When your brain tells you to eat, that’s what you do. Maybe you gorge. Maybe you nibble. And then maybe you forget about that hefty helping of mac 'n’ cheese until it ends up on your thighs.
In between the mouth and the thighs, there’s an amazing system of digestion that takes place. This system determines whether your food gets stored, burned or expelled. Let’s explore the biology of what happens to food once it enters your digestive system.
On your gastrointestinal interstate, everything enters via your physiological tollbooth: your mouth. The nutritious powerhouses slide through the express toll, giving you power, stamina, energy and strength to rock. Toxic (though tasty) foods can enter too, but you pay a heavier toll later for the damage they do along the way.
Through its journey, your food and its nutrients (and toxins) will pull over at various organs, slow down on winding roads, merge with other nutrients and even get pulled over by the bowel brigade for nutritional violations. During each trip, your food hits a metabolic three-pronged fork in the road:
Here’s how the system starts: Before a morsel even reaches the tollbooth, your body has a radar gun, letting you know the food is coming. This is powered by physiological cues like smell, sight and the fact that you’ve been drooling at the thought of that fried-mozzarella appetizer.
In response to this sensory information, glands in your mouth start secreting enzymes to help break down your food. Then, your stomach quickly constructs its version of a roadside welcome center, by pumping out stomach acid to help your body prepare for the digestion process.
Back in the day, people relied on their tongues (and noses) for survival. If it tasted good, it was safe. If it tasted nasty, it could be toxic or poisonous.
We do the same things now, but in a slightly different manner. Since we use our senses to process information, we rely on our tongue for information about food. The info we acquire sends messages to the brain, then the brain sends messages to our fork: stop eating, or keep going!
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