HOW DOES YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM WORK?
Its primary role is to break food down so it can be used by the body. But it also does so much more than this. Understanding how the gut works can help you keep things running more smoothly.
The mouth, teeth and saliva break food down into manageable pieces by chewing. An enzyme in saliva starts digesting carbohydrates.
The oesophagus is a long tube between mouth and stomach that squeezes food as you swallow, making it smaller and mushier. Chew bread or meat well, or you may feel it going down your chest.
In the stomach changes in acidity caused by food trigger cascades of enzymes and hormones. Enzymes start breaking down protein, fats and starches. Hormones trigger feelings of fullness. The stomach makes 2–3 litres of gastric fluid each day, which makes the food watery and thin.
In the small intestine foods are broken down into smaller particles so nutrients can be absorbed efficiently into your bloodstream. The intestine’s inside is covered in tiny, finger-like bulges to help your body absorb nutrients. Bacteria found here help keep the intestine cells healthy, and also produce nutrients and hormones.
The colon or large intestine is your body’s last chance to salvage unabsorbed ‘goodies’ from the small intestine. You’re left with fibre, old cells, waste products and dead bacteria. In a word – ‘poo’.