The small intestine of course is where the food makes its most important part of the digestion trip. The vast majority of the assimilation takes place here so the preparation that took place in the mouth, esophagus, stomach and duodenum must be as complete as possible. As you know, if you read my previous articles on the digestion process, most Americans and probably a vast portion of the world's population eat for entertainment and not to feed their body properly. You only have to look around you to see the problems of obesity, and disease to know that there is something very wrong in the United States, the world's most advanced nation.

The small intestine is really a tube in three parts that starts at the pyloric sphincter (controls the amount of food that moves into the small intestine from the stomach), the duodenum (which we discussed in my article The Influence of the Duodenum on Health), the jejunum, and ileum. The food is pushed through the small intestine by a process of muscular-wavelike contractions called peristalsis. The inside walls of the jejunum and ileum are covered in wrinkles or folds called plicae circulares; they are considered a permanent feature. Another feature is the rugae which are considered non-permanent or temporary, allowing for distention and contraction. Extending from the plicae circulares are microscopic hair-like pieces of tissue called villi (Latin for "shaggy hair".

The small intestine is also lined with simple finger or columnar like projections called epithelial. The epithelial cells also have hair-like projections known as microvilli. The function of these three, the plicae circulares, the villi and the microvilli is to increase the amount of inner surface area of the intestine estimated to be 250 sq meters or about the surface size of a tennis court. The reason for this large surface area is for secretion of enzymes and absorption of nutrients.

I could go into a great deal more detail here such as where the different nutrients are absorbed, why there is a layer of water on the surface cells on the microvilli, and how proteolytic enzymes cleave proteins; this area of the body is fascinating. But I just want to give you enough basic anatomy and function here so you can understand what a disaster is occurring in this most important area of your body.

As the chime enters the small intestine, sensors there on the wall of duodenum (the first nine inch section of the small intestine) can tell how much of this meal was actually digested in your stomach. As I discussed in the previous chapter your digestion is highly subject to the amount of plant enzymes present. Plant enzymes are only found in raw foods or plant enzyme supplements. They are not found in cooked, refined or irradiated foods that destroy enzymes. Plant enzymes in the food do the real digesting of your meal right down to the molecule level. If there were not enough enzymes, which is the reality of the American diet, then the meal was not digested completely and is dangerous.

There is a safeguard here; it is the functions of duodenum and the jejunum to continue digesting food from the stomach. But this function is really for fine tuning a properly digested meal from the stomach not to save an undigested meal every time you eat. An undigested meal cannot be allowed to travel into the ileum as this is life threatening.

Enzymes from your mouth, plants and pancreas continue digestion in the jejunum to fine tune the meal as I said above. But now we have an undigested meal here with one big problem the carbohydrates in the meal. The carbohydrates should have been digested in the predigestive stomach by the enzymes that should have been in the meal. So the carbohydrates undigested are moving into the jejunum. In the jejunum those carbohydrates can only be broken down into disaccharides by the enzymes there and disaccharides are dangerous to the body.

To be useful to the body those carbohydrates have to be broken down to monosaccharides (takes place in predigestion with the proper enzymes) which are single molecule. So we end up with a lot of undigested carbohydrates in the small intestine. Well there is a safe guard here at the ileum which is yeast and fungus that live in the small intestine; they will digest this sugar which saves the blood stream. But as I just said this is a safe guard not to be abused as it is abused in America. Where every meal is missing those vital enzymes in the predigestion and undigested carbohydrates are moving into the ileum.

What needs to be saved in the blood stream is of the utmost importance. It is the immune system that needs to be protected from this sugar. Because if this sugar escapes out into the blood stream it wrecks havoc with the immune system and you will have an autoimmune disaster. The autoimmune system through aggregated lymphatic follicles, nutrophils, lymphocytes and other white blood cells will work to clean this sugar up, this should not be happening. Too many of these particles in the bloodstream will drive your immune system crazy. If this is allowed to happen too often you will find yourself with an immune system that attacks you and you will have one of the many autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis as the end result.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Blake is a doctor of herbal medicine and a master herbalist. He used naturopathic medicine to treat his own case of cancer eighteen years ago. Visit Paul's website on Herbal Remedies, Natural Healing Herbs for more interesting information on improving your health, or find more information about digestive enzymes and food enzymes.