The large, hollow organs of the GI tract contain a layer of muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement of organ walls—called peristalsis—propels food and liquid through the GI tract and mixes the contents within each organ. Peristalsis looks like an ocean wave traveling through the muscle as it contracts and relaxes.
Esophagus When a person swallows, food pushes into the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Once swallowing begins, it becomes involuntary and proceeds under the control of the esophagus and brain. The lower esophageal sphincter, a ringlike muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach, controls the passage of food and liquid between the esophagus and stomach. As food approaches the closed sphincter, the muscle relaxes and lets food pass through to the stomach.
The primary role of the stomach and small intestine is to break down and absorb nutrition from your food. This is done through mechanical and chemical processes, including chewing and churning, and the release of acids and enzymes. By the time the mixture leaves the small intestine, your body has absorbed 95% of the available nutrients.
The role of the colon is to absorb water and nutrients from what’s left as it passes through. The colon also works to make this waste safe by neutralising the digestive acids and enzymes, so that it can pass out of your body without causing any damage. Bacteria in the colon work with the waste to produce essential vitamins, such as biotin and vitamin K. They also ferment the waste, producing around three pints of gas every day.
The normal transit time for food is around 24 hours, and you should move your bowels at least once a day. Problems occur when the transit time is either too fast, causing diarrhoea, or too slow, causing constipation or bloating. This can be caused by poor diet, disease or infections, as well as by lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, irregular eating and missing meals. Colonics are a great way of encouraging your colon to work normally again, while your therapist encourages you to reconnect with your body and make the changes you need to avoid future problems
As well as physical causes, digestive problems can also be the result of stress and emotional issues. There is a strong link between the gut and the mind, which is seen in our everyday language in phrases such as ‘butterflies in the stomach’ or ‘stomach in knots’, which reflect the way our state of mind can adversely affect our normal digestion. As part of your consultation, your therapist will often talk through any external factors that could be affecting your internal processes.