Your digestive system is an incredibly complex, yet incredibly important, part of your body. It is responsible for breaking down all of the foods you eat and absorbing the right nutrients to support your body’s optimal functioning.
With such an important role to play, understanding how your digestive system works is crucial. This will not only help you to better understand what’s occurring in your body, but will also help you to support it in a time of need. With this in mind, read on to discover the basics about digestion.
What Is The Digestive System?
Before we dive into the mechanics, let’s properly discuss what the digestive system actually is!
Although there’s no denying that we eat a lot of foods due to their taste, our bodies actually need food to survive. This is because the nutrients that come from food provide our bodies with what they need to function normally. To get these nutrients, however, the food must be digested properly.
The digestive system gets to work from the very moment you even smell some food. We’ll touch more on the actual process in a bit, but to sum it up quickly:
- Food enters your mouth
- The food passes through a long tube (your digestive tract)
- The food exits your body as faeces
Of course, the process is a lot more complex than that. While the food passes through your body, the digestive system breaks it down, ensuring the right nutrients come from it:
- Protein breaks down into amino acids
- Starch breaks down into simple sugars
- Fat breaks down into glycerol and fatty acids.
Can You Support The Digestive System?
The easiest way to support your digestive system is by maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. If you are experiencing issues, you might also benefit from taking supplements that assist with its performance. For example, turmeric supplements have been found to support healthy digestion.
How Does The Digestive System Work?
Let’s take a brief look into how the digestive system works from start to finish.
- When you smell or taste food, your salivary glands start to make saliva.
- Once the food is in your mouth, your teeth break it apart while your saliva moistens it. This makes it easier to swallow the food.
- As you swallow the food, it passes into a passageway called the pharynx (throat). A small flap of tissue called the epiglottis closes over your windpipe as you swallow to prevent choking.
- Once the food passes through your throat, it travels down your esophagus. Muscle contractions called peristalsis help to push the food through into your stomach.
- A muscular ring (sphincter) allows the food to enter your stomach before squeezing shut.
- When in the stomach, churning takes place to break the food down even further.
- Once churned in the stomach, your food will look like a thick liquid. This is called chyme. The chyme travels through to the small intestine to further absorb nutrients.
- Any more undigested food then travels to the large intestine, where the final absorption of nutrients takes place.
- Any waste found in the large intestine will then leave the body as faeces.