The Digestive System
The digestive system’s job is to digest food into smaller particles for your body to absorb nutrients to continue functioning. The organs of the system all breakdown and distribute nutrients of food to the body.
Components & Process of the Digestive System
The digestive system is made up of the GI tract (containing the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The organs involved in digestion include the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. Each one works with the others to make the process of food digestion happen.
Starting in the mouth saliva begins to break down food or drink. The teeth mash the food to make it smaller and the chemical process of digestion with saliva begins.
The food travels through the esophagus toward the stomach. The esophagus is just the tube that carries the food from the mouth to the stomach.
In the stomach are gastric juices that chemically begin to break down the chunks of food. The food and juices are mixed with stomach contractions. The stomach pushes around the food and juices to begin the breakdown. Protein is broken down in the stomach. The food then passes from the stomach into the small intestines.
Here a movement called peristalsis occurs. It pushes the particles along in the intestines. Juices are inserted into the small intestines from the organs to begin the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and starches. Here the vitamins, minerals and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream to be distributed through the body.
At this point, the leftover waste particles that are of no use to your body are passed to the large intestines.
The large intestines are the passageway for waste to exit your body. The last bit of water or any leftover minerals are pulled from the waste in the large intestine before excretion. The waste forms into feces and is passed through the colon to the rectum for elimination.
The pancreas is the first digestive organ to contribute a juice for digestion in the small intestines. The pancreatic juice helps break down fats, protein, and some carbs.
The liver produces bile. Bile is needed to help absorb fats into the bloodstream. It is then stored in the gallbladder for distribution during digestion.
The gallbladder stores bile between meals for on-demand use in digestion. The gallbladder introduces the bile into the small intestines during digestion.
What Happens When the Digestive System Doesn’t Work Right?
Any location in the digestive system can develop a problem, but many problems today are noted in the major organs and lower GI tract (or the intestines). Overall problems like lack of proper nutrient absorption (malnutrition), diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting and more can occur.
Issues can occur with restrictions or closures in parts of the esophagus. This prevents the proper flow of food from the mouth to the stomach for digestion.
Some stomach problems include ulcers, GERD (acid reflux), and hiatal hernia. Ulcers are open sores in the stomach. The gastric juices coming into contact with these sores is very painful. There are many reasons a person can develop ulcers. Acid reflux is where the stomach juices backflow up into the esophagus. There are valves that are supposed to prevent this from happening at the stomach opening, but in some cases they open and the juices flow back up the esophagus burning the esophagus. Hiatal hernias are part of the stomach pushing out and extending into the chest cavity.
To learn a bit more about these issues check out the digestive system conditions article in the hub.
Small & Large Intestine Problems
The intestines are a location that tends to develop more problems than the rest of the digestive system. Some problems include polyps, cancer, infections, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, short bowel syndrome, intestinal ischemia, and malabsorption.
To learn more about these issues check out the digestive system conditions article in the hub.
Want to learn more about the digestive system, its components or treatments and physicians. Here are some simple and complex online sources. Depending on your comfort level of medical language you can check out each one.