The Digestive System In A Nutshell- Part Two

The other day we took a look at the five biggest players in your digestive system. Today, we’re going to touch on and simplify the three organs connected to those structures and how they help.

Again, keep in mind that this is a simplified version. These organs do much more than outlined here. In fact, they’re kind of superstars. But for the purpose of this series, we’re going to stick to straight digestion.

The Liver

liverThe largest gland in the body. Blood from the stomach, intestine, pancreas and spleen (via hepatic portal system) goes straight to the liver for “inspection”. It is the liver that determines the fate of the blood contents. It is responsible for either building molecules up or breaking them down- depending on the necessities of the body.

On top of inspection, the liver produces and secretes about one pint of bile each day. Since we know from the previous series that bile is needed to emulsify fats, that step is pretty important. The bile is made up of bile salts, pigments and cholesterol.

The liver is also responsible for synthesizing proteins (both structural and those bound for circulation), making use of glucose, converting fatty acids and taking in (and making use of) vitamins and minerals.

The Gallbladder

gallbladderThis pear shaped sack sits close to the small intestine and is a storage site for bile (produced by the liver). When fatty foods enter the digestive tract, bile is secreted from the gallbladder into the small intestine.

So what are gallstones?

They are solid deposits of calcium salts or cholesterol that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts. They form when bile becomes chemically unbalanced due to an excess of cholesterol. Simply speaking, the bile becomes idle and crystallizes into stone. This result prevents bile formation and therefore fatty acid digestion and absorption.

Hint
Gallstones is a common symptom of yoyo dieting. Excessive restriction if dietary fat can cause idle bile which results in the stones. It takes a minimum of 10g of dietary fat to stimulate bile release.

Pancreas

Pancreas+ text.inddAnother organ that releases juices into the small intestine. This occurs at the same time as the release of bile. The juices secreted contain digestive enzymes which are released in an alkaline based fluid to help neutralize stomach acid. The enzymes released help digest proteins, polysaccharides and lipids.

The other part of the pancreas (a mere two percent) houses endocrine cells (hormone producers!) which are responsible for the signals that cause our body to respond.

 

It may only seem like three organs but unless all three are functioning optimally, your digestive system will lack. Help your system do it’s job by providing it with quality, real food. If you’re not sure if you’re helping or hindering with your nutrition, contact me to schedule a free consultation.

Happy Eating ๐Ÿ™‚

References: “The Essentials of Sport & Exercise Nutrition”. Berardi, John & Andrews, Ryan. Precision Nutrition Inc, 2012.