The Important Digestive System

In my article post,
I promised to cover all the systems of the body in the future. I’m going to follow through on that promise by continuing with the important digestive system. All the systems are extremely important and they depend on each other to accomplish the goal of optimum performance of the body.

The important digestive system is referenced that way because it is responsible for all the systems in the body.

What is the digestive system

The digestive system is a sort of distribution plant inside the body. It takes in food and moves it through organs and structures where the processing (digestion) happens. The fuels and nutrients needed are extracted, and the digestive system discards the rest. This takes approximately 75 hours (3 days) for the complete process.  So there are several meals being processed by this plant simultaneously but at different stations of the process.

Why is digestion important

For starters, what is digestion? It is the process by which food is changed to simpler form after it is consumed. Why is digestion so important? Digestion is important for breaking down food into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth, and cell function and repair. Food and drink should be converted into smaller molecules of nutrients before the blood can absorb them and carry them to cells throughout the body.

Without digestion and the digestive system, there would be no ability to get the nutrients in food to the necessary cells, and we would die.

Functions of the digestive system

To accomplish the goal of providing energy and nutrients to the body, the major functions that take place in the digestive system are:

  • Ingestion
  • Secretion
  • Mixing and movement
  • Digestion
  • Absorption
  • Excretion

Descriptions of each function are below.

Ingestion – The first function of the digestive system is ingestion, which is the intake of food. The mouth is responsible for this function, as it is the oral cavity through which all food enters the body. The mouth and abdomen also are liable for the storage of food because it is waiting to be processed. This storage capacity allows for food consumption only a few times each day and the ability to ingest more food than can processed at one time.

Secretion – within the course of each day, the gastrointestinal system secretes around 7 liters of fluids. These fluids embody spittle, mucus, acid (hydrochloric), enzymes, and bile. Saliva moistens dry food and contains salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme that begins the digestion of carbs. Mucus serves as a protective barrier and lubricant inside of the GI tract (the canal through which food travels). Hydrochloric acid helps to digest food with chemicals and protects the body by killing bacterium currently present in our food. Enzymes are like small organic chemistry machines that dismantle massive macromolecules like proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids into their smaller components. Finally, a digestive juice named bile is employed to emulsify massive lots of lipids into small globules for simple digestion.

Mixing and Movement

The gastrointestinal digestive system uses 3 main processes to maneuver and blend food:

  • Swallowing. Swallowing is the method of exploitation using sleek and skeletal muscles within the mouth, tongue, and pharynx to push food out of the mouth, through the pharynx, and into the esophagus.
  • Peristalsis. Peristalsis is a muscular wave that travels the length of the digestive tract, moving partially digested food a short distance down the tract. It takes many waves of peristalsis (muscle contractions) for food to travel from the esophagus, through the stomach and intestines, and reach the end of the GI tract.
  • Segmentation. Segmentation occurs only in the small intestine as short segments of intestine contract like fingers squeezing a toothpaste tube. Segmentation helps to extend the absorption of nutrients by compounding food and increasing its contact with the walls of the gut.

Digestion – Digestion is the method of turning massive items of food into its element chemicals. Mechanical digestion is the physical breakdown of huge items of food into smaller items. This mode of digestion begins with the grinding of food by the teeth and is sustained through the muscular blending of food by the abdomen and intestines. Bile produced by the liver is also used to mechanically break fats into smaller semi-liquid objects. While food is being mechanically complete as digested, it is also being chemically digested as larger and more complex molecules are being broken down into smaller molecules that are easier to absorb.

Chemical digestion begins in the mouth with salivary enzymes in saliva splitting complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates. The enzymes and acid within the abdomen continue chemical digestion, but the bulk of chemical digestion takes place in the small intestine thanks to the action of the pancreas. The pancreas secretes an extremely robust digestive cocktail known as pancreatic juice, which is capable of breaking down lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and nucleic acids. By the time food has left the duodenum, the early part or beginning of the small intestine, it has been reduced to its chemical building blocks—fatty acids, amino acids, monosaccharides, and nucleotides.

Absorption – Once food has been reduced to its building blocks, it is ready for the body to absorb. Absorption begins within the abdomen with easy molecules like water and alcohol being absorbed directly into the blood. However, most absorption takes place within the walls of the gut, which are densely folded to maximize the surface area in contact with digested food. Small blood and lymphatic vessels containing a liquid body substance within the intestinal wall obtain the molecules and carry them to the remainder of the body. The large intestine is also involved in the absorption of water and vitamins B and K before the solid waste leaves the body.

*Excretion – The ultimate role of the digestive system is the excretion of waste in a method called elimination or defecation. Defecation removes undigested substances from the body in order that they do not accumulate within the gut. The timing of elimination is controlled voluntarily by the cognizant part of the brain; however it must be accomplished on a regular preferable daily basis to steer clear of a backup of indigestible materials.

Organs of the digestive system

The following organs work together to help our bodies process the foods we eat.

  • Mouth

    Digestive System
    The Digestive System

  • Pharynx of the mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small Intestine
  • Liver and Gallbladder
  • Pancreas
  • Large Intestine

Mouth – Food begins its journey through the gastrointestinal system within the mouth, also known as the oral cavity. Our teeth grind the food we eat and mix it with saliva to form a kind of ball, known as a bolus.

