(Part 2 of 4)
We decided to sit down and have a chat with our practice owner and MD, Dr. Philip Oubre, and functional nutritionist, Aubree Steen.
We really wanted to breakdown the how the gut works, and the entire process from simply visualizing the food to eliminating it. It’s a pretty magical process, but there’s quite a lot of decisions our body has to make when breaking down and absorbing food. We broke this up into 4 different categories to touch base on the big picture in each segment. While this process is intricate in nature, we hope to breakdown into a really palatable and digestible picture. You see what I did there.
Feel free to watch the video, or read our transcript below.
Phillip Oubre (00:00):
In our last video, we talked about upper digestion, from the brain, sight smell and taste to swallowing, digesting food with a stomach, and finally from the pancreas and gallbladder. It’s important to understand the upper digestion before we talk about the lower digestion. So if you haven’t seen that video, you may want to go and check that out on our YouTube channel or Facebook or wherever you are. And of course, subscribe to our channels so that you can see all our upcoming videos.
Phillip Oubre (00:24):
But this video, we’re going to be talking about lower digestion. And primarily we’re going to be talking about small intestine, large intestine, and of course, pooping.
Aubree Steen (00:30):
Phillip Oubre (00:32):
Yay, good euphoric feeling if it’s done right. The main goal of the small intestine is absorbing nutrients. Main goal of the large intestine is, that’s where our majority of our microbiome is and absorbing the water, and of course getting rid of waste. So Aubrey, why don’t you lead us off? What’s the point of the small intestines? After the food is already digested, what’s the role of the small intestines?
Aubree Steen (00:55):
Absorbing nutrients. That is the number one role of the small intestine. You have to have a healthy, small intestine to absorb those nutrients. Healthy small intestine, meaning by a great microbiome. So a variety and abundance of bacteria, healthy mucosal lining, intact gut lining where you don’t have permeability. We’ll talk about the dysfunction of course later, but that’s the main job, honestly, in my opinion.
Phillip Oubre (01:20):
Yeah. And I always like to talk about the shag carpet. And anytime we’re talking about the small intestine, it’s all about the shag carpet. What do we mean by the shag carpet? The idea is that when you eat food, you have to absorb these molecules of your food in order to absorb it. If you think about, if you have a cup of coffee and you dump it on shag carpet, with all the little fingers and things, that cup of coffee is going to be fully absorbed into a little dinner plate size absorption. If you took that same cup of coffee and poured it on your kitchen floor with tile, it’s going to spread out really far. So the idea is you have limited real estate, limited time to absorb your nutrients. So you need as much shag carpet as possible. And if you don’t have shag carpet, then it’s not going to absorb in time. And it’s going to dump into the large intestine, which is where the majority of your microbiome is. And then they’re going to have a heyday with undigested food, or not even undigested food, just heavily caloric food, lots of calories and nutrients. And then you’re going to have overgrowth issues.
Phillip Oubre (02:19):
So you’re supposed to get first choice of what foods you absorb, not second choice. So if you have a bacterial overgrowth-
Aubree Steen (02:25):
Phillip Oubre (02:25):
Yeah, supposed to. So if you have bacterial overgrowth, you get the crumbs of what the bacteria and fungus don’t need. You’re in charge. You’re supposed to absorb your food first. So if you don’t have that shag carpet, then you can’t absorb your nutrients. And we’ll talk about in the dysfunction video, what are some of the things that ruin that and shag carpeting,
Aubree Steen (02:42):
You can think of that shag carpet like, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of an intestine where there’s all these little folds, right? There’s all these little microvilli that are in there and they’re all responsible. They look like these nice little, almost sea urchin things. Or like seaweed, something nice and flowing. Yeah. But those are mostly responsible for absorbing your nutrients. We want to keep that shag carpet healthy and long, and not damaged, essentially.
Phillip Oubre (03:07):
In addition to absorbing nutrients, it actually wants to keep certain things out. This is a very careful, it’s just like the customs department in any country. You want to let people that you choose to let in, but anyone else you want that you don’t want in, and I don’t want to get political, that’s not what this is about, but you need to keep certain things out and you want to absorb certain things. So your intestines don’t just absorb everything. It doesn’t absorb apple. It doesn’t absorb watermelon. It absorbs the unique molecules and calories that it chooses and vitamins that it chooses. And it leaves the rest in to turn into stool.
Phillip Oubre (03:41):
So you’ve probably heard of food sensitivities, food allergies. Why does someone react to apple or watermelon? And the idea is that if your barrier is not intact, and I’m getting into dysfunction a little bit, but the idea of the function is to keep apple out so that you don’t react to apple. Because if apple crosses the barrier, now you’re reactive to apple. So not only do you want to absorb, you don’t want to absorb everything. If you absorb too much, that’s called leaky gut, and now you’ve got other inflammatory issues.
Phillip Oubre (04:08):
The small intestine is where the majority of nutrients are absorbed. By the time it leaves the small intestine, your large intestine does not absorb nutrients. That’s not the purpose. It mainly absorbs water. So now that we’re in the large intestine, undigested food or whatever’s remaining ends up in the large intestine, and then what happens?
