Iget it, this is a weird topic. Food is fun to discuss, but what happens to food after we eat it…not so much. A major part of understanding nutrition, and the key to resolving most health issues, is getting to know the gut. Having very general, high level awareness of what exactly our gut is and why it matters so much is beneficial for everyone – food fanatic or not!
What Exactly is the Gut?
Our digestive system, otherwise known as our gut, involves six main organs: the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, also known as the colon. Its main function is to, duh, keep us alive, by turning the food we eat into molecules that we use for energy, growth, repair, maintenance and waste. The digestive system collectively runs our metabolism and houses most of our immune system. It is our first line of defense against infections, gross bacteria, and other foreign substances.
Seems Boring…Why is the Digestive System Cool?
Have you ever heard that the gut is our ‘second brain?’ That’s because if the vagus nerve, the one that connects our brain to our digestive system, is cut, the gut functions just fine on its own. It doesn’t need our brain at all! For this reason, the gut is also called the Enteric, or Intrinsic Nervous System. Yeah, our digestive system has a lot of nicknames. It’s also made up of a lot of microbes and bacteria. We have over 100 trillion microbial cells and between 500 and 1,000 species of bacteria in our gut. Gross, right? Another fun fact: the lining of our digestive tract repairs and replaces itself once or twice a week (every three to five days). Kind of like a lizard that sheds and regrows its tail.
A Few FYI’s
In reality, the gut is really complicated. I could walk you through the entire process and yucky terms like chyme and bile…but I’ll spare you for now. Read on for a few more quick deets about why our digestive system is so dope!