The gastrointestinal system is your body’s well coordinated system consisting of organs and components that work together to break down the food that you eat into simple molecules like amino acids, fatty acids and sugars so that these may be absorbed into the bloodstream. The essential nutrients that are taken from food are used to repair and build cells as well as become your body’s primary source of energy. The energy needed for the body to function is absorbed in this process.
More commonly known as the digestive system, the gastrointestinal system consists of several organs, each one performing an important task in the breaking down and absorption of food.
Food is ingested through the mouth. Chewing softens and breaks down food while saliva partially dissolves food while it is chewed. Saliva also lubricates your food so that it may be easily swallowed. Food then goes through the throat before it enters the oesophagus.
This is the long tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Muscles in the oesophagus move and direct the food to the stomach in a motion called peristalsis.
Food is stored temporarily in the stomach until gastric juice containing acids and enzymes is secreted in the stomach. This digestive juice helps to transform food into a semi-liquid state called chyme. The digested food or chyme then gradually moves to the small intestine. Various food substances behave differently in the stomach affecting their passage from the stomach to the small intestine. Food high in carbohydrates is easily broken down in the stomach while protein rich food stays a little longer. Food containing lipids or fat stays in the stomach the longest.
The small intestine is where carbohydrates, fats, protein as well as vitamins are digested before entering the bloodstream. When chyme or semi-liquid food enters the small intestine, the pancreas, liver and gall bladder secrete digestive enzymes and hormones into the small intestine to completely break down the chyme into molecules that are small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Not everything that you get from the food you eat is nutritious as food may also contain toxins that will be absorbed by the lining of the small intestine and then carried into the blood stream.
The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system. Also known as the large bowel or colon, the large intestine is where undigested food from the small intestine goes. Unlike in the small intestine, undigested food is treated as your body’s waste product and will no longer be broken down in the large intestine.
The function of the large intestine is to absorb the water and salt content in this waste product. The semi solid materials or fecal product then goes through the rectum until the moment it is to be completely expelled thru the anus.
A healthy digestive system is essential to a healthy body. Oftentimes, diseases or disorders affecting other parts of the body are the results of a dysfunctional gastrointestinal system.
A nutritious diet, regular exercise and less exposure to toxins all help to prevent gastrointestinal disorders such as appendicitis, bowel cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and yeast infections, to name a few.