The Human Digestive System and Everything You Need to Know
Have you ever tried to imagine the way your body processes the food you eat, use what is valuable, and eliminate the waste? Your digestive system is a complex structure that involves various components, organs, chemicals, hormones, and nerves in its process.
As you take a walk through the digestive system, it is essential to learn the functions of each organ in the system. Also, you can learn how each organ relates to the other to have a free-flow movement of food.
What is the Digestive System?
The digestive system is a structure and a process involved in the movement and breaking down of food for absorption and assimilation into your body. The digestive system starts at the anterior part, which is the mouth. The food then travels through various organs for digestion to end up at the posterior part of the system, which is the anus.
Food and water digestive journey from the mouth to exit has to pass through the gastrointestinal tract (GI). It is in your digestive system also known as the gut that you inhabit gut flora or gut microbiome (good bacteria). The gut microbiome is host to the immune system that helps you remain healthy.
The Digestive System, Organs and Functions
The digestive system has its organs arranged and grouped into two parts, the gastrointestinal tract and the solid organs that complement the digestion.
Gastrointestinal Tract Organs
The hollow, long, and twisting digestive structure is the gastrointestinal tract (GI) or digestive tract. It involves the following organs:Mouth
The mouth is the entrance of food and the beginning of the digestive process. Chewing food breaks down big particles to smaller ones for easy digestion. While chewing food, your salivary glands release saliva mixed with enzymes to breakdown food. Your mouth is the initial stage of food digestion. After eating, you swallow the food to pass it to the esophagus.Esophagus
The salivary enzymes continue with the digestion process during the period the food is in the esophagus. The esophagus then contracts its muscles pushing food down the GI system to the stomach.
Food enters the stomach through the esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve at the base of the esophagus. The stomach is a pouch-like organ that can hold food long enough for digestion. The stomach then releases some acidic secretion and enzymes for food digestion. Some stomach muscles agitate the food systematically to aid digestion.
The food then moves to the small intestine through an opening by a muscular valve known as pyloric sphincter.Small Intestine
In the small intestine, the digestion process continues using bile from the liver and some enzymes from the pancreas. The nutrients, calories, and about 80% of water content are absorbed in the small intestine. The remaining food after absorption then passes on into the large intestine, also known as the colon.Large Intestine (Colon)
The large intestine further absorbs most of the remaining water content in the food. After water absorption, the colon then prepares the food waste for excretion. The highest volume of gut flora (good bacteria) is in the large intestine. The good bacteria help in synthesizing and assimilation of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes from the food. After the colon has finished getting all the nutrients from the food, it prepares the residue as waste. The colon then passes the food waste into the rectum.Rectum
The rectum cannot function without the control of the nerves. The nerves send signals either to hold the waste or to pass it. The rectum contracts, while the anal sphincters muscles relax for defecation. Likewise, the nerves send signals for the reverse process when the stool is not ready for release. The sphincter muscles contract while the rectum relaxes to lock-in the waste until when ready to release.Anus
The exit of the food wastes after digestion is the anus. It consists of sphincter muscles for holding or releasing the waste at will by the control of the nerve system.The Complementing Digestive Organs
The gastrointestinal tract or GI is not enough to complete the digestive system. Other organs contribute and complement the GI in the food digestions.Pancreas
The pancreas which is a small glandular organ is part of the digestive system. It sits in the duodenum of the small intestines and responsible for secreting enzymes, insulin, and hormones for digestion. The pancreas secretes the digestive juices into the small intestines to aid in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.Liver
The liver is a large glandular organ. Besides other functions of the liver in the body, it is vital in the digestive system. The liver secretes bile, a digestive juice into the small intestines to assist in the digestion process. Further, the liver helps in the absorption of nutrients, cholesterol, fats, and various vitamins into the bloodstream.Gallbladder
The gallbladder receives bile secreted by the liver. The gallbladder connects to the small intestines through some hollow ducts. The glandular organ then releases the bile into the intestines for food breakdown and absorption.The Main Controls of Digestive System
The food digestion mainly occurs due to chewing, the use of enzymes, acids, and other digestive juices. But, the secretion of such digestive juices can only happen through the involvement of other factors.Hormones
Hormones are vital players in digestive metabolism. Some of the hormones' functions are to stimulate secretion of some enzymes such as pancreatic enzymes. Gastrin hormones, in particular, help to contract the gall bladder for bile secretion.Nerves
The nervous system is another factor responsible for the digestive system. The enteric nervous system (ENS), the nervous system of the GI, is independent. It is different from the brain and the spinal cord nervous system. It inhabits around 100 million neurons that control the whole of the digestive system.The Absorption of Digested Food
Once the food has completed the digestion process, the small intestines absorb the nutrients and assimilate into the bloodstream. The bloodstream then transports the nutrients to the necessary parts of the body.
