Digestion - a sequential process of breaking down carbohydrates, protein as well as fat by means of enzymes, consisting in saliva, gastric juice, pancreatic and intestinal juices and bile as well. Enzymes are also known as ferments, the biological role of which is to speed up the biochemical processes.
They can be found in food of animal and plant origin as well as in the human body. Additionally, enzymes reflect the body in a specific way, so to speak, as each enzyme "attacks" only a certain group of food.
If truth be told, all of them are quite sensitive to heat so it is no suprise they simply "collapse" when fried. Also, they are closely linked to vitamins, the lack of which in our daily menu slows down the assimilation. Hormones, on the other hand, have also something to do with the digestive process, as the hormone deficiency is directly linked to many serious health issues. Hormones are synthesized in the endocrine glands and affect the anzymatic reactions. As for vitamins, they also take part in the hormone production.
Chewing-up - breaking down the food. When it comes to saliva, it is produced by special glands in the mouth cavity. Its pH varies from 6.7 to 7.4, as it might be slightly acidic, neutral or be in a slightly alkaline environment). Saliva contains essential enzymes, such as amylase and maltase, thanks to which carbohydrates are assimilated in the oral activity. Besides, food assimilation is easened as a whole, as well as bacteria is neutralized.
Process of gastric juice secretion
When it comes to food digestion, the stomach takes quite a significant part in the whole process. When the phase of food assimilation is started, the food itself is, like, piled up in the stomach. Its assimilating depends on several factors: the quantity of food stored in the stomach, gastric juices, plus the type of food itself.
The stomach acidity is pH =0,9 - 2
Playing a very crucial role, HCl ( hydrochloric acid) turns pepsinogen into pepsin; it also has an antibacterial effect, collapsing the structure of several plant cells.
Enzymes produced by the gastric juice:
- Proteolytic enzymes (pepsin) - with a pH of 1,5, they take part in the process of breaking down protein into smaller particles;
- Amylolytic enzymes - they are resposible for carbohydrates assimilation, as the very first phase starts in the oral cavity. The two enzymes amylase and maltase, contained in saliva, help the whole process, making the digestion easier. You might have heard that the better and longer the food is chewed, the better the digestive system is, which is quite true after all. Well-chewed food means that there has been produced a pretty good amount of saliva, which speeds up the food assimilation as a result of it. Besides, amylase hydrolyses the starch,breaks down polysaccharides into disaccharides, as maltase dissolves disaccharides to monosaccharides aka glucose. It all takes about two hours as the activity of these two enzymes continues in the small intestine.
- Lipolytic enzymes - they perform in acidic environment; an example of such is the lipase, aiming only at the emulsified fat (mainly contained in the milk); these enzymes are broken down into fatty acids, respectively.
Gastric secretion and regulation
Technically, gastric juice is produced all the time. On an empty stomach, its quantity is insignificant while at night the whole process is ceased. It is basically the reason why consuming food quite late at night is pretty much non-advisable.
And to make things even worse, there won't be a sufficient amount of gastric juice for the food assimilation. As a matter of fact, while eating, the gastric secretion starts within the very first minutes and might take up to 4 hours.
When depressed and facing either mental or muscle stress, the gastric secretion is affected, which results in slowing down or even ceasing the food assimilation. This is a solid reason why one should eat in a stress-free environment.
Pancreatic juice secretion
Produced by the pancreas, its quantity is about 700 milliliters per day, as the pancreatic juice itself is composed of:
- Lipolytic enzymes, gradually breaking down the fat into fatty acids
- Amylolytic enzymes, such as the amylase, breaking down polysaccharides along with starch into disaccharides. Such enzymes are maltose, sucrose and lactose.
Produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, it is "poured" into the duodenum when food comes down into the stomach. It is not composed of digestive enzymes, but of bile salts and is alkaline since its pH varies between 7 - 8,2. Bile salts help reduce the surface stress of fat and promote the lipase activity. They also neutralize the acidic gastric juice while boosting gut motility; besides, they are also known for their disinfecting effect.
Small intestine secretion
The quantity of produced gastric juice per day is about 3 liters, as its main function is to boost the transportion and resorption of the substances (the most essential part of the process is performed right there). It contains epithelial cells, enzymes as well as musuc.
The large intestine is like a safeguard, protecting the intestinal wall from bacteria or acids owing to the mucus contained in it. To it, the digestive activity of the enzymes is pretty much insignificant, plus we can't even speak of an enzymatic activity on its behalf.
- Digestion is perfomed by means of enzymes (ferments), some of which have a specific effect.
- Hormones boost the digestive process
- Chewing-up soaks up the food, making it quite a lot easier to digest
- Avoid eating late at night since the quantity of gastric juice is drastically decreased
- Apart from the gastric juice, bile, the pancreas along with the small and large intestine also play a crucial role regarding the digestive process
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