Digestive System

From the top (your lips) to the bottom (your stomach), the food you eat makes an astonishing journey through your body (your anus). The beneficial components of your food are absorbed along the process, providing you with energy and nutrients.

This is a step-by-step explanation of how the digestive system works.

What is the digestive system?

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as well as your liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, make up your digestive system. From your mouth to your anus, the GI tract is a collection of hollow organs that are connected to one another.

Your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus are the organs that make up your GI tract, in order of connection.

What does the digestive system do?

Your digestive system is built specifically to convert your food into the nutrients and energy you require to live. When that’s done, it neatly wraps your solid waste, or stool, for disposal the next time you have a bowel movement.

Why is digestion important?

In order to stay healthy and function properly, your body requires nutrients from the food you consume and the liquids you drink.

Carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water are all nutrients. Your digestive system breaks down and absorbs nutrients from the food and liquids you consume so that they may be used for vital functions such as energy, cell growth, and cell repair.

What organs make up the digestive system?

The mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus are the key organs that make up the digestive system (in order of function). The pancreas, gall bladder, and liver assist them along the journey. 
Here’s how your digestive system’s organs function together.

Image of the digestive system

1. Mouth

The mouth is where the digestive tract begins. Digestion begins even before you take your first meal. When you sight and smell that pasta dish or warm bread, your salivary glands become active. When you first start eating, you chew your food into smaller bits that are easier to digest.

Your saliva reacts with the meal, breaking it down into a form that your body can absorb and utilise. When you swallow, the food is passed down your throat and into your oesophagus by your tongue.

2. Esophagus

The oesophagus takes food from your mouth when you swallow and is located near your trachea (windpipe). To keep you from choking, the epiglottis is a tiny flap that drapes over your windpipe as you swallow (when food goes into your windpipe).

Peristalsis is a succession of muscle contractions that transport food from the oesophagus to the stomach.
But first, the lower oesophagal sphincter, a ring-like muscle at the bottom of your oesophagus, must relax to allow food to pass through.

The sphincter then closes, preventing the stomach contents from spilling back into the oesophagus. (If it doesn’t and the contents flow back into the oesophagus, acid reflux or heartburn may occur.)

3. Stomach

The stomach is a hollow organ that stores food while it is combined with stomach enzymes. These enzymes aid in the breakdown of food into a form that may be consumed. The cells in your stomach’s lining secrete strong acid and potent enzymes that aid in the digestion process.

The contents of the stomach are released into the small intestine once they have been sufficiently processed.

4. Small intestine

The small intestine is a 22-foot long muscular tube made up of three segments: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

It breaks down food using enzymes supplied by the pancreas and bile from the liver. Food is moved through this organ by peristalsis, which mixes it with digestive secretions from the pancreas and liver.

The duodenum is the small intestine’s initial portion. It’s substantially to blame for the ongoing decomposition process. The lower intestine’s jejunum and ileum are primarily responsible for nutrient absorption into the bloodstream.

After passing through the small intestine, the contents start off semi-solid and finish up liquid. The change inconsistency is caused by water, bile, enzymes, and mucus.

It then continues on to the large intestine, or colon, once the nutrients have been absorbed and the leftover-food residue liquid has gone through the small intestine.

5. Pancreas

Digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas break down protein, lipids, and carbs in the duodenum. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, which is then released into the bloodstream. Insulin is your body’s main sugar-metabolizing hormone.

6. Liver

The liver serves a variety of activities in the digestive system, but its primary duty is to process nutrients taken from the small intestine. The liver’s bile, which is secreted into the small intestine, aids in the digestion of fats and vitamins.

The liver acts as a chemical “factory” for your body. It converts the raw materials received by the intestine into all of the chemicals your body requires to function.

The liver is also responsible for the detoxification of potentially hazardous substances. It degrades and secretes a variety of medications that are potentially harmful to your health.

7. Gallbladder

The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile from the liver, and then releases it into the duodenum in the small intestine to help absorb and digest fats.

8. Colon (Large Intestine)

The colon, or big intestine, is in charge of processing waste so that bowel movements are simple and convenient. It’s a muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum and is 6 feet long.

The cecum, ascending (right) colon, transverse (across) colon, descending (left) colon, and sigmoid colon, which joins to the rectum, make up the large intestine.

Stool, or waste from the digestive process, is moved through the colon by peristalsis, first in a liquid condition and then in a solid-state. Water is eliminated from the faeces as it moves through the colon.

The stool is kept in the sigmoid (S-shaped) colon until it is emptied into the rectum once or twice a day by a “mass movement.”

Stool usually takes about 36 hours to pass through the colon. Food debris and germs make up the majority of the faeces. These “good” bacteria conduct a variety of important tasks, including manufacturing vitamins, digesting waste and food particles, and defending against dangerous bacteria.

When the descending colon is full of stool, or faeces, it empties into the rectum to start the elimination process (a bowel movement).

9. Rectum

The rectum is an 8-inch straight chamber that links the colon and anus. The rectum’s role is to collect faeces from the colon, notify you that stool has to be evacuated (pooped out), and keep the stool until it is evacuated.

Sensors give a message to the brain when anything (gas or stool) enters the rectum. The brain then determines whether or not the rectal contents can be expelled.

The sphincters relax if they can, and the rectum contracts, emptying its contents. If the contents cannot be rid of, the sphincter contracts and the rectum accommodates, temporarily removing the sensation.

10. Anus

The last section of the digestive tract is the anus. The pelvic floor muscles and the two anal sphincters are connected via a 2-inch canal (internal and external). The upper anus lining has the ability to detect rectal contents. It will tell you if the contents are liquid, gas, or solid.

Sphincter muscles surround the anus, which is vital for controlling stool. The pelvic floor muscle forms an angle between the rectum and the anus, which prevents faeces from coming out when they shouldn’t. Except when stool enters the rectum, the internal sphincter is constantly tight.

When we are asleep or otherwise ignorant of the presence of stool, this maintains our continent (prevents us from pooping involuntarily).

When we need to go to the bathroom, we rely on our external sphincter to hold the stool in place until we approach a toilet, where it relaxes and the contents are released.

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