Updated: Apr 8
What goes in must come out and food is no exception. Humans intake about 2.5kg of food a day. Food is used by the body to give provide energy to perform daily tasks and used to form new cells or repair damaged ones.
No matter what the food, it must pass through the entirety of the digestive system which consists of 10 organs. Each of these organs together transforms the raw materials of the food into nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, and energy.
The digestive system has 4 main parts; the “gastrointestinal tract” which is a long twisty pipe that has a humongous surface area. Secondly, “The pancreas, gall bladder, and liver” responsible for the production of several juices to break down food. Thirdly,
“the body’s enzymes, hormones, neurons, and blood modulates” the process and delivers products. Lastly, there is “the mesentery” that supports the digestive system inside the abdomen. Digestion usually takes from 24 hours to up to 72 hours to complete.
Digestion starts even before the food hits the mouth, anticipating food causes mouths to salivate. (Psst.. saliva is also known to be a sign of a healthy mouth and helps to maintain strong teeth). Once inside the mouth, the food is chewed and broken down mechanically. Our saliva causes the food to become soft and also has enzymes that start the breakdown of starch. Swallowing is an action carried out by the tongue that pushes down the food into the esophagus. The esophagus is a pipe containing ring-like muscles that push the food down to the stomach with rhythmic contractions and relaxations (aka peristalsis).
The stomach can be described as a bag of muscles. The stomach is highly acidic due to the presence of hydrochloric acid that helps to kill off any germs that may be taken in with the food. Once in the stomach, the food is mixed with different gastric juices which breaks down the food. The lining of the stomach is protected with a layer of sticky fluid called mucus. The food at this point is a mushy slush that is passed to the small intestine, the longest organ of the system. On entry, the food is mixed with bile from the gall bladder to neutralize the acid from the stomach and digestive juices from the pancreas are also added. Moving further along the small intestine, the lining of the intestine has small finger-like projections that allow absorption of nutrients to take place.
The remains then enter the large intestine, at this point all that remains of the slush are mostly fiber, cells from the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and water. The water is absorbed back into the body and what remains is poop. This is then stored in the rectum and passed out of the anus. The average healthy digestive system should pass out poop once every day.