How many times have we all heard this bunk myth repeated?
Longman Reader, The, 10th Edition - MyPearsonStore
Finally our ileocecal valve opens, and our small intestine releases what’s left into our large intestine—which is a giant bacterial colony, containing literally trillions of bacteria! And the reason we have is because our own enzymes can’t break down everything we eat. So our gut bacteria go to work and digest some of the remainder, sometimes producing waste products that we can absorb. (And, often, a substantial quantity of farts.) The remaining indigestible plant matter (“fiber”), dead gut bacteria, and other waste emerge as feces.
It turns out that , , , and do a fine job of breaking down meat protein, and and do a fine job of breaking down animal fat. In other words, meat is digested by enzymes produced by our own bodies. The primary reason we need our gut bacteria is to digest the sugars, starches, and fiber—found in grains, beans, and vegetables—that our digestive enzymes can’t break down.
Longman Reader, The, 8th Edition - MyPearsonStore
Eventually our pyloric valve opens, and our stomach releases the chyme, bit by bit, into our small intestine—where a collection of salts and enzymes goes to work. Bile emulsifies fats and helps neutralize stomach acid; lipase breaks down fats; trypsin and chymotrypsin break down proteins; and enzymes like amylase, maltase, sucrase, and (in the lactose-tolerant) lactase break down starches and some sugars. Meanwhile, the surface of the small intestine absorbs anything that our enzymes have broken down into sufficiently small components—usually individual amino acids, simple sugars, and free fatty acids.
On average, a ‘mixed meal’ (including meat) takes 4-5 hours —so we’ve busted yet another part of the myth. (Keep in mind that we have not absorbed any nutrients yet: we’re still breaking everything down.)
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Briefly, the function of digestion is to break food down as far as possible—hopefully into individual fats, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and sugars (the building blocks of carbohydrates) which can be absorbed through the intestinal wall and used by our bodies.
Like most vegetarian propaganda, it’s not just false, it’s an inversion of truth. As the proverb says, “When you point your finger, your other three fingers point back at you.” Let’s take a short trip through the digestive system to see why!
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