What Happens to Your Food After You Eat It? Unraveling the Secrets of Digestion

The journey our food takes after we eat is truly remarkable. From the moment it passes our lips, to the intricate dance of enzymes and acids breaking it down, and until its final destination, there’s a lot happening beneath the surface.

It’s not just about filling our stomachs, but how our body meticulously and ingeniously transforms that bite into energy and goodness. This process, often taken for granted, is a testament to the marvels of human biology.

But why is it so important to understand this voyage?

By knowing the route and the pit stops, we can better appreciate the complexities and importance of our digestive system, leading us to make more informed decisions about our health and well-being.

Moreover, our digestion doesn’t just influence how we feel after a meal, but it plays a pivotal role in our overall health, from the vibrancy of our skin to the vitality of our energy levels.

So, let’s embark on this fascinating expedition together and uncover the everyday wonder of digestion. Prepare to be amazed by the unseen world that unfolds after every bite!

1). Understanding the Digestive Process

What is Digestion?

Digestion is the intricate process by which our bodies convert food into energy and essential nutrients. This journey begins in the mouth and travels down the gastrointestinal (GI) tract before culminating in the large intestine, readying waste for its final exit.

Breaking Down the Macronutrients:


The spotlight first falls on the stomach, where pepsin begins breaking into peptides. The small intestine provides the grand finale, further breaking peptides into amino acids, which our bodies then utilize.


The liver produces bile, stored in the gallbladder, which is released into the small intestine. Here, bile acts as a detergent, emulsifying fats and making them accessible to pancreatic enzymes for further breakdown.


Starting in the mouth, the enzyme amylase begins its work. In the small intestine, these are transformed into simple sugars, which the body can then absorb and utilize.


The unsung hero of the digestive tract, fiber doesn’t get fully digested but offers invaluable support, like aiding in bowel movements and feeding beneficial gut bacteria.

Pro Tip: Make chewing a habit. Thorough chewing breaks down food and ensures enzymes in saliva start the digestive process efficiently.

The Journey of Food through the Digestive Tract:

From ingestion to exit, food undergoes a transformative journey:


Mechanical breakdown begins here with chewing, while salivary enzymes initiate carbohydrate digestion.


A conduit that directs food to the stomach via peristaltic movements.


Gastric juices (a mix of hydrochloric acid and enzymes) break down proteins and churn food into a semi-fluid mass called chyme.

Small Intestine:

This is where the majority of nutrient absorption occurs. Pancreatic enzymes and bile play pivotal roles here.

Large Intestine:

Water is reabsorbed, and the remaining waste becomes feces.

Pro Tip: Stay hydrated. Drinking water supports the mucus lining of the intestines and facilitates smoother passage of food.

2). Enzymes: Catalysts of the Digestive System

The Importance of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are specialized proteins that catalyze the breakdown of large nutrient molecules into smaller molecules, facilitating their absorption. Each type of digestive enzyme targets a specific nutrient:


For proteins.


For fats.


For carbohydrates.

Pro Tip: Consuming foods rich in natural enzymes, like pineapples and papayas, can support digestive health.

The Role of the Liver and Pancreas in Digestion

While the stomach and intestines often steal the show, the liver and pancreas are backstage heroes. The liver produces bile, crucial for fat digestion, and the pancreas releases digestive enzymes into the small intestine.

Pro Tip: Limit excessive alcohol and fatty foods to maintain liver health. Incorporate antioxidants, like those in berries and nuts, to support both the liver and pancreas.

3). Factors Influencing Digestive Efficiency

How Long Does it Take to Process Food?

Digestion’s duration can be likened to a play of several acts. Food spends about 2-6 hours in the stomach. Then, transformed into chyme, it journeys to the small intestine for about 4-6 hours. The grand finale happens in the large intestine, spanning 12-48 hours before elimination. From start to finish, it’s a 24-72 hour spectacle.

Pro Tip: Don’t lie down immediately after eating. Giving yourself 2-3 hours before bedtime can aid in proper digestion and reduce the risk of heartburn.

