The food we eat takes an incredible journey through our body that can take up to 72 hours and along the way the beneficial parts of your food are absorbed, giving you energy and nutrients.
What is the digestive system made up of?
Your digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI Tract) and your liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
The GI tract is a group of organs that are connected to each other starting from your mouth to your anus. The organs that make up your GI tract, include your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus.
What does the digestive system do?
Your digestive system turns your food into the nutrients and energy you need to survive. And when it’s done with that, it handily packages your solid waste, for disposal when you have a bowel movement.
Why is digestion important?
Digestion is important because your body needs the nutrients from the food you eat and the liquids that you drink to stay healthy and function properly. These nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Your digestive system breaks down and absorbs nutrients from the food and liquids that you consume and uses it for energy, growth and repairing cells.
What organs make up the digestive system?
The mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract. After you start eating, you chew your food into pieces that are more easily digested. When you swallow, your tongue passes the food into your throat and into your Oesophagus that then carries the food to the Stomach
The stomach is an organ that holds food whilst it is being mixed with stomach enzymes. These enzymes continue the process of breaking down food into a usable form. When the contents of the stomach are processed enough, they are released into the small intestine.
The small intestine is a 22-foot-long muscular tube that breaks down food using enzymes released by the pancreas and bile from the liver. Peristalsis also works in this organ, which is a movement of the muscles that line your gastrointestinal tract moving food through your digestive system starting at the throat and continuing through your oesophagus, stomach, and intestines while you digest.
Contents of the small intestine start out semi-solid and end in a liquid form after passing through the organ. Water, bile, enzymes, and mucus contribute to the change in consistency.
Once the nutrients have been absorbed and the leftover-food residue liquid has passed through the small intestine, it then moves onto the large intestine which forms the food into faeces. This process is helped by the cecum who lubricates this solid waste which is then stored ready for excretion.
The large intestine, also known as the colon, is a 6-foot-long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum (a straight, 8-inch chamber) and connects the colon to the anus (a 2inch long canal) the last part of the digestive tract.
And whilst all this is happening all the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver.
The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and processes the nutrients for the rest of the body. Bile is produced in the liver and is a thick liquid that’s green, brown, or yellow in colour. It’s used to help with the digestion of fats. It’s estimated that your liver can produce 27 – 34 fluid ounces of bile a day!
During a meal, bile moves from the liver directly to the small intestine however, when you’re not eating, it must be stored somewhere until it’s needed.
This is where the gallbladder comes in handy.
Your pancreas plays a big role in digestion. It is located quite high up in your abdomen, just behind your stomach and is about the size of your hand. During digestion, your pancreas makes pancreatic juices which are enzymes that break down sugars, fats, and starches. Your pancreas also helps your digestive system by making hormones that are chemical messengers that travel through your blood. Pancreatic hormones help regulate your blood sugar levels, appetite and stimulate stomach acids.
All the foods we eat are hugely helped to pass through the GI tract by a healthy daily intake of water!
How long does this breakdown of food take?
Great question, now that you’ve seen the diagram above let’s see how long digestion can roughly take, in the Stomach, Small Intestine and Large Intestine.
So food can take 24 to 72 hours to move through your digestive tract, depending on the amount and types of foods that you have eaten.
Factors also like your gender, metabolism and if you have any digestive problems that may slow down or speed up the whole process,