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  • Writer's pictureAlison Cowell

Where are your bits?

There are a variety of wonderful systems working your body, but many of us are oblivious to where they are and what they do! I remember when I first studied nutrition, I was in a class of 26 adult students. The tutor asked us where the spleen was. There was a moment of awkward silence as most of us gazed hard at our pens or brushed imaginary dust from our notebooks. Finally, one brave soul put up their hand and asked if it was ‘here’, pointing randomly to the entire abdominal area in elaborate circles. No, it wasn’t.

That episode brought home to me how ignorant I was to the systems and organs that were keeping me alive and healthy. As I learned more about them, I was (and remain) in awe of the incredible workings and interconnections of these amazing life-giving systems that we often so readily take for granted.

I place the digestive system at the top of the list as it is pivotal to our health. It literally is the engine feeding the cells that help make all the other systems work efficiently.

As I worked with thousands over people over the years, I realised that many were up to date with the latest food revelations and could proudly outline a ‘healthy’ day’s intake. Yet here they were with all sorts of health issues despite eating what they considered to be the best foods for themselves. Apart from intolerances, I found the biggest cause for nutrients not reaching their destination was an ineffective digestive system. Many people with digestive issues regularly take remedies, but it’s not ok to depend on medications or concoctions to help you empty your bowel, soothe your gastric reflux or control your gas! That’s merely treating the symptom.

How many people do you know who have been diagnosed with gallstones? It’s a fairly common condition, especially in older folk; but how many of them know where their gallbladder is and the function it performs? “It can’t be important, because you can live without it”. Yes you can, but there is a consequence to its removal! And how many people with diabetes know where their pancreas is and the tasks it performs other than helping to balance blood sugar levels?

Our wonderful team of digestive organs are truly trying their best to help us get all the nutrients from our food, so we should help ourselves by understanding a little more about them.


If you can, even for one day, take time to notice how thoroughly you chew your food. Notice how you are sitting when you eat. Hunched up? Food on your lap? Eating in your car or on the run? Then think about how easily your food was digested. Any discomfort? Bloating? Gas? Consider how full you feel, or how hungry you are afterwards. There are clues every step of the way! Keep a food and symptom diary for a few days to see what that reveals.

If your cells don’t get the nutrients they need, they can’t do their job, so take care of your digestive crew!

Where are your bits?
Spleen? Colon? Pancreas? LIver?

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