Supporting Optimal Stomach Acid Levels

Stomach acid, primarily composed of hydrochloric acid, plays a pivotal role in digestion. It breaks down proteins, activates enzymes, and protects against pathogens. Optimal stomach acid levels are essential for efficient digestion and nutrient absorption.

Mindful Eating:

Chewing thoroughly breaks down food and signals the stomach to produce acid. Avoid overeating; instead, opt for smaller, more frequent meals.

Dietary Choices:

Consume zinc-rich foods, include bitter foods, and limit refined carbohydrates.

Limit Stress:

Chronic stress can inhibit stomach acid production. Incorporate activities like yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises.

Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol:

Both can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, leading to acid reflux and inhibiting stomach acid production.

Limit Caffeine:

Overconsumption of caffeine can reduce stomach acid over time.

Pro Tip: Consider adopting a daily meditation or gratitude journaling routine to cultivate a peaceful mindset.

Remember, maintaining optimal stomach acid levels is a delicate balance. It’s always advisable to consult with a nutritionist or healthcare provider if you experience persistent digestive issues or if you’re considering significant dietary changes.

4). Dietary Choices for Optimal Digestion

Foods that Boost Digestive Health


Think gluten-free whole grains, low glycemic fruits, and starchy and non-starchy vegetables.


Great for reducing nausea and aiding stomach emptying.

Fennel and Fennel Seeds:

Can prevent gas and bloating.


Yogurt, kefir, and kimchi are rich in gut-friendly bacteria.


A natural remedy that can soothe and support the digestive tract.

Pro Tip: Incorporate a variety of these foods into your weekly menu. Not only will this diversify your nutrient intake but also support various stages of digestion.

The Importance of a Healthy Gut Microbiome

The gut is a thriving community of microorganisms.

Diverse Diet:

Encourages a healthy gut bacteria community. This in turn supports our immune system function as well as the production of key metabolites and hormones like serotonin and melatonin


Foods like garlic and asparagus act like fertilizer and feed beneficial bacteria.

Antibiotic Awareness:

They can reduce good bacteria, so only use them when necessary. Be sure to take a good quality probiotic when taking antibiotics too.

Pro Tip: Once in a while, consider a prebiotic and probiotic supplement. It can be a great boost, especially if dietary sources are lacking.

5). The Importance of Healthy Digestion for Overall Wellness

A well-functioning digestive system is not just about avoiding discomfort or ensuring the foods we consume are adequately processed. Its impact reaches far beyond our stomachs and intestines. Digestion stands as a cornerstone of our overall health and well-being, and here’s why:

  1. Nutrient Absorption: At its core, digestion is the process by which the foods we eat are broken down into smaller components. These components, primarily vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, are essential for our bodies to function correctly. Proper digestion ensures these nutrients are absorbed efficiently, fueling our bodies, and supporting everything from cellular repair to brain function.
  2. Immune System Support: Did you know that a significant portion of our immune system resides in the gut? A healthy digestive tract helps ensure a balance of good and bad bacteria. This balance is vital for immune responses and can help protect against various pathogens and illnesses.
  3. Mental Health Connections: The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” due to its intricate network of neurons and the production of neurotransmitters. There’s a strong link between gut health and mental well-being. Issues with digestion can affect mood, and stress levels, and even contribute to conditions like anxiety and depression.
  4. Detoxification and Elimination: A vital function of the digestive system is to expel waste products from our bodies. Regular bowel movements rid our bodies of toxins and prevent them from building up and potentially causing harm.
  5. Energy Production: The foods we eat are our primary energy source. Efficient digestion ensures we maximize the energy we derive from our meals, keeping us active and alert.
  6. Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Digestive efficiency can influence our body’s metabolism. Proper digestion can aid in nutrient utilization and energy expenditure, helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Pro Tip: Think of your digestive system as the foundation of a building. Just as a strong foundation supports the entire structure, a healthy digestive system bolsters every aspect of our health. Making mindful choices to support digestion can lead to improved overall well-being, from physical vitality to mental clarity.

6). Culinary Delights for Digestive Health

Ottolenghi-Inspired Recipes for a Happy Gut

Understanding the science behind digestion is only half the journey. The other half is about making the right food choices that not only satisfy our taste buds but also nourish our digestive system.

