The Human Digestive System
The digestive system is a complex process that involves several organs and glands that work together as a team. In its original form, food can’t be used as nourishment for the body. Before nutrients can be absorbed into the blood and transported throughout the body, it must be broken down into smaller molecules.
The whole digestive process begins in the mouth. But, you may be surprised to learn that your nose starts the digestive process! The mouth watering aroma of food creates saliva which aids in digestion from the time that food enters your mouth!
While you’re chewing your food, saliva works to start breaking down the starches in the food. The tongue aids in pushing the chewed food to the back of your throat near the esophagus. The esophagus is approximately ten inches long and is a hollow pipe like organ that transports the food into your stomach.
Like other parts of the digestive tract, the esophagus walls contract in wave like motions to move the food into the stomach. While indigestion is referred to as heartburn, the heart has nothing at all to do with it. Although, the burning sensation may feel like it’s your heart, it’s just in the same area and the pain is actually in the esophagus!
Small rings of muscles are located at the top and bottom of the esophagus. The bottom muscles close the bottom of the esophagus after each bite of food has entered the stomach. This prevents stomach acid from escaping back into the esophagus. But, when these muscles don’t work properly, acid flows back into the esophagus and burns the lining.
The stomach is a multi-functional organ; it stores food, breaks it down and then empties it into the small intestine. The stomach is like a natural mixer, it’s lined with strong muscles that churn and blend all of the small food particles. While the stomach is mashing the food particles, gastric juices are killing any bacteria in the food and breaking it down.
The stomach then passes the food onto the small intestine. While it is the small intestine, there’s really nothing small about it. The small intestine is normally around 22 feet long and around 2 inches in diameter. It works to break down the food even more to allow your body to absorb all of the nutrients.
Once the food has entered the small intestine, the liver, gallbladder and the pancreas release digestive juices into the opening of the small intestine. The juices from the pancreas, aid the body in the digestion of proteins and fats. The liver produces bile that absorbs the fats into your bloodstream. And, the gallbladder acts as a sort of holding tank; it stores the bile until the body needs it.
A Healthy Digestive System Promotes A Healthy Body
Depending on what types of foods you’ve eaten, it may take as much as four hours for the small intestine to complete the task of liquefying it. Once the food is in a liquid state, the body is then able to absorb the vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and fats to be used to keep the body healthy.
After the blood has become full of all these nutrients, it travels to the liver to be processed. The liver works as a filter to remove harmful waste, some of this waste is transformed into more bile for later use. The liver also works as a storehouse, it decides how much of the nutrients need to be sent to the body and how much needs to be stored and used later.
The large intestine is the last stop for food in the bodies processing plant. It is around twice the size of the small intestine in diameter, but about one fourth of its size in length. In the large intestine the colon takes one last try at absorbing even more minerals and water from the waste. As water is absorbed from the waste, it reverts into a firmer state and becomes fecal matter.
While in the colon waste travels back and forth across the abdomen several times. It enters the first section called the cecum and then travels up into the ascending colon. It then moves across the abdomen and into the transverse colon. The descending colon moves it back to the other side of the abdomen and then into the sigmoid colon.
The very last stop through the digestive tract is the rectum. The large intestine pushes the waste into the rectum where it remains until you need to go to the bathroom. If too much water is left in the fecal matter you experience diarrhea and if too much water is extracted, you may suffer from constipation.
Proper digestion is essential to a healthy body; an unhealthy digestive system leads to illness and disease. Not only will your body not be able to absorb nutrients from the food if it’s not digesting properly, it won’t be able to eliminate toxins. Good digestion also promotes a good immune system that can do its job in keeping you healthy.