Aubree Steen (04:26):
Mostly recycling water, and removing those toxins in waves. Sometimes a very small percentage of it is reabsorbing anything that may have gotten missed in the small intestine, but essentially that’s very small and not the main priority. But you have to think of it as literally a waste removal, getting it out of your body, soaking up the water and hydration and pushing it out. It has the very last remnants of what should be in your body basically.
Phillip Oubre (04:52):
So you probably know by now that humans eat fiber, we eat fiber. We’re supposed to eat fiber. But humans don’t really absorb fiber. Through the small intestine, you’re not really breaking down the fiber. The fiber is keeping things moving and kind of the, what do they call it? The insoluble fiber is the scrubbing brushes that goes through the small intestines. Yeah. By the time the fiber gets to the large intestine, your bacteria, your microbiome, your trillions of organisms are in the large intestine. They finally finish breaking down the fiber. And once they break down the fiber, then the large intestine does absorb some of the components or short chain fatty acids that come from these fibers. So that’s the other important part of the large intestine.
Phillip Oubre (05:33):
Usually we have people who don’t absorb enough in the small intestines, and then in the large intestines things get sluggish. Constipation is a common problem that we see.
Aubree Steen (05:43):
Phillip Oubre (05:44):
Yeah, there’s a colon transit time. If things stay in the colon, another word for large intestine is colon. So if food stays in the colon for too long and the colon absorbs too much water, now you have hard stool. And I like to think of the stool as a toothpaste container. Sounds disgusting, but in the large intestine, you want your stool soft like toothpaste so that when the intestines are squeezing, it’s able to easily squeeze that toothpaste through. If you think about, if you leave your toothpaste container open, whoever does that, that’s gross. And you put the cap on that stuff.
Aubree Steen (06:12):
Phillip Oubre (06:13):
Yeah, that’s gross. So put the cap on. But if you leave your cap off the toothpaste container and your toothpaste were to dry out inside of the container, it would be a lot more work to try to get that toothpaste out. It’d be like rocks and things. Same thing that happens in the large intestine.
Phillip Oubre (06:26):
So improving that transit time from beginning to anus is important. And we’ll get into some more dysfunction, but your nerves are the primary thing that’s responsible for controlling that transit time. So if you’re diabetic or if you’re inflamed, or if you have neuropathy to your intestines, which sounds crazy, but it happens all the time.
Aubree Steen (06:45):
We see it all the time. We really, really do.
Phillip Oubre (06:45):
Absolutely. It’s well known with diabetics. So if you have neuropathy, then that time is slowed. And then you’re going to have chronic constipation. And if you have chronic constipation, well, everything’s going to go wrong after that. Everybody needs a good bowel movement every day. And then of course, last but not least is of course you have to take out the trash every day.
Aubree Steen (07:03):
Phillip Oubre (07:04):
Aubree Steen (07:05):
I can’t tell you how many people I know who are like, yeah, I go every three days or something. Or I had friends who were constipated for a week and I’m like, you can’t do that. If you think about it, that large intestine is recycling. Whatever stays in there is going to stay in there longer, and you have the potential to reabsorb toxins, harness any bacterial overgrowth. Again, we’ll talk about that in dysfunction, but you have to keep eliminating or else you will recycle those very toxic elements.
Phillip Oubre (07:32):
One of the common sayings you’ve probably heard is you are what you eat. We like to correct that and say, you are what you absorb. But then the third part is, you are what you don’t get rid of.
Aubree Steen (07:41):
Oh, that’s true. That’s true.
Phillip Oubre (07:44):
If you’re crappy. Anyway, so yes, you got to take the trash out through whatever means necessary. And chronic constipation is a big deal that we can talk about another time. Last but not least, I think of my son who doesn’t poop at all at school, holds it all day and then poops at the end of the day. So it’s important to get comfortable. Everyone poops, everyone passes gas, right?
Aubree Steen (08:04):
Phillip Oubre (08:04):
So try not to hold it if you can, because that leads to further constipation. If you’re uncomfortable going to work, figure out things that will make you more comfortable at going to work because the longer you hold it, the more likely you are to create problems. Good bowel habits, just like we talked about, sitting down and eating our food and taking our time, same thing with bowel habits. If you’re rushing or skipping, there’s consequences that come from that.
Aubree Steen (08:28):
Right. And the reason why we wanted to talk about the whole entire North to South is because chewing can simply change how you have bowel movements, right?
Phillip Oubre (08:36):
Aubree Steen (08:36):
Anything that you can fix up here will make everything lower work essentially much better. So we kind of dove into the functionality of the entire digestive process. We’re going to go into dysfunction next, but then we’re also going to go into tips and tricks of what are best nutrition habits, supplement habits, any kind of lifestyle changes that you can make and implement for all of this to work better. You don’t have to go see a functional medical doctor to improve your digestion, by any means. There’s a lot of components that go into it, and a lot of times it is some type of external toxin or internal, whatever it may be. But you can do so much at home, honestly, that’s easy and simple.
Phillip Oubre (09:17):
Yep. And we’re going to help teach you. So hit the like button, hit the subscribe button, leave a comment, whatever it may be. That way you get notified when we release the next video. And we’ll see you guys out there.
Aubree Steen (09:25):