Doctor of chiropractic and licensed acupuncturist, Dr. Jeff Donahue is one of those extraordinary holistic practitioners who combines these disciplines of health with nutritional analysis and exercise physiology to balance the three dimensions of life and health: the physical, metabolic and energetic dimensions.
Dr. Jeff is the creator of the “Well Life Blueprint,” which is designed to increase your reserves of energy, which your body needs to heal from any issues, and for continued growth. His goal for his clients is to help maximize their lifestyles to enhance energy, creativity and intuition.
Dr. Jeff emphasizes client responsibility and teaches you how to take care of all aspects of your health and wellness. If you would like to speak to Dr. Jeff about your concerns, you may reach him at his office at 480.654.2920 or through his website www.DrJeffDonahue.com.
Understanding the Role of the Small Intestine
Protection, selection, and absorption.
Our trip down the gut continues. We have finished with the chemical breakdown of the foods. The acid of the stomach is mixed with the completely chewed raw foods, which are churned in the stomach for hours. This churned up mixture is slowly released into the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum, where enzymes are released from the pancreas and the gall bladder (and triggered by the acid from the stomach) to enable the chemical breakdown of the food into smaller molecules.
This conversion from larger to smaller is needed because the openings that allow the food into the bloodstream are extremely small in order to keep larger food particles out. If larger food particles were to get into the bloodstream, the protective responses of the body would identify the particle as a foreign invader, and mount a defense against it and any other similar particle. The goal is to neutralize what it deems potentially damaging. This is commonly called an allergic reaction.
The protective system actually starts before food reaches the bloodstream. The internal layers of the small intestine are covered with a protective protein called an immunoglobulin, or antibodies. These antibodies will bind with any toxins or perceived threats before they reach the wall of the small intestine. Like the acid of the stomach, these antibodies will attempt to neutralize any threat, like bacteria, fungi, viruses, or toxins.
The small intestine is about 20 feet long, and about an inch or so around on the outside. The inside of the small intestine is covered by microvilli, little finger-like projections from the wall, as thick as a shag carpet. These extrusions expand the surface area of the small intestine to the equivalent of a football field of surface for the food to utilize for absorption. The openings between the gut and the bloodstream are called “tight junctions,” in reference to limiting entrance to foods that have been broken down to the appropriate size. If they are small enough, they gain entrance. Larger particles should be restricted from moving through. It takes 4-6 hours for the food to pass through this section of the gut.
If the small intestine is continually under stress, from imbalances of acid and/or enzymes, processed food, overeating, and poor food choices and timing, then these protective mechanisms of the body will be overworked and depleted, at a minimum. The “tight junctions” can weaken, allowing larger particles entrance into the gut, which could cause a reaction. This type of situation is commonly referred to as “leaky gut,” and is frequently linked to issues with allergies.
Gut issues aren’t just about digestion. Seventy percent of your immune system is located within your gut. If you are either always run down and catching colds or the flu (a fatigued immune system), or are extremely allergic and/or suffering from autoimmune issues (an overactive immune system), then look toward improving your gut health.
The smaller the food particles are by the time the food reaches the small intestine, as well as being mixed well with stomach acid and digestive enzymes, ensures the best chances for absorption. The majority of absorption happens here, taking from the small packets of food all the micronutrients the body needs to fuel the trillions of cells that comprise our bodies. What remains of the food mix is fiber, which cannot be broken down by chemical action, and any other foods the body could not or would not process (secondary to lack of resources such as enzymes). This mixed is squeezed out of the small intestine into a large holding container called the large intestine. We will talk more next month about the home of the “alien.”
Yours in health,
Dr. Jeff Donahue