Your Digestive System and How It Works

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/18/2023

Have you ever wondered why a bite of that delicious chocolate cake gives you an instant burst of energy? Or why, conversely, does an overload of fries leave you feeling sluggish?

The answer lies within our bodies. The complex machinery known as the digestive system works tirelessly to transform your food into fuel.

But sometimes, this well-oiled machine hits a few bumps. Ever been kept awake by indigestion or ulcers? Did you feel uneasy due to pancreatic issues or gallbladder problems?

This post will be like shining a flashlight into those hidden corners. We'll delve deep into how your body breaks down nutrients and what happens when things go awry.

We’ll also explore some fascinating facts about our dietary choices and their effects on digestion, including one culprit we all know too well: sugar!

Understanding the Digestive System

The digestive system is a fantastic mechanism engineered to convert food into the necessary nutrients and energy. It comprises several organs working in unison, like an intricate orchestra playing a symphony.

The Role of the Stomach in Digestion

Your stomach is your body’s natural blender. Its strong acid (a surprising pH level as low as 1) helps break down complex foods into simpler substances easily absorbed by other parts of your digestive tract.

But what happens when this crucial player goes off-key? An alkaline stomach environment might sound healthy, but it could lead to problems like poor protein digestion and mineral deficiencies.

The Importance of the Pancreas and Liver

Considering our bodies' music, think about the pancreas and liver as vital members: the drummer for rhythm - enzyme production; the bassist for depth - bile release. These guys make sure fats don't stand a chance.

Your liver, is one busy bee indeed. Bile isn’t just any old substance; it’s essential for fat breakdown during digestion.

Pancreatic juice produced by your pancreas has critical enzymes needed to digest proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids from our diet. No wonder these two organs get solos.

Dealing with Digestive Issues

Digestive problems can be tricky to handle. They're often tied to our foods, our stress levels, and even how much sleep we get.

Addressing Indigestion and Ulcers

Have you ever felt that uncomfortable burning sensation in your stomach? That's indigestion, usually a sign of low stomach acid. But don't fret. Natural remedies like apple cider vinegar could offer some relief by increasing your gut's acidity.

In contrast, ulcers are open sores in the digestive tract caused by excessive stomach acid or bacteria. For this issue, chlorophyll-rich foods like spinach might help as they have wound-healing properties. Chlorophyll has been studied for its potential ulcer-healing abilities.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Issues and Gallbladder Problems

Pancreatic issues typically present symptoms such as abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. It plays a vital role in digestion by producing enzymes to break down food into nutrients. 

Gallbladder problems may cause similar discomforts but also include nausea and vomiting after meals.

Remembering to pay attention to your body's cues is the initial step towards better digestive wellbeing.

The Impact of Diet on Digestive Health

The choices we make in our diet can profoundly influence our digestive health. For instance, excessive sugar may weaken the pancreas and its enzyme production.

Sugar's Effect on the Pancreas

Indulging in too much sugar is like throwing a spanner into the smooth-running workings of your body. It puts pressure on your pancreas to produce more insulin than it's used to, leading to exhaustion over time.

This tiredness doesn't just mean feeling groggy in the afternoon—it means less effective digestion as your pancreas struggles with enzyme production. In other words, eating that extra donut might feel good now but could lead to stomach troubles later.

A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that high-sugar diets may contribute to pancreatic fatigue and reduced functionality over time. But there are ways we can help mitigate these effects through healthier diet choices.

The Role of Microbes in Digestion

Our digestive system is a bustling metropolis, home to trillions of microbes. These microscopic inhabitants are more than just passive residents. They're busy workers contributing to digestion, vitamin production, waste elimination, and detoxification.

Maintaining Bacterial Balance with Lactobacillus

One type in the small intestine's microbial community reigns supreme - Lactobacillus. This bacterium wears many hats, but its main job? Keeping things acidic. A lower pH environment helps control harmful pathogens that might otherwise run rampant.

But wait – there’s more. Lactobacilli also aid digestion by breaking down carbohydrates into lactic acid. Their hard work doesn’t stop here; they’re responsible for producing vitamins like Vitamin K and certain B Vitamins.

Recent research suggests, however, that these gut superheroes need balance too. Too much or too little can upset your stomach’s equilibrium, causing all sorts of issues, from bloating to indigestion.

So remember, folks: when it comes to our inner ecosystem–diversity rules.

The Effect of Antibiotics on Digestive Health

Antibiotics, while lifesavers in many instances, can play havoc with your digestive system. Their purpose is to wipe out harmful bacteria causing illness. But they often don't discriminate and kill beneficial gut microbes, too.

This upset in the microbial balance might trigger unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea or yeast infections. A study by NCBI found that around 30% of antibiotic patients report experiencing diarrhea.

An even greater worry is the potential for contracting C. diff infection due to the absence of beneficial bacteria. This opportunistic pathogen exploits the void left by wiped-out good bacteria.

The resulting condition, C. diff colitis, causes severe diarrhea and could be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

You're probably wondering how to protect your gut health when prescribed antibiotics. Start by discussing potential side effects and preventive measures like probiotic supplements with your healthcare provider.

Bonus tip: Consuming fermented foods rich in natural probiotics may also help maintain a healthy bacterial balance during antibiotic therapy.

Probiotic food sources

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics are like a dynamic duo for nurturing a healthy gut. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that inhabit your digestive tract, providing a wide range of benefits for your gut health and overall well-being.

They aid in digestion, support the immune system, and even play a role in mood regulation. Prebiotics, conversely, are non-digestible fibers found in certain foods that serve as nourishment for probiotics.

When you consume prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, and bananas, you feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, allowing them to thrive and multiply. The synergy between probiotics and prebiotics is essential for maintaining a balanced gut microbiome.

While probiotics introduce friendly bacteria, prebiotics provide the sustenance they need to flourish. This combination promotes better digestion, enhances nutrient absorption, and strengthens your immune system.

So, when aiming to harness the full benefits of probiotics, don't forget to incorporate prebiotic foods into your diet for a gut-friendly partnership that can support your overall health.


So, you've navigated the winding roads of digestive system functions and remedies. Get a grasp on how your body breaks down nutrients.

Uncovered that an alkaline stomach can lead to indigestion or ulcers. Grasped the vital roles played by our pancreas and liver in digestion.

Too much sugar can cause pancreatic weakness, not just weight gain. And let's not forget those trillions of tiny microbes working overtime in our intestines!

We've explored how antibiotics can disrupt this delicate balance, causing discomfort.

It's pretty straightforward. Keeping our gut health in check is way more important than we usually give it credit for!

Better choices, healthier life. Remember this mantra next time you're about to indulge!

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