The digestive system works as follows: the food we swallow,
propelled by peristalsis (muscular
contractions), travels from the oesophagus (gullet) to the stomach,
through the duodenum and into the small intestine where almost
all the nutrients are absorbed. Whatever remains undigested passes
through the large intestine (colon) and is excreted via the anus.
Essential aids to this digestive process are the liver, gall
bladder and pancreas, which produce
enzymes -powerful chemicals, that help to breakdown food.
Following are the four main stages that food undergoes in the
Ingestion. The moment when food is taken in the mouth to be chewed
and ground down into smaller particles by the teeth and movement
of the jaws, and mixed with saliva, so that it can be swallowed
via the pharynx and passes into the oesophagus (gullet) -the
muscular tube-like passage -that runs down the centre of the
chest to the stomach. Saliva, which is part mucus, stimulates
the taste-buds, helps to break down food, lubricates and protects
the mouth from sharp particles and aids swallowing. It carries
enzymes which start the breakdown of carbohydrates in food into
easily assimilated sugars.
Digestion. This is the stage when the food remains in the stomach, while cells in the stomach walls begin the preliminary digestion process with hydrocholic acid, rennin, pepsin and lipase. The food then enters the small intestine, where it is further broken down by a complex chemical process performed by enzymes, digestive juices, pancreatic juices and bile from the liver.
Absorption. This is the process by which the digested substances, such as vitamins and minerals, pass through the walls of some of the areas of the alimentary canal to be distributed throughout the body.
Elimination. In this stage food substances that are no longer useful to the body are formed into a semi-solid waste matter in the large intestine, and are then excreted through the rectum and anus.
The time that food remains in the various stages of the digestive process, before being assimilated or excreted, is approximately as follows: about one minute in the mouth; ten-to-fifteen seconds in the oesophagus (gullet); up to four hours in the stomach; up to six hours in the small intestine; anything from ten hours to several days in the colon (large intestine).
The pleasure of eating is too often marred by indigestion
and other digestive problems. Fortunately, there are simple ways
in which we can avoid or alleviate the discomforts commonly experienced
after enjoying a meal.
This all-too-common complaint occurs when the digestive process
is disrupted by the passage of food being obstructed, or the
breakdown and absorption of nutrients being impeded.
Symptoms can include heartburn, aches and pains in the abdomen,
nausea, and an excess of wind (flatulence) in the stomach or
intestine. The latter results in belching and feeling bloated.
If this happens often, we may also feel generally unwell. Persistent
indigestion is often related to a stressful life style and an
If we eat when we are tense and in a hurry, our stomach is
affected and food is not properly broken down, assimilated, and
eliminated. The gastric juices then turn against the stomach
creating inflammatory conditions and hyper-acidity. Undigested
food accumulates and stagnates in the intestines resulting in
bloating and toxins with possible diarrhoea or consti-pation.
The person often complains of feeling exhausted, irritable and
confused and may also be unable to sleep.
Gently massage the abdomen, not more often than once a week and
for not longer than 5 minutes, with one or more of these essential
oils: peppermint, aniseed, orange peel, mandarin peel, fennel.
Good points are: Conception Vessel 12, Pericardium
6 if there is tension and stress, Stomach 36 and Stomach
44. If there are liver symptoms presents like discomfort
in the flanks, bitter taste in the mouth, headaches and irritability
you can also use Liver 3
This term covers the discomfort caused by the infrequent
and/or difficult passing of hard dry faeces (stools). Some people
have sluggish bowels from birth, but for the majority of us constipation
results from a sedentary life; faulty habits, such as not going
to the lavatory when the body tells us to; and an inadequate
diet. It can also be a symptom of an underlying disorder, requiring
To alleviate constipation, avoid refined foods, such as white
bread and sugar, and increase fibre, found in food, such as whole-meal
bread and rice, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Try to take regular
Massage, using gentle rubbing strokes over the lower abdomen
and particularly over the lower abdomen, will help peristalsis
and the emptying of bowels. Dont use massage over the abdomen
more than twice a week and not more than 5 minutes each time.
Good essential oils for constipation are: orange peel and
Recommended acupressure points are: Stomach 44, Colon 4,
Somach 25 and Spleen 15
Irritable bowel syndrome
Also known as spastic colon, this is a very common disorder
of the lower bowel with intestinal tension, soreness and colicky
pains. There could be constipation alternating with diarrhoea;
distension (feeling bloated); flatulence (excessive wind) and
the person could feel listless and fatigued.
Although not life-threatening and unlikely to lead to complications,
the discomfort can be severe and distressing, often causing people
to worry that they might have an attack of appendicitis or something
of a more serious nature.
During an acute episode, avoid stimulating drinks such as coffee
and alcohol, foods that are hot and spicy, or fried; cakes; ice-creams;
and acid-tasting fruits. Also avoid leaving the table feeling
heavy and bloated.
Massaging the following acupressure points: Pericardium 6 to relief spasm, Colon 11, Colon 4, Stomach 25 and Spleen 6, see the link to acupressure
You can use essential oils to help digestion and soothe spasms
such as mandarin peel if there is diarrhoea, orange
peel if there is constipation, fennel, chamomile,
lavander if there is pain and aniseed. See also the link to abdominal massage as those techniques could improve digestion