The importance of digestion


Food lovers talk about taste in the mouth but what about the next bit, digestion?

My own digestion preoccupies me. It rules my life.

There is much confusing data about what foods are good for you. I base my decisions on how food feels after I have eaten it.

It is worth paying attention to how food feels as it travels through your gut. (I will stop there on the peristaltic journey).

I have recently been re-reading an old favourite, Three Men in the Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome.

Published in 1889, it was a hit from the start. I love Jerome K. Jerome because he gently mocks human folly in a hilarious way.

You know when you find someone attractive and it increases when you find you share similar values? Well, I recently learned Jerome K. Jerome hated poverty and oppression. “His early political instinct was radical socialist” and he later joined the Fabian Society, according to the editor of my (charity shop buy) 1998 edition, Geoffrey Harvey.

Jerome K. Jerome also thought digestion important.

He wrote (in Three Men in the Boat):

“One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal – so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, ‘Work!’. After beefsteak and porter, it says: ‘Sleep!’ After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, ‘Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!’

…We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgement.”

13 responses to “The importance of digestion

  1. How well you write, Elisabeth. Enjoyed your piece on the digestion and Jerome K. Jerome. My digestion rules my life also. Do pass on some advice. Tasting enjoyable food is not worth the suffering that follows so a bland diet has to be accepted by some of us. Thank God for ginger! Must look up ‘Three Men in a Boat.’ I had forgotten how funny it is. Best Wishes, Mimi


  2. Thinking about how food feels after you have eaten it is so important – and I love the quote. Brilliant!


  3. We are indeed the “veriest, sorriest slaves” of our stomachs and we should listen to our digestion. A friend was here yesterday and ate a tuna sandwich and promptly started hiccupping and said “I always hiccup after I’ve eaten tuna” and when I suggested he should stop eating tuna because he clearly couldn’t digest it easily, he retorted ‘but I love tuna!”. Well it’s up to him, and at least he had noticed… I am going to see if eggs & bacon say “work!” to me tomorrow (I suspect not!) xKT


    • Hi Katie – thanks so much for comment. Our stomach’s “Verriest, sorriest slaves” indeed!

      Re the tuna sandwich – perhaps it was the bread? Most bread gives me indigestion (unless yeast has been naturally-fermented, and the flour is un-hybridised wheat or non-wheat). However, I love tuna and all fish! But we are so unique…one man’s meat is another’s poison and all that.

      Hope to hear you singing in Bristol in 2014! Elisabeth


  4. So true E! “We are what we eat” has been my motto for 40+ years and it makes me consider every morsel I put in my mouth! The other day a fellow student guessed me to be 40-something…..I must be doing something right since I am approaching my 62nd birthday! Thanks for introducing me to Jerome K Jerome…can’t wait to find his work!


  5. Hi Jody

    Yes, I consider every morsel too! And – dare I say it – I too often get mistaken for younger than my years! Hmnnnn, they don’t tell you that in the beauty magazines, eh?! Not all about expensive products.

    You must check out Jerome K Jerome. A classic! I think you will like it!



  6. Hello! Re digestion (and thanks for being open about it!) — if you ever want a little chat about the benefits of eating lacto-fermented foods (ie sauerkraut, but other veg too, and very varied) I would be happy to share what I know.


    • I am keen to have a recipe for sauerkraut! I am very interested in, and welcome, the way lacto-fermented foods aid my digestion.

      I have never made sauerkraut. Last month, I even bought a biggish Kilner jar with this in mind!

      If you have an easy recipe for me to start with, I would be most grateful. It could be a blog post…(she muses).


      • I wrote something ages ago about sauerkraut, linked below. But now I just like to make it really really easy, because it is. Take your cabbage. Probably for a largish Kilner, take two. Quarter them lengthwise, remove the core, shred as finely as you have patience for. One spoon of salt per cabbage. Scrunch the salt around, wait a few hours. Pack tightly in the jar until water comes out. This is your brine. Keep the cabbage underneath by weighting it down (a rock, a saucer, a smaller jar). Wait a few days. If enough liquid doesn,t emit, you can top up with a little water. Basics are really that easy. You can of course mix purple and white cabbages, any number of herbs, spices, chillis, onions, garlic, vat-evah! And don’t stress. Nowadays I talk about it in these terms, as an example of the Permaculture Principle “from pattern to detail.” What I’ve described is the basic pattern. Good luck!


      • Wow, thanks for great article on sauerkraut, Annie. I want to quote chunks: “Lacto-fermenting is preserving through an alchemy of salt and vegetables and time – in it’s simplest form, creating a salty brine to encourage beneficial bacteria to protect food from spoilage, transform flavours and augment nutrition and culinary possibility…“Pickling” by natural fermentation keeps raw food crunchy and fresh, makes lots of nutrients even more accessible to the human body, and will give you stores of living, enzymatic, “probiotic” food to eat during the dark winter.”

        Living probiotics! Good bacteria for gut! Huzzah!

        I like the sound of that recipe. Love the rainbow colours. Sounds manageable.

        Loving that Permaculture Principle, too: “from pattern to detail.”

        O, yes. You can’t imagine how exciting it is to have a sauerkraut maven pop up, just when I need one.


      • Be in touch if you need any troubleshooting annielevyevermore at


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