Drawing inspiration from the famed culinary style of chef Yotam Ottolenghi, we’ve crafted a dinner entrée and side dish that not only bursts with rich flavors and textures but also champions the principles of digestive health. Let’s embark on this gastronomic journey, ensuring every bite is as beneficial as it is delicious.

Ottolenghi-Style Grilled Chicken with Beetroot Tahini and Ginger-Fennel Relish

Brown and white bowl filled with beautifully colored roasted beetroot tahini sauceIngredients:

For the Chicken:

  • 1 lb organic pasture-raised chicken breast, boneless and skinless
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Beetroot Tahini:

  • 1/2 cup roasted beetroot, pureed
  • 2 tbsp organic tahini
  • 1 organic garlic clove, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp full-fat sheep or goat yogurt
  • Salt to taste

For the Ginger-Fennel Relish:

  • 1-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 small organic fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • A handful of organic dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste



In a bowl, mix olive oil, sumac, cumin, coriander, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Coat the chicken breast with the marinade and let sit for at least an hour, preferably longer.

Grill the chicken on medium heat for about 6-7 minutes on each side, or until fully cooked.

Beetroot Tahini:

Combine pureed beetroot, tahini, minced garlic, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt.

Ginger-Fennel Relish:

In a mixing bowl, combine grated ginger, thinly sliced fennel, vinegar, dill, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well.


Spread a generous layer of beetroot tahini on a plate. Place the grilled chicken on top and garnish with the ginger-fennel relish. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac.

Ottolenghi-Style Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Medley


  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (cook with organic chicken bone broth, salt and pepper to taste)
  • A mix of organic vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes), roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp dried organic mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh organic parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 200°C (390°F). Toss the chopped vegetables in olive oil, za’atar, dried mint, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly caramelized, about 20-25 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the roasted vegetables with cooked quinoa. Add in fresh parsley, pomegranate seeds, and lemon juice. Toss to combine.

Serve the quinoa and vegetable medley in a dish, drizzling with a touch more olive oil and a sprinkle of za’atar for garnish.

7). Conclusion: Navigating the World of Digestion for Optimal Health

Digestive Harmony: A Concluding Note

The intricate dance of digestion, from the initial bite to the final nutrient absorption, highlights the incredible capabilities of our body. As we’ve seen, our dietary and lifestyle choices play instrumental roles in maintaining and enhancing this process.

But knowledge, as they say, is just potential power. To truly harness the benefits of a robust digestive system, we must translate our understanding into tangible actions. So, what’s the plan moving forward?

Embrace Mindful Eating:

Dedicate time to each meal. Chew slowly and savor every bite, giving your digestive system the best start possible.

Prioritize Gut-Nurturing Foods:

Incorporate foods rich in fiber, digestive enzymes, and nutrients that support stomach acid production and overall gut health.

Adopt Stress-Reducing Techniques:

A daily routine that includes practices like meditation, yoga, or simple deep-breathing exercises can make a world of difference.

Experiment in the Kitchen:

Use our Ottolenghi-inspired recipes as a starting point. From there, explore other culinary creations that emphasize both flavor and digestive health.

By adopting these practices and making informed choices, we can promote a digestive environment that not only functions at its best but also supports our broader health and well-being. So, to a future of delicious dishes and impeccable digestion—bon appétit!

Get Started On Your Journey to Wellness with Joseph at Re-Root Functional Nutrition Coaching

Re-Root Functional Nutrition Coaching 3 Month Program In 5 Simple Steps

Looking for 1:1 coaching support to help you achieve your diet and lifestyle goals to support your sleep, then please book your free 30-minute discovery call with me today by clicking HERE.

During this call, we will:

  • Uncover your story about your health challenges to date.
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By the end of our conversation, you’ll feel optimistic and motivated to start making positive changes in your life.

Don’t keep putting off feeling better any longer, today’s the day to start making a difference.

Note: The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and should not replace personalized medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional or functional nutrition coach for individualized guidance and treatment.

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