarbonate ions (think baking soda – an acid buffer). If the chyme isn’t acidic plenty when it hits the SI (because of depression tummy acid), perhaps around bicarb volition live released, but perhaps it won’t. Or perhaps it’ll accept its sweetness fourth dimension showing up. It’s of import that the bicarb is secreted quickly, because exactly similar the esophagus, the start business office of the SI (called the duodenum) isn’t protected yesteryear a nice, thick layer of mucus, the way the tummy is. If the bicarb doesn’t take heed the telephone telephone together with neutralize the acidic chyme relatively early on inward its journeying through the modest intestine, we’ll have got an acidic ball of semi-digested nutrient sitting inward our SI, where the acid tin erode a hole inward the intestinal wall. (Duodenal ulcer, anyone?) This won’t come about subsequently exactly a pair of incidents of pathetic digestion, but it tin sure enough consequence subsequently years of chronic depression tummy acid together with years on acid-suppressing drugs.

Okay, bicarbonate. Got it. What else goes to piece of work inward the duodenum? Let’s verbalize pancreatic secretions. Remember Troy McClure from The Simpsons? To channel him for a mo here:

“The Pancreas: You may recall me from such roles as, Lowering your blood refined saccharify via the secretion of insulin from my beta cells. Or, Raising your blood refined saccharify via the secretion of glucagon from my alpha cells.

The pancreas is the funky looking matter behind the stomach.
(Circled inward yellow.) 
Yes, kids, the pancreas plays a large run inward blood refined saccharify regulation, but the fun doesn’t halt there. The pancreas is a fundamental thespian inward digestion. We already mentioned the bicarbonate ions it releases to alkalinize the duodenum. Well, practiced matter it does that, because those enzymes I mentioned earlier? The ones that piece of work best inward that alkaline metal environment? The pancreas produces those, too. I won’t bore you lot amongst the names. Just know that they’re enzymes to assist pause downward all iii macronutrients:  fat, protein, together with carbohydrate. And imagine how hard it is for your pathetic pancreas to create all those enzymes when it’s thus busy all the fourth dimension exactly trying to travel along your blood refined saccharify within normal physiological limits. It tin entirely do thus much at once. (Want to ease the burden here? Ditch the refined refined saccharify together with cutting way dorsum on grains together with other starchy carbohydrates. [And no, agave “nectar” is NOT a well for you lot choice!])

Remember how nosotros talked almost HCl supplements to growth tummy acidity inward part 6? Well, if your pancreas needs a picayune support, at that topographic point are also broad spectrum digestive enzymes to assist a pancreas that’s struggling to travel along up.

That picayune greenish matter tucked nether
and behind the liver is the gallbladder.
(Circled inward white.)
Okay, that was the pancreas. So what almost the gallbladder? The gallbladder is a picayune sack that sits nether together with behind the liver, together with it stores bile. (The liver produces bile; think of the GB to a greater extent than similar its asset tank.) So what is bile? Bile does to fats what laundry detergent does to dirt: it’s an emulsifier. It breaks downward fats into teeny tiny droplets, which gives fat-digesting enzymes to a greater extent than surface expanse upon which to do their work, the same way chewing gives tummy acid to a greater extent than surface expanse to piece of work on. Basically, it makes digesting fats easier. (This is why people who’ve had their gallbladders removed [the fancy medical term for this is “cholecystectomy”] are advised to eat a low-fat diet. This is bad advice, but nosotros don’t have got fourth dimension to teach into why exactly yet, thus experience gratuitous to banking enterprise check out these links inward the meantime.) Bile itself doesn’t genuinely digest anything; its chore is to assist the enzymes that do digest fats piece of work better. 

