Understanding and improving digestion - what role do probiotics play in our digestive process?

Verdauung verstehen + verbessern – Welche Rolle spielen Probiotika für unseren Verdauungsprozess?

by Züleyha Aydin

Our digestion: It starts with eating and ends in the toilet. However, most of them are unaware of the path our food takes in the digestive process in between. Digestion affects many important aspects, such as health, skin condition or well-being. It is therefore worth taking a close look at and understanding the digestive process in order to provide targeted support to the intestine.

Probiotics are a recognized and now popular solution for many digestive problems because they build up and strengthen the intestinal flora. The German Society for Probiotic Medicine (DePROM) supports this statement after years of research. You can find out what role probiotics play in digestion and how they support the utilization of food in this article.

Content:

  1. From the mouth to the stomach
  2. Carbohydrates vs. protein
  3. Chewing and drinking relieve digestion
  4. The amount of probiotic bacteria is crucial
  5. From the stomach to the small intestine
  6. Bile and pancreas
  7. The specialty of state-of-the-art probiotics
  8. Colon and intestinal flora
  9. At the end of the digestive process

1. From the mouth to the stomach

By definition, the digestive process begins with chewing in the mouth. Once the food is crushed, it reaches the stomach through the esophagus. The stomach is the first stop and can be seen as a small chemical factory made of muscle mass. In it, the food is rocked back and forth and squeezed.

In addition, enzymes are produced in the stomach that, together with the stomach acid, help to break down proteins. Enzyme production is important because proteins are more difficult to digest than carbohydrates, for example. The digestive processes in the stomach continue until the food is divided into many small pieces that are smaller than 1 millimeter.

2. Carbohydrates vs. protein

For carbohydrates, the whole thing takes about half an hour to an hour. Proteins and fats, especially animal ones, take longer and require more stomach acid. Accordingly, it relaxes the stomach to consume vegan proteins or foods in comminuted form, for example as a powder or smoothie.

Only when the food is small enough can it move on through the gastric gatekeeper. The ring-shaped muscle only allows shredded parts to pass through so that the rest of the digestion can continue comfortably.

3. Chewing and drinking relieve digestion

Those who chew well and drink a lot of water relieve their digestion, because less stomach acid, i.e. hydrochloric acid, has to be used. Drinking smoothies and eating soft foods have the same positive effects. Hydrochloric acid is very aggressive, but as I said, it is needed to reduce the size of the food.

Another important function of stomach acid is to kill bacteria. The strong acid makes unwanted bacteria harmless, but also does not stop at “good” bacteria that are ingested through a natural, balanced diet. Only around 25% of the probiotic bacteria heal through the caustic gastric environment. Sounds like little, but makes a huge difference for the intestinal tract later.

4. The amount of probiotic bacteria is crucial

Products with "good" bacteria are scientifically divided into "highly effective state-of-the-art probiotics" and lifestyle products such as yoghurts. The amount of probiotic bacteria contained in a yogurt is hardly enough to survive the passage through the stomach.

In contrast, state-of-the-art probiotics, ie preparations that are manufactured according to the latest scientific standards, contain a much higher amount of “good” bacteria, which means that sufficient amounts of bacteria are still available even after gastric passage stand. In addition, the bacteria in a state-of-the-art probiotic are still in the growth phase, which is of great importance in the further course.

  

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5. From the stomach to the small intestine

On average, the stomach takes 4 hours until everything is small enough and it is empty again. During this period, the stomach needs clear periods of rest: it can be drunk, but full meals should not be eaten, otherwise the stomach can be overwhelmed and it becomes too acidic.

When all food particles are approximately 1 millimeter small, they are transported to the duodenum. This is what the beginning part of the small intestine is called. The entire small intestine is 6 meters long. However, many important steps start at the 12-finger start. This is important to further reduce the size of the food to molecular size and to neutralize the stomach acid. The pancreas and the gallbladder help with this.

6. Bile and pancreas

The bile fed through the gallbladder is dark yellow and has salts that help with fat utilization, since fats are more difficult for us to absorb. Salts enclose these fats and make them digestible. Vitamins and minerals do not have to be broken down.

The pancreas releases the so-called pancreas. A liquid that looks like water and contains enzymes. The pancreas makes the food pulp more fluid and better broken down. In addition, gastric acid residues are neutralized, which is important because the acid would hurt the small intestine.

7. The peculiarity of state-of-the-art probiotics

Neutralizing the stomach acid is also good for the probiotics: the bacteria that have survived the gastric passage can recover and continue to pass through the digestive system in a healthy manner. This is where the specialty of state-of-the-art probiotics comes into play. The bacteria are in the growth phase, which means that they continuously develop and multiply in the cozy intestinal environment.

8. Colon and intestinal flora

After the small intestine, the indigestible rest of the food ends up in the large intestine. The large intestine is about 1.5 meters long, along with the 15-20 cm long rectum. 100 trillion bacteria that live in the large intestine utilize the last leftovers, such as plant fibers from cereals, vegetables, fruit and fiber. The community of bacteria and microorganisms in the intestine is called the intestinal flora.

People with irritable bowel syndrome often have a disturbed intestinal flora that is colonized by bacteria that are too few or too few than those of healthy people. Probiotics can help with such health complaints by modifying the intestinal flora to resemble the flora of healthy people.

9. At the end of the digestive process

The trillions of bacterial cultures live on the food particles in the large intestine and change the color of the food pulp from greenish-yellow to brown. If the last food residues have been decomposed by the microorganisms and enough water has been removed, what remains can be excreted. This whole process can take 20 to 30 hours - depending on how balanced and healthy you eat and how strongly the intestinal flora is supported by the microorganisms.

Even if we often think of illnesses as “bacteria”, you have to make it clear: we need our intestinal bacteria. A balanced mixture is important for our health and protects against intruders, as they can be made harmless, and strengthens the immune system. The greater the variety of bacteria, the stronger the positive effect.

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The author:

 Züleyha studies chemistry and likes to spend her free time kickboxing and artistic activities. her1 supports you in research and helps in product development. With her chemical knowledge, she has already written articles, where the education is important to her. Her favorite substance is raspberry ketone. It is responsible for the smell and taste of the raspberry. The first substance that she (alone) extracted. It smells breathtaking!

 

Sources:
  • From the stomach to the colon (2016). [TV show], ARD-alpha, 14.12.2016 (14:51).

  • Gießelmann, Kathrin: Probiotics: Not always an advantage. Dtsch Arztebl 2019; 116 (33-34): A-1484 / B-1225 / C-1206.

  • Nagel, Geraldine: Probiotics. Online at: https://www.onmeda.de/ernaehru... (as of February 12, 2020).