What’s up with what’s going down?

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What bit of your body, if you ironed it out, would be 7km long and cover a surface area of between 250-400m squared?

It’s your….Small Intestine (SI).

When I hear these things, I think to myself, where does it all fit?

Excellent question Marnie!

It’s all those lovely folds down there that make it so compact and squishy and beautifully designed. If we didn’t have those folds, the small intestine would have to be about 18 metres long (I wouldn’t mind a few extra inches truth be told…).

Fascinating gut facts:

  • It’s approximately nine metres from mouth to bum
  • Over a lifetime, about 60 tonnes of food will pass through you
  • It’s roughly a 50 hour journey (but may vary from 24-72 hours) from eating food to pooing it out (although a good curry may speed up that process!).
  • There are approximately 50 million bacteria per teaspoon of small intestine juice (relatively sparse compared to the large intestine).
  • The surface area of our digestive system is about 100 times greater than our skin.

So what does the small intestine (SI) do?

The surface of the SI is covered with tiny hair like projections (about 30 per square mm) called villi. These villi help us absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.

As soon as we eat, our liver and pancreas start making enzymes to soak our food as it passes through. This enables us to be able to digest our macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

If you don’t make enough stomach acids or produce enough enzymes, food particles can’t get broken down properly in the SI. This means that you start to provide TOO MUCH sustenance for non-beneficial gut bacteria and also prevents the absorption of essential nutrients.

The intestinal wall is where most of our nutrients are absorbed and consumes about 40% of all of your body’s energy. It also prevents allergens, microbes and toxins from entering the interior (think of yourself as a tube from mouth to anus).

Some of the symptoms that may be associated with a ‘dodgy’ gut.

  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Food cravings
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cramps/discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Skin problems
  • Depression

Over the coming months, I will be talking about many of the things that can go wrong with your digestive system and ways to remedy them. Stay tuned…