Digestive Function
Digestive Function

Traveling and Digestive Function:
How Trips Affect Your Gut

Changes in climates, time zones, diets, and hydration levels are a few of the expected parts of traveling. Together with stress or motion sickness, these factors can affect how you feel in your gut. The last thing you want sabotaging your trip is bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Being prepared for what your body needs during travel goes a long way. TravelSana® is your passport to good gut health while you travel—don't board a plane, train, or car without it.

Understanding The Digestive System

By Dr. Andrew Myers

Thanks to the digestive system, we are what we eat. It’s extraordinary machinery of great complexity, and understanding the digestive system is fundamental to good health.

The Digestive System

The human digestive system is a food-demolition factory, a recovery plant for spare parts (nutrients), and a waste treatment facility in one. The processes used by the body are as mechanical and physical as they are chemical. Passing through a 26-ft digestive path, the food digests in stages.

A digestive system malfunction causes functional digestive disorders (dyspepsia). Most of them occur in the stomach (e.g., loss of appetite, nausea, burning, hiccups, bloating) and intestines (e.g., bloating, intestinal gas).

Take appropriate action to address causes through diet, dietary supplements, or by changing certain habits. An understanding of the digestive system is crucial for mitigating and treating dyspepsia.

  • General Functioning Of The Digestive System 

    Mastication - The jaw and teeth mechanically reduce food into small pieces before it goes from the esophagus to the stomach. Teeth are on the front line of the digestive process, so it is important to prevent plaques and cavities.

    Stomach - From the pharynx, food is transferred through the esophagus by gravity and peristalsis in the stomach. The stomach has two main functions: starting digestion and progressing food to the intestine. The contractions of the muscular wall of the stomach ensure the mixing and stirring of food and gastric juice, allowing the progression of the nearly digested contents towards the pyloric sphincter (the muscle which ensures the closure of the pylorus). When this opens, digested content flows to the duodenum. The digestion process in the stomach takes 1 to 2 hours.

    Intestine - The intestine is 13-20 ft (4-6 meters) long and consists of three parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. In the first part, there are two ducts, one from the pancreas and the other from the liver and gallbladder. The bile transported by the latter allows the digestion of fats. The pancreas is a factory of enzymes that allows the digestion of fats, proteins, and sugars. At the same time, and throughout the small intestine, the body begins to absorb nutrients.

    In the intestine, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, proteins, fats, and sugars are absorbed. Its proper functioning is vital for the body. Maintain a balanced and healthy bacterial flora in the intestine in order to promote optimal absorption of the nutrients the body needs.

    Colon - The colon is the last stage of digestion before excretion. Approximately 5 ft (150 cm) long, the colon is a water storage and retrieval area. At this stage of digestion, all nutrients have absorbed. All that remains is a dietary fiber that the body cannot digest. Most of it comes from the cereals, fruits, and vegetables ingested. They leave the body in the form of feces (composed of water, many bacteria, and dietary fiber).

4 Tips for Good Digestion

  • 1. Take More Time To Eat
    • Slow eating is the basis for good digestion. Eating too quickly stimulates the production of gastric juices, which are very acidic, burn and give a feeling of heaviness. Larger pieces swallowed too quickly cause the pylorus to close, which acts as a door between the stomach and the small intestine. The stomach must work more to reduce the food into small particles.
    • Here are some tricks to take your time with a meal: Eat at the speed of the slowest person at the table, take small bites, chew longer, avoid eating in front of the television, and eat smaller meals.
  • 2. Avoid Certain Dishes And Foods And Encourage Others 
    • Some foods are known to cause problems. Although it is not necessarily useful to ban them entirely from the diet, try not to overindulge and limit their quantities.
    • The caffeine in coffee increases gastric acidity, which can cause stomach burns and serious pathologies in the long term (e.g., ulcers). Certain spices, peppers, alcoholic drinks, and vinegar can cause similar symptoms. Finally, high-fat foods are difficult to digest and metabolize more slowly. Eat fried foods, cold meats, cheeses, butter, or ice cream in moderation. 
    • Eat lots of fiber to improve digestion. Good fiber exists in fruits (e.g., apricots, apples, pears, raspberries, prunes), vegetables (e.g., artichokes, peas, carrots, beets), legumes (lentils, beans,) or seeds (e.g., flax, wheat or oat bran, spelt). However, consuming too much fiber can irritate the digestive tract or cause colon fermentation. Manage your fiber intake and drink lots of fresh water.
  • 3. Take Probiotics
    • Probiotics are bacteria or yeasts (e.g., Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus) naturally present in the body. These living micro-organisms participate in digestion and have many benefits. They allow better regulation of the intestinal transit and reduce the frequency of diarrhea and the risk of the appearance of symptoms such as irritation of the intestinal wall. Probiotics also promote the development of a balanced intestinal flora and reduce the risk of infection from opportunistic pathogenic bacteria. 
    • You can find probiotics in food supplements or in a balanced diet. The best known are brewer's yeast and lactic acid bacteria (found in yogurt).
  • 4. Exercise
    • Exercise promotes the proper flow of food through the digestive system and improves its overall functioning. Blood circulation in the digestive system increases during exercise. The repeated contraction of the intestinal muscles allows for faster digestion and better absorption of nutrients needed by the body. Scientific studies have also shown that frequent exercise reduces the risk of constipation and takes care of the gastrointestinal mucosa.