The role of digestion
“Digestion can thus be defined as the process that facilitates the transformation of food into nutrients, small molecules that can be used by the cells in our organs. This process acts on our food in two different ways: mechanically – by fragmenting, blending and mixing it – and chemically – by breaking down the molecules contained in it – under the action of gastric juices,” www.editis.com
“Swallow, digest, assimilate and eliminate: these terms can be applied both to food and to emotions. Expressions and sayings use the terminology of digestion to express how we cope with life.” Alimentarium Food Museum, Vevey.
When we eat, our food is broken down into small molecules that can be used by the cells in our organs and any waste that is indigestible or has not been absorbed is eliminated in the process known as digestion. This process consists of mechanical actions (fragmentation, mixing) and chemical ones (thanks to gastric juices) that take place along the gastrointestinal tract with the aid of the organs connected to it. Digestion also plays a role in the body’s defences, thanks in particular to the hostile environment of the stomach and the intestinal wall, which protects the body against microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. In fact, the gastrointestinal tract can be thought of as a reservoir that enables the body’s cells to be continuously nourished even while we are not actually eating.
In humans, digestion is about more than just breaking down food and providing the nutrients essential for metabolism; it also involves the organs of the five senses to create a wide range of sensations. Moreover, the food we eat is often modified by industrial preparation methods or simply by cooking, which may make it easier to digest. Cooking pasta, for example, makes starch more accessible to the digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating its digestion.
Swallow, digest, assimilate and eliminate: these terms can be applied both to food and to emotions. Expressions and sayings use the terminology of digestion to express how we cope with life.
Elaine N. Marieb, Anatomie et physiologie humaines, adaptation of the 6th American edition by René Lachaîne, published by Renouveau Pédagogique, 2005.