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Secret #6: Impact of Digestion on Weight Loss

As you would expect, the impact of digestion on weight loss is significant. Digestion is the process of breaking down food so that the body can use it for energy. Without proper digestion, the body is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs for health functioning. You will find yourself constantly hungry, storing fuel rather than using it immediately.

The Digestive Process

It all starts from the moment you put food into your mouth.

The Mouth, Mastication and Enzymes

Digestion begins with the partial breaking down of food through mastication (chewing) and the further breakdown of food by enzymes in the saliva (tiny proteins that split starches into smaller pieces). Without enough chewing, you tend to eat more in a sitting.

The Esophagus and Stomach

After the food is chewed and swallowed, it enters the esophagus, a long tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach. The esophagus uses rhythmic, wave like muscle movements (called peristalsis) to channel food into the stomach, where it is bathed in a very strong acid (gastric acid) that breaks it down further.

The Intestines, Enzymatic Action, and Absorption

Food then enters the small intestine, where bile (produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder), pancreatic enzymes and other digestive enzymes break it down even further. Proteins (now amino acids) and carbohydrates (broken into simple sugars) are absorbed through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. From here the remaining material moves to the large intestine help further break down carbohydrates that could not be digested in the small intestine.

Waste Removal

Solid waste is then stored until “nature calls.”

Controlling Parts of Digestion

Once we swallow our food, the digestive process is an involuntary one that we have little part in. What is within our control, however, is what we put into our mouths, the portion size we choose to eat, how many times we chew and how long we are seated.

Studies show that the more times a person chews each bite, the less they tend to eat. As chewed food enters the digestive tract, it passes into the stomach, and finally the intestines. Blood sugar levels increase and the body Absorption become less hungry. If you take more time to chew each bite, you will take more times for the entire meal, be seated longer which is key for proper digestion, give blood sugar levels times to regulate hunger and eat less in the end.

How Different Foods are Digested

Each of the three main nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – digest in a slightly different way. Here’s a quick explanation.

Digesting Proteins

Proteins take longer to break down so the body feels fuller for longer period of time. Proteins tend to raise blood sugar levels much more slowly than carbohydrates, giving more sustained, steady energy. More sustained energy means you’ll eat less as your body won’t be craving food as soon. The body can rely on only protein for a period of time, but acids called “ketones” will eventually build up in the body and affect the brain, so it is important that the body does not base its entire caloric intake on protein digestion for energy. Eat foods such as fish and chicken that are low in saturated fats.

Digesting Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates should not be demonized. They are the body’s main fuel source, especially for the brain. The best practise is to eat them with healthy fats and/or proteins throughout the day. This will stabilize blood sugar levels, reducing the chances of them spiking (thus making you tired after the insulin response) and then plummeting in the long period between meals.

Fiber, a carbohydrate that is present in whole grains and the cellular walls of plants, also help in the digestive process. Both digestible (soluble) and indigestible (insoluble) fiber shortens the transit time of material through the intestinal tract and helps keep the insides healthy, allowing better absorption of nutrients.

Great sources of fiber that help in digestion and intestinal maintenance include:
  • Steel-cut oatmeal, a rich source of fiber. It slowly releases glucose without causing insulin to spike.
  • Whole grain foods such as barley, whole grain wheat, corn, sprouted grains, and brown rice.
  • Beans and other legumes, they offer fiber, other carbohydrates, and are a good source of protein.
  • Prunes, plums, berries, apples and pears. Their skins help provide dietary fiber and are a healthy snack.
  • Cauliflower and celery have quite a bit of insoluble fiber content and are therefore an excellent aid in keeping your intestines in top shape. Organic sources are best.

Digesting Fats

Fats are generally the slowest to digest. Bile acids from the liver and gall bladder first dissolve fat into smaller droplets in the intestines. Pancreatic enzymes then break down the remaining fat molecules into smaller fatty acids and cholesterol. The bile acids combine with the fats and deliver them into cells known as mucosa. The small fats form back into large molecules and eventually pass into the blood for transportation throughout the body. Again, replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is ideal.

Here are some healthy foods that contain good fats or that help keep weight off:
  • Skim Milk contains calcium, a mineral that triggers an increase in metabolism and fat burning. It is recommended that you consume 1,200 to 1,300 mg of calcium a day.
  • Omega 3-rich eggs contain high levels of vitamin B-12, a vitamin that stimulates the metabolism and helps the body break down fat. Omega-3 fatty acids can alter leptin (hormone that tells you to stop eating) and increase caloric burn. These special eggs are one of the few animal products that are low in toxins and high in quality fats. They also balance blood sugar, supply the body with DHA and don’t raise your cholesterol.
  • Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Olive Oil helps to burn fat and reduce “bad” fat in the blood.
  • Green tea contains a chemical called EGCG that helps increase metabolism.
  • Dark chocolate can actually aid in weight loss. The benefit comes from chocolate’s affect on stress hormones. Study subjects who ate dark chocolate each day had reduced levels of stress hormone cortisol, which promotes fat storage.
  • Cayenne pepper, contains, and other chilli peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that gives them their spicy character. Research shows that adding peppers or cayenne powder to a meal, even just a pinch, can boost metabolism by up to 25% for 3 hours after you eat, helping you burn fat.
  • Ginger, like spicy peppers, can decrease appetite, aid in digestion, and increase metabolism after eating.
  • Almonds can help increase weight loss. In a study, people eating a diet high in almonds lost more weight than those on a high-carb diet with the same number of calories. Researchers have speculated that the good monounsaturated fats in almonds not only have an effect on insulin levels, but also give dieters a sense of satiety so they eat less overall.

Digestion Recommendations

The DOs and DON’Ts of Digestion:
  • DON’T eat standing up. Sit down and let your digestion work better.
  • DON’T drink a lot of water or fluids with or right before meals.
  • DO chew your food. Eat 1/2 of your meal and wait 5-10 minutes before eating the rest.
  • DO eat plenty of fiber with each meal.
  • DO consider digestive aids like digestive enzymes, probiotics and extra fiber.

More Secrets for Successful Weight Loss

Secret #1: Knowing your food (Carbohydrates, proteins and fats)

Secret #2: Understanding the emotional triggers that lead us to eat the way we do

Secret #3: Recognizing your eating behaviors and habits

Secret #4: The impact of sleep and weight loss

Secret #5: The effect of energy levels and stress drive weight loss

Secret #6: Appreciating how digestion impacts weight loss

Secret #7: Making healthy portion size decisions

Secret #8: How to eat out and still lose weight

Secret #9: Learn how to work out anytime and anywhere