The digestive system is a complex set of organs that allows a person to consume and metabolize food. All of the organs of the digestive system must work in concert for food and nutrients to be broken down and transported to the millions of cells in your body. As with all complicated systems, there are dozens of things that can go wrong with the digestive system. This article will outline some of the basics of the digestive system. It is not a comprehensive review – entire textbooks are written on these topics.
Let’s start with the very first part of the digestive system – the mouth. The mount is where you first put food in to your body, and where digestion first begins. Your teeth break food up in to smaller pieces, while saliva serves to moisten the food and begin breaking down some of the chemicals. Of course, this is also where you get to taste – but that’s technically not required in order for the digestive system to work.
From the mouth, the food them passes in to the esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that leads from your mouth to the stomach. Contrary to popular thought, food does not fall in to the stomach via gravity. Rather, the esophagus moves the food down to the stomach with contractions of the muscles that surround the organ.
The stomach is the next stop. The stomach is a highly acidic environment where a lot of food is broken down. Not much absorption takes place in the stomach – rather is an organ that processes food. The acid in the stomach also helps kill potentially dangerous bacteria and other invaders that could cause disease.
After the stomach, food is then passed to the small intestine. There are three parts to the small intestine (duodenum, illeum, and jejunum), but that is a distinction usually only made by doctors and surgeons. A lot of the food you eat is absorbed in the small intestine. It is a very metabolically active organ – with absorption and breakdown of chemicals happening along the entire length.
After the small intestine comes the large intestine. This is a shorter, yet wider organ that serves to reabsorb as much water from the food as possible. It also prepares the waste for elimination. At the end of the large intestine is the colon and rectum – where waste is stored until it can be released.
There are a few other organs that are vital to the digestive system. The first is the pancreas. The pancreas makes a large number of hormones that are important for proper digestion. The most famous of these hormones is insulin – which aids in sugar digestion. Lack of proper insulin production can lead to a type of diabetes.
The liver is also involved in the digestive system – at least indirectly. Bile is made in the liver. This is a chemical that is used to digest fat. Bile is stored in the gall bladder, which is a small pouch under the liver. When you eat, small amounts of bile are released in to the first part of the small intestine.
This is merely a simple overview to the digestive system and how it works. In order to fully understand how the digestive system works, it would be necessary to take a course in human physiology.