How Digestion Works: Journey Of Food In The Digestive System

  • 3 mins read
  • Nutrition
  • Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
Journey of food in digestive system

Are you a food lover like us? Do you ever wonder what happens to the delicious food that you ate, say last night? If your answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to guide you through the process of digestion. Be prepared. It might get bumpy!

The digestive system is extremely important as it breaks down the food we eat and helps in the absorption of nutrients. Some organs are also involved in the metabolism process. So without further ado, let’s meet the members of the digestive system and how the food travels through it.

Organs in the digestive system
(Organs in the digestive system)

Let’s begin at the beginning: From hand to mouth!

Did you know that the process of digestion begins in your mouth? As you chew your food to break it down into tiny pieces, your saliva softens it and begins to digest the starch in it with the help of enzymes called amylases.

So the next time you drool over that pizza, remember that your digestive system has gotten to work!

Meet The Gatekeeper, Epiglottis:

When you swallow your food, a small flap called the epiglottis opens up to allow the food to pass through. The epiglottis folds over your windpipe to prevent choking, and the food passes into your oesophagus.

Next Up, The Oesophagus:

After you swallow that ball of food (called a bolus), your job is essentially done. The brain and digestive system will work together to deliver the nutrients. The former now sends signals to the muscles of the oesophagus, and peristalsis begins.

The Checkpoint: Sphincter

The sphincter (not the Sphinx!) is a ring-like muscle at the end of the oesophagus. Normally, it is closed to keep what’s in your stomach where it belongs – inside the stomach! However, when the food reaches the end of the oesophagus, this muscle relaxes and lets the food through.  

The Growling Beast: Stomach!

The stomach is a magnificent hollow organ that holds the food while mixing and churning it with digestive juices or enzymes and acid. This breaks down food so that it can be utilised in our bodies. The acid is responsible for the breakdown and the killing of bacteria that may have entered your digestive system through food/drinks.

Fun Fact: The growling or rumbling sound you sometimes hear is the food, liquid, and gas going through the stomach and small intestine!

The One with Twists and Turns, The Small Intestine:

The small intestine is like a coiled pipe, which when uncoiled can be as long as 22 feet – that’s nearly as long as a bus! It is divided into 3 parts in the following order: duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

The duodenum mainly breaks down food, and the jejunum and ileum are mainly responsible for the absorption of nutrients into the blood

Call in the Troops: Liver, Pancreas, and Gallbladder

The small intestine is where most of the magic happens. But the credit for this process is shared with the above 3 organs as well. The liver processes the nutrients and also produces bile, which digests fats and some vitamins. The liver is also involved in the metabolism of various nutrients.

The gallbladder stores the bile between meals and squeezes it into the small intestine when you eat.

The pancreas makes digestive juices and enzymes like amylases, lipases, and trypsin to break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, respectively.

The contents of the small intestine start in a semisolid form, but exit in a liquid form. But our faces aren’t liquid! Our next organ holds the key to this mystery.

The Stool-maker, Large Intestine:

The large intestine, which includes the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum, absorbs water from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. The waste products left behind, including the food too large to be digested, form the stools. These are passed out of the body through the anus.

References:
1. Your digestive system & how it works. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works. Accessed on 9 June 2021.

2. The structure & function of the digestive system: How it works. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7041-the-structure-and-function-of-the-digestive-system. Accessed on 9 June 2021.

3. All you need to know about stomach growling. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319901. Accessed on 9 June 2021.

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