Digestive System Disorders
Your digestive system can have an imbalance due to various reasons, such as inhabiting harmful bacteria. The effective absorption of the nutrients can then be affected. Insufficient nutrients in the body can impact your health and the rest of the body systems negatively.
The digestive imbalance can also affect the circulatory system through toxins absorption into the bloodstream. When that happens, you become susceptible to various diseases.
The saying that 'you are what you eat' means a lot in your digestive system. What you eat affects your digestive health positively or negatively. Some of the regular diseases and most prevalent in your digestive system are:Heartburn
Heartburn is a condition that happens due to acid reflux. The food in the stomach which contains acidic juice can reverse to the esophagus, causing some acid reflux pain. When the condition persists, it can lead to a condition known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.Food Intolerance
Impaired digestion due to insufficient enzymes can cause food intolerance. Some enzymes in either of the digestive stages can be ineffective in their role of food digestion. When such digestive juices are unable to digest some food, it results in intolerance on that particular type of food.
One such condition is lactose intolerance. It is caused by insufficient lactase enzymes which fail to digest lactose.
Food intolerance condition then deprives your body of the much-needed nutrients of such food.Ulcers
Ulcers disease is a condition that can occur in the stomach or small intestine due to increased acid production. The disease can happen when the thick protective mucous layer in the stomach or the duodenum wears. The acids in the digestive system then burn the lining tissues to cause ulcers.
Without the right treatment, the ulcers can become severe and hence, difficult to adequately treat, leading to a chronic condition.Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome can be a painful condition of the large intestine. It can cause abdominal pain, cramping, feeling gaseous, and either constipation or diarrhea. Without proper medical care, the disease can progress to a chronic condition.
One of the causes of IBS is an imbalance of gut bacteria, also known as dysbiosis. A study on the gut microbiome and IBS have reported a close relationship between the two. Insufficient gut-flora or microbiome (good bacteria) in the large intestines can affect your immune system.Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoid is a condition that can occur either in the lower part of the rectum or in the anal area. Hemorrhoids can occur from having persistent constipation. Constipation can lead to a problematic bowel movement. The pressure from forcing the bowel movement can irritate the anal tissue and veins, causing them to swell, leading to hemorrhoids.Pancreatic Pseudocyst
Pancreatic pseudocyst is a health condition that occurs in the abdomen. The sac-like part of the abdomen can get filled up with pancreatic enzymes, blood, and other dead tissue. You can get pancreatic pseudocyst from complications caused by chronic pancreatitis.
From what you have learned about the digestive system, what can you say? You can agree if we conclude that the digestive system is an interesting and intricate process?
You have learned that all parts of the digestive system have crucial functions and that none is the least important. The intriguing fact is that the system works continuously without your knowledge or control.
Your key role in the digestive system is to ensure you eat healthy food. Some of the sources in your diet may contain some chemicals from herbicides, glyphosates, pesticides, fungicides, etc. Also, they can have some metal or other hard substances you can ingest unknowingly.
Be careful to use organic food, free of toxins. Your overall health and other body systems can only depend on a healthy digestive system.
Within the past 30 years of clinical experience, Yvonne has put together with the help of Nature Sunshine, a list of products which can benefit your intestinal system. It is always best to have a consultation with Yvonne before guessing as to what you need.
How healthy is your digestive system? Do you have a gastrointestinal condition you would like to inquire about and follow up for treatment? Reach out to Yvonne Dollar Perc of Island Healthworks Clinic for advice.
Do you want to read more about other body systems? Stay right here for more!! Over the course of the next 10 weeks, we will be covering in detail, the list of the Body Systems, their function, Importance, disease causes, symptoms, and treatment. Be sure not to miss any of the articles we post.
Editor: Yvonne Dollard Perc
Research Assistant: Elizabeth Njuguna
Designer: Sherry Robb
To learn more, contact Yvonne Dollard Perc at Island Healthworks. Yvonne offers phone consultations where she will develop an individualized health care program and lifestyle plan tailored to your specific needs through a personal health and lifestyle analysis.
Call 250-468-7685 to speak with Yvonne and set up a phone consultation!
Yvonne offers in-person consultations with assessment of your specific needs, health and lifestyle coaching, and the best of integrative natural health care. To book your in person consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.