Digestive System 101

How important is our digestive system? Every cell in our bodies is made from material that comes into our bodies from the outside world. If you have acid reflux, you have a problem with your system.

A good place to start is to learn more about how it works and it's major parts.

Following is a short description of the digestive system and its major parts.

Mouth - The digestive process starts at the mouth. Food taken into the mouth gets chewed. This begins the process by breaking the food down into small pieces and mixing it with saliva. Saliva has some digestive juices in it and also moistens the food so it passes more easily to the stomach.

Esophagus – The esophagus is the tube that starts at the back of the mouth and goes to the stomach. Muscle contractions called “peristalsis” start at the top and propel the food to the stomach when we swallow. 

upper digestive system

LES (lower esophageal sphincter) – This is the valve that sits at the end of the esophagus. When food reaches the lower end of the esophagus this muscle relaxes and allows food to enter the stomach. Once food passes it retightens to block stomach contents from entering the esophagus. It is critical that the LES performs it’s function, because unlike the stomach, the esophagus is made up of more delicate tissue that cannot withstand stomach acid.

Stomach – The stomach is where swallowed food is mixed with acids, enzymes and other digestive juices. It is a pouch-like organ that has different regions with differing functions. Its function is to break food down into small pieces. It’s a little more complicated than that but I’m trying to keep it simple here. You really don’t need to know specific details to cure yourself but if you want a little more info about the stomach clickhere.

Duodenum – The duodenum is a short section at the bottom of the stomach. It connects the stomach to the small intestine.

Pancreas - The pancreas is actually the largest gland in the body and plays a very important part in proper digestion. It produces hormones and pancreatic juice containing important digestive enzymes. These enzymes are introduced into the food mix in the small intestine after it leaves the stomach. The enzymes aid in the breaking down of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.

Gallbladder - The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped muscular sack that acts as a storage tank for bile. The bile is made in the liver. The gallbladder stores the bile to have it available in larger quantities for secretion when a meal is eaten. The ingestion of food and especially fats causes the gallbladder to release bile into the small intestine.

Small Intestine – This is where the majority of the minerals, vitamins and many other vital nutrients are absorbed. Bile from the gallbladder and liver are excreted into the small intestine to further breakdown the soupy mix of food as it enters the small intestine from the stomach. During its journey through the small intestine, molecules are extracted from our food and pass through the intestinal wall and are absorbed into the blood stream. This is the amazing moment when food that was from outside of you, becomes part of you. You never knew your digestive system was this interesting!

Large Intestine – Runs from the small intestine to the rectum. Absorbs any remaining nutrients and water and turns undigested food into stool. Passes this on to the rectum where it is expelled from the body.

There is much more detailed information on the digestive system to be found if you're interested.

I recommend you follow this link to my simple explanation of how digestion works.