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September, 16, 2022

The food you eatcontains the nutrients that serve as building blocks, and provide energy andnourishment throughout your body. In food, nutrients are contained in largemolecules that are chemically and physically bound together. Digestion is theprocess of breaking down these tightly bound molecules into individualnutrients that can be taken into your body and used to support its functions.Simply defined, digestion is cutting things down to a size in which they can beabsorbed into your body.

Digestion occurs inthe gastrointestinal tract-the 20 to 30 foot long tube extending from yourmouth to your anus. Whatever you eat flows through this system, but until it isabsorbed through the intestinal tract, the nutrients in food are physicallyoutside of your body. This is because the gastrointestinal tract functions likean internal skin and provides a barrier between whatever you ingest from theoutside (external) world and your internal bloodstream and cells. Part of thedigestion process, then, is the selective transport of nutrients through thecell wall that lines your intestinal tract. Once transported across theintestinal barrier to the inside of your body, these nutrients can enter yourbloodstream and circulate to all of your tissues to maintain organ function,support your need for energy, and provide for growth and repair of new cellsand tissues.

While digestion canbe simply defined, its mechanics are quite complex. This is because your foodcontains so many different sizes, shapes, and types of individual molecules,all tightly entwined, and because each of these types of molecules ischemically distinct. Digestion uses both mechanical processes, such as chewingand grinding, which help separate the different types of molecules, as well aschemical processes, in the form of enzymes that can cut the bonds within themolecules, to release small nutrients into your system. An analogy is two ormore necklace chains of different types twisted, knotted, and interlockedtogether. Digestion would be the process of untwisting and separating thechains, usually requiring cutting them in a couple of places, and then pullingthem apart and further cutting each of them into many smaller pieces, so theycan become building blocks for other necklace chains.


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