During the blending, a catalyst known as salivary enzyme starts breaking down carbohydrates. Once the food is soft and relatively flexible, the tongue pushes it to the back of the mouth and swallows it down the pharynx.

Pharynx – The pharynx, also known as the throat, is a funnel-shaped tube connected to the latter end of the mouth. It is a muscular tube that runs from the back of your nose down into your neck.

Esophagus – The esophagus is a flattened, muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. As food is swallowed, the esophagus expands. It takes food between one to eight seconds to pass through the esophagus, depending on the texture of the food.

Stomach – The stomach or abdomen is a muscular pouch that is J-shaped, which receives food from the esophagus and sends it to the small intestine. Inside the stomach, food is churned around and mixed with enzymes and acid until it’s a liquid, called chyme. The abdomen is the main location for macromolecule (protein) digestion and uses powerful enzymes, known as pepsins, as well as hydrochloric acid to digest foods like meats, milk, and cheese.

Small Intestine – The small intestine is a long muscular tube that is approximately an incredible 24-feet, that is divided into three distinct parts: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum (say those three rapid times). Each of the three (3) elements is a major location of digestion and absorption. Absorption ,is known to be a crucial part of the gastrointestinal system that brings the molecules from the processed food into the blood and, ultimately, the cells.

Liver – The liver has many functions. First, it produces the digestive fluid bile, which the small intestine uses to help digest the fats in food. It also metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates, and fats; helps regulate blood-sugar levels; stores glycogen for quick energy; makes fibrinogen, which clots blood; makes vitamin A; and recycles worn-out red blood cells.

Gall Bladder – Tucked under the liver, the gallbladder is a storage container for bile, a yellow-green fluid made up of salts, cholesterol, and lecithin. The small bowel (intestine) uses gallbladder-produced digestive juice (bile) to digest fats.

Large Intestine – The last part of the digestive tract, the large intestine, is a muscular tube that is about 5 feet long. It’s divided into the cecum, colon, and rectum. Together, these segments fasten up the loose ends of digestion. This includes completing any nutrient absorption and processing the wastes into feces. The large intestines also make some types of vitamin B and vitamin K.

Diseases of the Digestive System

Many diseases and health conditions – such as ulcers, GERD, IBD and celiac disease, just to name a few – lead to dysfunction in the digestive system. The host of diseases are too numerous for this article. For a detailed list and description of digestive diseases, click this link.


However, as I like to say: prevention is better than cure! One way to insure digestive health is with a proper diet and a proper dietary supplement regime. Part of that regime should include a probiotic supplement. In my article/post:
full detail is given on probiotics; their descriptions and advantages.

Amazon offers a huge selection of probiotic products as well as other nutritional items. Simply click here (affiliate Link)to take a peak.

To help prevent digestive diseases, let’s look at some doctor recommended preventative tips:

  • Get plenty of fluids to keep system flushed. Good sources include water, broth, and soups.
  • Eat a variety of foods that contain dietary fiber. The recommended amount is 25-30 grams per day. Fresh fruits and vegetables aid in digestive health.
  • Chew food thoroughly, and don’t overeat.
  • Limit your intake of fats and alcohol.
  • Avoid raw shellfish if you’re not sure the source is a safe one.
  • Exercise daily
  • Get proper rest
  • Wear clothes that fit properly; clothes that are tight on the abdomen can cause stomach problems.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before preparing food and eating.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling garbage, handling raw meat, and handling pets or their waste.

Some digestive diseases cannot be prevented, such as Crohn’s disease. Remember these are preventative tips. If the onset of a digestion problem commences despite these tips, and your digestive problems persist, please consult your doctor promptly.

Please feel free to leave a comment, question or concern below.


Good health!





4 thoughts on “The Important Digestive System”

  1. In all animals, be it lower and higher, digestive system is so important than no animal can live without it. I actually wanna use my friend as an example here, he is an ulcer patient and he’s been facing this pain for a while because he isn’t able to get a reliable drug yes, please do you by any chance know of drugs that people with digestive disease can take???   Proper diet is way one of the ways of prevent digestive system diseases. 

    This is a really comprehensive post and it’ll definitely serve as help for those it need of it. It was so interesting reading through this post and I’ve learned a lot. Thanks for sharing this article.

    1. Hi Jones – Thanks for the comment.  Since your friend has an ulcer, it’s best for him to get something prescribed by a physician. An over the counter product would probably be non-productive on such a condition.and he needs to be under professional care.

  2. Wow, thank you for this great article. This is very important for everyone to know, since we all need to take in food and digested. It’s good for people to understand how their digestive system actually works. Especially bodybuilders and athletes, because bodybuilders and athletes need to understand how their body is converting their food into Energy, Muscle, and other materials in their body.

    thank you for your list of preventative tips. Probiotic supplement is important and can be even more helpful than just having Greek yogurt. Thank you for your expertise on the subject and I look forward to reading more. Your article is very well written and formatted nicely. People will like it.

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