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  • vanessavanderhoek

Digestion 101

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Digestion is fascinating! Before I became a Functional Medicine Nutritionist I had never really thought about how complex it is.

Before you even start eating your body gets ready for digestion. Your pituitary gland (in your head, in between your eyes) senses that food is coming and signals to your digestive system to start releasing enzymes and acid. Think about a lemon and see what happens. Do you start to get a heap of saliva in your mouth? That’s enzymes secreted from your brain!

Then you start eating. It’s important that you are sitting still, not stressed, thinking about your food. It’s best to not be distracted by screens as it will interfere with your digestion – your brain won’t know if you’re eating or working.

Chew chew chew. It’s called masticate. You need to masticate until the food is like baby food and then swallow. Most people swallow chunks of food. If this is you, this needs to stop today.

The food travels down the oesophagus to the stomach – that’s where it’s mixed with stomach acid and whizzed up like a food processor. The food is transformed into what we call “chyme”.

The chyme travels to the small intestine. It’s here where nutrients are absorbed into the body with the help of bile from the gallbladder (and liver) and enzymes from the pancreas. If you have Coeliac Disease, you may know that this is where the villi is damaged when you consume gluten. Also, for people with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, also known as SIBO (click here to learn more), they have impaired absorption of nutrients.

The waste then travels to the large colon where special bacteria in there create very powerful compounds called “Short Chain Fatty Acids” (amazing for our immune health) and it’s where you make poop!

You should be pooing everyday at least once – 20cm is ideal – a brown smooth sausage shape that sinks (with no undigested food in it). If it’s less than this, you may be constipated.

What I’ve shared with you is the high-level version, it’s WAY more complex than this. BUT you can see from this that’s there are a lot of moving parts, so when it comes to gut health – whilst the saying “you are what you eat” is great, I love the saying “you are what you absorb!”

If you've been struggling with constipation, bloating, diarrhea, reflux or other gastrointestinal symptoms - then it's time to get to the bottom of it and work out what's going on in there!

Here's how to get started working with me:

  1. Click here to watch my free workshop: Is It IBS, SIBO, IMO, SIFO? All Of The Above… Or Something Else?

  2. Download my FREE eBook: The 5 Things I Learned About My Gut Health & Energy. In this eBook I've shared the top 5 things I have learned about my gut health and my client's (bloating, constipation, diarrhea), low energy, and other symptoms, so you too can finally stop searching for answers. Click here to get immediate access!

  3. Book an initial Functional Medicine Nutrition consultation with me - click here. You will be directed to my secure platform called Better, where you can choose a time (and time zone) that suits you. Whilst I live in Canberra, Australia, I work with clients from around the world in my virtual clinic. If there's not a time that suits your time zone, book in for another time and drop me a message - I will fit you in!

  4. Complete the Client Intake Forms in my secure platform (Better) at least 24 hours before we meet. Also please upload any test results (bloods etc) in Better so I can review them. This approach enables me to best prepare for our time together.

  5. In our initial consultation we will undertake a comprehensive review of your Health & Family History and determine the appropriateness of functional testing (gut, urine, hair).

  6. Based on this I'll develop for you a Bio-individual Plan and explain to you what you're doing and why. If we are waiting on test results, you'll be given an interim plan to get started.

Vanessa Vanderhoek is a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in the gut microbiome, biochemistry and nutrigenomics. She helps people to regain their health by taking a “food as medicine” approach that's unique to their body. Vanessa is based in Australia and has clients around the world. To get started book an initial Functional Medicine Consultation by clicking here.


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