The Absorption of Nutrients


The term absorption refers to the process by which our bodies glean, or take, the nutrients out of  the foods we eat. This process starts and takes place primarily in our small intestines. The nutrients are then passed into our bloodstream, which in turn, facilitates cell metabolism. When you eat a meal, your body must  find a way to absorb millions of molecules containing nutrients within a 3 to 4 hour period. These nutrient molecules include monosaccharides (carbs), amino acids (protein), fatty acids and glycerides/monglycerides (fats), minerals, vitamins and water. That’s a pretty big job, wouldn’t you agree?

The main  organ where absorption occurs, the small intestine, is categorized into 3 parts, the duodenum, jejunum and ileum respectively. Each part, or section, is specialized  to absorb a different type of nutrient. The nutrients that are ready available (this term refers to  nutrients already broken down or that  are water soluble) are absorbed near the top of the small intestine and the nutrients that take longer to be digested are absorbed further down the tract of the  small intestine.

Our bodies digest each nutrient in a  specific way, dependent on what is required to absorb and eliminate them.    Digestion  begins in the mouth for all nutrients, with the exception of vitamins.  Our teeth, saliva and enzymes that are specifically secreted for each type of nutrient, work together to  begin breaking food down into nutrients. After the food is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus into the stomach.

In the stomach, digestion of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and minerals continues due to stomach acid and more enzymes that are secreted in the digestive system. As the nutrients continue on to the small intestine, absorption begins to take place for the readily available nutrients. Carbs and proteins are completely absorbed here while fats are mostly absorbed. Fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K) are emulsified with bile and then absorbed  along with  other fats and water  soluble vitamins.

At this point, whatever is left including fiber, is considered waste and is disposed of. With all of the steps that it takes to complete the process of digestion (and I didn’t cover every single step, I just gave you the reader’s digest condensed version) you can see how if just one thing in your system is out of whack, big problems can be your  end result. Our bodies are so amazing. There are extremely intricate processes occurring all the time. Our bodies work hard for us 24 hours a day, the least we can do is eat the right foods  and exercise. Doing these things gives our bodies everything they need to function at the highest and most efficient rate possible. And really, who’s the winner in that scenario? You!

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