The process of digestion seems deceptively simple, matter moves into the body and continues down a conveyer belt like chain of organs that break it down completely before it leaves the body. However, the maintenance of such a system is complex and relies on a balance of pH and helpful bacteria to maintain homeostasis. Both acidic and basic pH’s are required at various points in digestion to maintain balance during the process. Saliva in the mouth, the starting point of digestion, is only mildly acidic for the purpose of initially breaking down the food without damaging the teeth or delicate throat tissue. The stomach, on the other hand, needs to be highly acidic to jump-start the breakdown process as well as act as a defense for the body against any harmful bacteria or other intruders. To balance things out on the basic side, it is important that the small intestine has a high pH, because most of the enzymes used in digestion can't function properly in an acidic environment.
Helpful bacteria also are integral to maintaining homeostasis in the digestive system. It is estimated that the average human has around 500 species of helpful bacteria, also known as intestinal microflora, in the digestive tract, mostly concentrated in the large intestine. These bacteria aid in digestion, help produce vitamins, help formulate excrement and guard against harmful bacteria. When the bacteria population in a digestive tract is thrown off or decimated, the host will notice a change in the pace and quality of digestion. Microflora species have such a positive effect on their host that there are many products available, mostly yogurts, that contain material that supports intestinal microflora's growth and health.
Homeostasis is a condition by which the biological / physical body is not lacking any nutrients and all needed nutritional components are readily available in their proper forms and amounts so every biological function can operate unimpeded. When various nutrients...
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