Man vs Cow!

black and white dairy cow on green grasses during daytime

AKA Human vs Herbivore

The digestive system of an herbivorous animal.

Herbivores are animals that eat an all-plant diet including grass, twigs, leaves, bark, fruit, and roots. The world is populated by a variety of herbivorous animals (wild and domestic) such as elephants, zebras, rhinos, and giraffes and cows, pigs, horses, chickens, sheep, and goats.

In basic terms, the digestive system of an herbivore contains a rumen (consisting of several stomachs), an intestinal tract, and the bowel.  The rumen of these animals is uniquely designed to effectively and efficiently digest and absorb plant matter (aka cellulose).

According to the Animal Nova organization, “The herbivore’s intestines are up to 27 times longer than the length of its body, when measured in a living animal. This is because the process of digesting cellulose is long and difficult, and requires the help of untold billions of bacteria which do the breaking down for the herbivore.” … “Once the bacteria have broken down the cellulose, the herbivore digests the bacteria for dinner, thereby obtaining animal protein (and vitamin B12, by the way) despite eating only plants.

Using a cow as an example, following are the basic digestive and absorptive functions and abilities of an herbivore. The cow eats and swallows plant matter. The cow’s large rumen contains 4 separate stomachs or chambers. The billions of microbes living in the cow’s rumen immediately get to work breaking down the plant matter as it goes from chamber to chamber.  Part of the process includes the cow regurgitating the food (bringing the food up then back down into the rumen’s chambers). When we hear the term ‘the cow is chewing his cud’ this is what that is!  By the time the plant matter works its way through the rumen and into the small intestine, it is easily absorbed and readily available for transport via the blood stream throughout the cow’s body providing the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive.  Whatever is left, exits the body via the bowel providing microbes back into the soil for future plant growth.

The digestive system of a human being.

The digestive system of a human is most like that of predatory animals or carnivore.  (The biochemical structure of proteins and fats in the human body are similar to those found in these animals versus the biochemical structures in plant life). Like carnivorous animals, our digestive system is not designed to break down plant matter – we don’t have the stomachs for it! Instead, it is by design, structured to digest and breakdown animal matter – meat, fish, fats, eggs, and dairy.

In basic terms, the human digestive system contains one small stomach (when compared to the multi-chambered rumen of an herbivore), an intestinal tract, and the bowel.  A human’s stomach contains very few microbes. Instead, the vast majority of microbes we use to digest and absorb food are found within the walls of our small intestines. It is here, where animal matter is easily broken down and absorbed as nutrients for use throughout the body.

As the human body is not designed to breakdown plant matter to any great extent, when we do eat plant foods (vegetables, legumes, beans, grains, etc.), these foods largely by-pass the stomach, intestinal tract, and end up in the bowel to be digested. This is very inefficient and, for many, results in serious and chronic health conditions.

Key differences summarized.

Below are some key observations Dr. Natasha McBride has made in her extensive study and cautions us to take heed.  While plants are full of proteins and easily digested by ruminant animals, this is not the case for humans;

  1. Our digestive system is not designed to breakdown and absorb plants.
  2. The amino acids plants contain are inefficient in composition for what the human body needs.
  3. Plant matter is structured in such a way that it can cause serious damage. For example, gluten (the protein found in wheat), can be particularly damaging.

It is important to note, plants do have an important role in human nutrition. While animal proteins provide the building blocks and animal fats provide protections our body needs to support the many functions needed to sustain life, carbohydrates from plant matter cleanse the body of toxins and pathogens, another critical life-sustaining function.  The important point to remember is to strive to achieve and maintain the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates our individual bodies need to be healthy.