Don't Be a Slave Driver to Your Digestive System

We must rest the stomach for ideal functioning

M. G. Hardinge, M.D., Dr. P.H., Ph.D., is dean of the School of Health at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, and associate health editor of THE MINISTRY.

WE HEAR and read much about exercise these days. This is all well and good, for in our affluent, sedentary society, machines are doing work muscles were designed to do. But there is an other component of a healthful life style that must not be forgotten, and that is rest. All activity requires the expenditure of energy and the utilization of fuel or resources. Following activity there is a period of recuperation and rest. The living machine, whether enzyme or cell or organ, must be prepared to act again. Prolonged periods of activity require prolonged periods of rest.

For ideal functioning of health, every system of the body must be appropriately exercised and adequately rested.

Try to repeat my observations and see if I am not correct. In the corridors of the schools and colleges, on the side walks of our cities, in stores, in parks, in airway terminals, at recreational and other social events, at work breaks, people are snacking and food is consumed at every whim or wish. 1

Rest Periods Required

The stomach and intestines and the associated digestive organs, like other structures of the body, require, for their efficient functioning, periods of exercise and rest. Take, for instance, the salivary glands. If the cells making up these tiny organs were appropriately stained and examined under a micro scope, the cells would be found to be filled with tiny enzyme granules before meals. When food is eaten, water is extracted from the blood vessels and carries these enzymes in solution into the mouth to be mixed with the food as it is chewed and later swallowed.2 These same cells examined at the end of a meal have few, if any, enzyme granules. Examined again, three or four hours later, the cells have been re filled with enzymes that are ready to go to work.3

The liver cells produce bile, an emulsifying and digestive liquid. Between meals the bile is shunted to the gall bladder where it is concentrated five to tenfold.2 As food leaves the stomach and enters the upper small intestine, or duodenum, nervous and chemical reflexes stimulate the gall bladder to contract, and this concentrated bile is now mixed with the food where its emulsifying properties aid in the digestion and assimilation of fats.

Process of Digestion

The digestion or disassembly of food is normally carried out in an orderly manner. In the mouth the food is crushed and pulverized into small particles, thus increasing the surface area of these food particles that are to be attacked by the chemicals or digestive enzymes found in the saliva, the stomach juices, and intestinal secretions, aided by those from the pancreas and liver. From three to five hours are usu ally required for the stomach's processing of the foods we eat. If new food is added while previously eaten food is being digested, the process is interrupted. Slowdowns occur, producing in digestion, fermentation, and stomach upsets.

The all-gone feeling that we commonly interpret as hunger is more often the result of fatigue. What the stomach and intestines need is not food but rest.

If you provide your digestive system with raw materials, or food, at appropriate intervals, it will do its work well, if rested and prepared. Irregular eating, eating between meals, and eating at too frequent intervals will produce in efficiency, upset, waste, and, what is worse, excessive wear and tear and breakdown. And don't forget that eat ing before you go to bed keeps your digestive system working when it, too, should be having a good night's rest. Eat several hours before retiring, and both you and your stomach will sleep better.


1 E. G. White, Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 247.

2 L. P. Ullensvang. Thirty per cent of food intake is by snacking. Food consumption patterns in the seventies. Vital Speeches of the Day 36:240, Feb. 1, 1970.

3 A. C. Guyton, Textbook of Medical Physiology (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1971), pp. 90, 17, 755, 863.

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M. G. Hardinge, M.D., Dr. P.H., Ph.D., is dean of the School of Health at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, and associate health editor of THE MINISTRY.

July 1976

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