But this serial isn’t exactly almost the anatomy together with physiology of the GI tract together with how things piece of work when everything’s going equally planned. Like nosotros did for the stomach, we’ve got to verbalize almost what happens when things travel wrong amongst the gallbladder. Since the gallbladder is largely considered to live expendable inward the modern medical earth (*sigh*), when anything goes incorrect amongst the GB, the knee-jerk reaction is to accept it out. So let’s explore that scenario. According to Dr. David Williams: “With a well for you lot gallbladder, proper amounts of bile are released into the digestive tract equally needed. Without a gallbladder, at that topographic point is a continuous trickle of bile into your organisation regardless of the presence or absence of fat. The failure to jibe bile output to obese presence [in the intestines] jeopardizes one’s mightiness to properly digest obese and, eventually, leads to deficiencies inward fat-soluble vitamins together with essential obese acids, pathetic cholesterol metabolism, together with the absorption of improperly digested obese globules.” 

So, you lot see, fifty-fifty without a GB, you lot all the same produce bile. The divergence is, it gets released constantly, whether you’ve consumed whatever dietary obese or not, because the liver is all the same producing it, but the GB is no longer at that topographic point to have the physiological signals that regulate the proper release of bile. And when you lot do ingest dietary fat, the amount of bile that gets released doesn’t jibe upwards amongst the amount of obese to live digested. Things get—to work the scientific term—messed up. It's similar a leaky faucet that drips constantly, but that you lot tin never teach to plough on total nail when you lot postulate to.

For the reasons Dr. Williams indicated, fifty-fifty though it’s the liver that genuinely makes bile together with the gallbladder exactly stores it together with sends it out, many people who’ve had their GBs removed discovery their obese digestion is greatly improved amongst ox bile supplements at mealtime. (Sold solitary sometimes or unremarkably equally business office of a blend of digestive support.) How tin you lot tell if your obese digestion is compromised, whether or non you lot have got a gallbladder within you? Tune inward for an upcoming postal service on the large intestine. (Sneak peek: it has to do amongst your poop!)

So the proper production together with issue of bile is pretty important. I’ve been proverb all along that digestion is similar a symphony. In lodge for it to “go right,” all the musicians inward the orchestra have got to come upwards together inward harmony. They have got to come upwards inward at the correct time, at the correct volume, tuned to the correct pitch. If whatever of these are off, the music won’t audio the way it’s supposed to…and digestion won’t come about the way it’s supposed to.

So what triggers bile production? There’s a hormone amongst a wacko name—cholecystokinin (CCK for short), together with it’s signaled yesteryear dietary fat. When obese hits the duodenum, CCK goes to piece of work together with tells the gallbladder to issue the bile it’s been storing. This is how a long-term real low-fat diet tin actually cause gallstones: if you lot don’t eat plenty fat, bile volition stagnate inward the GB together with eventually solidify, pair upwards amongst insoluble minerals, together with travel stones. Remember: our bodies have got finite resources to do what they postulate to do. They don’t bother wasting unloose energy secreting things they don’t postulate to secrete. We need obese inward our diet. Healthy fats travel along bile flowing smoothly, similar it’s supposed to. (By the way, if you lot think “cholecystokinin” together with “cholecystectomy” audio similar “cholesterol,” you’re right! All these words have got the same root, together with whaddya know—bile is made from cholesterol! It’s exactly 1 of the many, many wonderful things cholesterol does for us.)

If you’ve always been sick plenty to throw upwards bile, together with then you lot know it’s variety of yellowish inward color. (It’s also probable 1 of the most awful things you’ve always tasted.) That paint is the same 1 that gives urine together with feces their characteristic colors. Don’t freak out. It’s non that you’re vomiting urine or feces; it’s exactly the same chemic inward the pigment, together with the way nosotros teach rid of excess bile is through excretion.

So that’s the “G” together with the “P” inward GPS. It’s finally fourth dimension to verbalize almost the modest intestine, which is the real workhorse of the entire digestive tract. (I hope this time! The side yesteryear side digestion postal service will live the modest intestine.) But I’ve taken plenty of your fourth dimension for now. Tune inward side yesteryear side fourth dimension together with discovery out why your modest intestine is similar a sweetness shag carpet direct from the 1970s.

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is non a Dr. together with , LLC, is non a medical practice. The data contained on this site is non intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or forestall whatever medical condition.
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