By Yemi Sanusi
This is purely a work of fiction, a result of the writer’s imagination. Any similarity to any individual or individuals is not intended.
My name is Small Intestine. Remember me from the last meeting of the digestive tract; the tall slim cell in charge of about 600cm of the digestive region where food absorption takes place after several chemical reactions? My unit starts immediately after the stomach and ends where the large intestine begins.
You see, my cells (in the duodenum, jejunum and ileum) and I were wondering if we could have a little discussion with you. We do appreciate the fantastic job you’ve been doing in the area of chewing, drinking, producing and accommodating saliva as well as the many times you would need to speak out and bacteria enter against your will. We also appreciate the powerful job of tasting, relishing or spitting out food whenever necessary, all in the process of providing the best for the body while still working hard at swallowing approved, well-chewed and saliva-coated foods that go down the gullet before getting to the stomach and finally to us after several hours of relentless effort. Not to mention your other jobs of laughing, grinning, hissing, among other things. Indeed, we are grateful.
But please bear with me as I prepare to take you down memory lane. Several years ago, when we were still very young and you requested for a different set of teeth – permanent teeth you called them then – I couldn’t really understand why you made that request. However, some months later when the foods that arrived at my unit looked and felt somewhat different, I knew that your new “equipment” and team members had put in a lot of work to process the food from the mother-body in order to ensure that it served the necessary function of nourishing the young body – our ultimate goal. I felt proud of you then and respected a lot of your decisions and opinions, especially in the area of food choices. That still has not changed, mind you.
However, I wish to state a few areas of concern, namely the fact that there seems to be a rising influx of tapeworms in my unit. That is causing me to wonder if the meat being consumed is really well cooked or if the body is just eating for, pardon my language, “eating-sake”. I fail to understand and would appreciate your highly-esteemed explanation. Also, we seem to have noticed a growth in the number of a certain bacterial family. These bacteria seem to usually be most popular with members of the teeth team. Perhaps we have not been in the habit of brushing the teeth at least twice a day as advised by the dentist the last time we went for a visit. That would be a source of some concern.
Yet again, we noticed that at times, when we are about to close shop to the stomach after the last meal of the day should have been eaten 6 hours earlier and the body is prepared to have a sound night’s sleep, we are roused by rumblings when the rest of the body is fast asleep (sometimes at about 3am or even 5am). This usually implies that the “midnight” snack was probably consumed at about 9pm, 11pm or sometimes, later. For us, that does not show good eating discipline on the part of the digestive team. It also displays a lack of respect for the members of our team and the digestive system as a whole because we should be at rest too after a hard day’s work, like other resting members of the body preparing for the next day.
But no, we have to open up the “kitchen” or the “factory” again, depending on how you would like to look at it, get our already overworked cells to continue the digestive process and clean up the “dishes” while members of the mouth would by then be more involved in snoring and jubilant bacteria feast on the “un-brushed +un-toothpasted” (i.e. “uncleaned”) remnant in the oral cavity. What’s more, we keep the large intestinal cells wide awake as we push away waste, so they sleep later than we do while the red blood cells who should be getting rid of unwanted overnight stuff now have to carry off more glucose to a sleeping brain and other less active body parts – meaning a futile process of energising cells that just want to rest or sleep in order to prepare for an active next day. Of course, it would just be a matter of time before the red blood cells get instructions to dump the nutrients in the body’s reserve store and get on to complete their expected oxygen: waste product quota for the night. And guess who will have to suffer the stress of abdominal exercise and dieting afterwards. Our department, of course!
And you can imagine how irritated every other cell would be when they wake up and find out you threw a party they were not really expecting at that time of the night with lots of food they couldn’t consume immediately. I know the brain probably approved of the consumption of each delicacy but let’s take a look at a scenario that just might set things straight. Imagine this happened at a human party – a wedding or birthday celebration, perhaps – where all the guests put in a hotel would have gone off to sleep or prepare to sleep after a pretty exciting celebration and then you bring several snacks or heavy meals to the after-party cleaners to go and distribute to all the guests in the hotel. I’m sure your guess is as good as mine. Even if all your guests accepted the snack or meal, many of them would not be so pleased at the timing and many more would not even take a second look at the food, except they had been starved all day; a totally unlikely occurrence at an exciting human party. And your after-party cleaners would no doubt have more work to do by daybreak.
I hope you see my point.
What’s more, the foul smell and bland taste from mouth’s unwelcome overnight bacterial guests who would have enjoyed the splendid feast immensely would serve as a sad reminder for urgent but belated action. In view of this, I would like to offer a suggestion from a friend of the body – flush the digestive tract with about 5 glasses of water first thing in the morning so that the dancing team of bacteria can be washed away. That way, the mouth, gullet, stomach, small intestine and large intestine also get a cool bath that will jolt every cell back to shape and provide some more swimming volume for red blood cells just before the skin gets its own dose of external wash too. We can also prevent tooth decay this way by getting rid of the bacteria before they get too many and establish destructive colonies. That way, we cleanse the whole body with such a simple resource.
However, I’ve been told that tongue cells don’t really like the taste of water but the body’s friend recommended adding freshly squeezed lemon to the water; that would help with the flavour and really aid us in our amazing health journey. I actually believe that if we can brush the teeth last thing at night before going to bed (and please, please, please, not eating anything else afterwards), take about 5 glasses of water after waking up from sleep and before brushing the teeth again in the morning, along with the other suggestions, your unit as well as mine would improve tremendously.
It would also help the red blood cells with their continuous duty of maintaining a clean and healthy environment as they purify the over 10 trillion body cells and unclog debris from internal organs. The kidneys and other excretory organs would be more efficient in their activities as well and this will enable the body remain in good shape. Finally, our long term vision of making this body reach a healthy ripe old age would also become much clearer.
Like I said earlier, I believe a lot in your opinions and decisions and trust deeply that you would weigh my observations and suggestions for our respective units, the entire department and our esteemed body as a whole. I trust you would come up with reasonable, remarkable improvements.
Thank you so much for your understanding and support.
Yemi Sanusi is a medical doctor with a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Lagos Business School. She enjoys writing and hopes to make positive changes through her works. She is the author of ‘Heads and Tales’, a medical fiction.