Have you noticed lately there are lots of posts on social media circulating about the length of time it takes for certain foods to digest? These posts are accompanied by pictures of a stomach with an entire sacks worth of potatoes in it, for example. These are circulating because people legitimately care about their digestion. That is wonderful! But please don’t be mislead about what is and is not a good food for you based on these misleading and often incorrect posts.
I’m just going to run through a few facts really quickly, and why these images are misleading. Today is a scheduled in study day so I must get stuck into it. But, I wanted you all to be aware of a few important things first.
First of all. Your stomachs main purpose is to essentially break food down into smaller pieces. This is both the mechanical action and a chemical action. It churns up your food and turns it into a liquid. The stomach allows small amounts of chyme (the liquid food) to exit about three times a minute during this process.
The stomach juices break down proteins, however fats and carbohydrates do not break down to a digestible point in the stomach. Your small intestine does the bulk of this work with the help of your pancreas, liver and gall bladder.
The digestion of carbohydrates actually starts in your mouth.
Hormones produced in your stomach send messages to your brain regarding your satiety. Which is why slow digesting foods, or rather foods that process slower are a good thing for feeling full, and in turn controlling hunger.
Ghrelin (hormone) is produced when the stomach is empty and increases the appetite.
The microbiome of the gut is an amazing and hugely important thing. It is some of these slow processing foods that keep your microbiome thriving, such as indigestible fibres, known as prebiotics, (One way of saying food for your essential probiotic bacteria living in your gut.). Your microbiome plays roles in your entire health, including your mental health, and your ability to lose weight. Such a fascinating subject!
There are factors that slow digestion, (or speed it up). A huge meal for example is not broken down as soon as it hits your stomach. Some of that food can be stored in a portion of your stomach for hours. Another factor could be stress or anxiety. Your nervous system has the ability to prioritise your body functions and stress flicks on a switch that tells your body you are in a threatening or dangerous situation (even if you are not). Long story short, your digestion is no longer a priority so it slows or switches off. Consider also your water intake and activity levels for a start. Too much inactivity and not enough water can slow the process to an uncomfortable sluggishness.
On the other hand you have very fast processing substances, such as alcohol. Why? because your body wants to get toxins out of the system as quick as possible. So the logic of faster being better just isn’t there.
I think the most important thing to remember is not to cut out foods or change your diet based on their length of supposed digestibility (especially according to social media posts). If you have any concerns about the food you eat and their effects on your digestive system ask a professional, or seek medical advice if you feel you are having ill effects or suffer from a digestive condition. At the very least look towards reputable research and save yourself a lot of bother.
Stick to a healthy balanced diet and don’t worry about your stomach being full of potato’s
I hope this quick post has eased some concerns. I could go on about the digestive system but you may not find it as interesting as I do! If you have any further comments or questions please feel free to get in touch.