Nourishment is a necessary process that the body needs in order to perform systematic functions such as mobility, cognition, reasoning, and stimulus response. For all the nutrients to be distributed to all the other parts of the human body, they first need to be processed properly via digestion. Digestion, therefore, is an essential process that enables the body to convert solid and liquid nourishment to usable energy.
Below are some of the most important facts about the digestive system, including useful information on how the digestion process works and what particular habits promote better digestion.
Digestive system information
Here is a quick run-down of the digestive tract, its parts as well as their corresponding functions:
This acts as the receptacle and the first stop in the digestion process, as the mouth is responsible for the mechanical breakdown of all food particles. Click here to read about tongue facts.
This tube, which is adjacent to the trachea, is what connects the mouth and pharynx (throat) to the stomach where the main digestive process happens.
This muscular bag, which expands and contracts (depending on how much food is consumed at any given time), is where food undergoes chemical breakdown. Gastric juices are released accordingly in order to dissolve food particles and separate nutrients from waste materials.
This has three distinct parts, the first of which is called the duodenum where the food is mixed with additional digestive enzymes from the pancreas as well as bile produced by the liver. The food particles are then squeezed through the lower parts of the small intestine- the jejunum and ileum. The ileum absorbs all the necessary nutrients which are then distributed to different parts of the body via the bloodstream.
This is among the smallest glands of the body which produces digestive juices necessary in the food digestion process. It is also responsible for producing insulin, which helps regulate the amount of blood present in the blood.
The liver is a multi-functional organ that takes care of the following processes:
- Breaking down of lipid molecules or fats from food with the use of bile stored in the gall bladder
- Processing proteins as well as carbohydrates from food particles
- Filtering the blood and removing toxins from drugs, and other substances that are ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
- Generation of glucose for the purpose of short-term and/or immediate needs using compounds such as lactate and amino acids.
Note: Among the common causes of liver failure include excessive consumption of alcohol, fatty foods, certain types of prohibited drugs, and infection caused by hepatitis virus.
Facts about the digestive system
The digestive system is inextricably linked with the excretory system. That is, the process of digestion is eventually, if not immediately followed by the process of excretion (expulsion of solid as well as liquid waste materials such as stool and/or urine). Whatever you choose to consume will likely affect how well your body processes waste materials, which necessitates healthy eating habits. People who are partial to junk food or fast food are likely to develop digestive problems since the body is biologically programmed to reject unhealthy substances, such as the active ingredients found in pre-processed foods.
Some of the deadliest diseases are related to the digestive system, among which is Type 2 Diabetes (chronic/adult onset). Diabetes has been ranked as the second most fatal disease in the world, which can be prevented by proper diet and better lifestyle choices. Due to the nature of this condition, it can result to a number of serious complications, i.e. coronary problems (infarction, blockage, etc), high blood pressure, infection (gangrene in wounds that take too long to heal), impaired kidney function, loss of eyesight, bone loss, and many others.
The process of digestion takes between six to nine hours (ideally). Extremely fast digestion can indicate a problem with the stomach or the small intestine. This can also lead to malnutrition since the body is not able to absorb all the nutrients from consumed food. Conversely, extended digestion can cause problems such as constipation and stomach ache.
Dietary Fiber helps promote better digestion. What’s more is that fiber has a number of other health benefits that allow the body to return to status quo, before it became exposed to harmful elements such as carcinogens and toxins from food. It has also been proven that soluble fiber is effective in combating high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
Here are some of the best sources of dietary fiber:
- Whole grain wheat
- Corn bran (unflavored and unsweetened popcorn)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds)
- Potatoes (with skin on)
- Green vegetables (green beans, legumes, okra, celery, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli)
- Pomelo and grapefruit
Consuming dietary fiber in huge amounts does not only help digestion but it also allows for regular and pain-free bowel movements. People who constantly suffer from flatulence, constipation, and indigestion should definitely increase their intake of one or more of the items listed above.
Tip: It is ideal to start your day with a high fiber meal. Whole grain cereals with soy milk is always preferable than bacon or other types of processed foods. Eating half a grapefruit for breakfast daily is a good trick for those who find it hard to evacuate their bowels in the morning.
The stomach requires a health reserve of good bacteria. Probiotics aid in the process of anaerobic digestion in humans as well as in preventing a number of digestive ailments. Good bacteria is needed in order to effectively fight off harmful microorganisms in the stomach, which can cause any number of serious diseases. Some drink supplements such as Yakult are excellent sources of probiotics, so drinking a bottle each day would be a good habit for children as well as adults.
Common digestive ailments
(Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options)
Also known as dyspepsia, this is perhaps the most common digestive trouble there is. One of every five individuals experience indigestion at least once every few months (more often for some people depending on their dietary practices), and it is caused mainly by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and heartburn.
GERD is a condition by which digestive juices regurgitate and rise up to the esophagus. It is usually characterized by chronic and painful hiccups that last for hours or days.
Peptic Ulcers on the other hand are breaks in the inner lining of the stomach, esophagus and duodenum (part of the small intestine). These can cause unbearable pain as well as vomiting blood, especially when the ulcers rupture. It is caused by the excessive production of stomach acids, which eventually damages the protective tissues.
There are many ways to treat indigestion depending on the exact cause of the condition. In most cases, the condition resolves itself without any need for medication or hospitalization. However, if it recurs and/or symptoms get worse, it may be time to consider corrective surgery.
These are fat and bile salt deposits that have solidified over time, and can cause severe pain and internal bleeding. Gallstones can be life threatening if not treated properly and immediately. Surgery is usually recommended to get rid of the stones and prevent recurrence.
This is a condition in which a person cannot process lactose due to lack of enzymes that can breakdown its chemical composition. As a result, consumption of any food or beverage that contains lactose (i.e. milk, cheese, cream) will result to severe flatulence and general digestive distress. While there is no cure for this condition, you can easily prevent the untoward effects by avoiding all foods and drinks that contain dairy.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two of the most common types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and are generally characterized by severe abdominal pain, loose bowel movement (diarrhea), sudden weight loss, bleeding from the rectum, and anemia. This condition is often misdiagnosed as appendicitis and irritable bowel syndrome due to the symptoms. If left untreated, it can result to severe malnutrition and even death.
Most physicians prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Steroids, and Immunosuppressants.
Caring for the digestive system
A well-balanced diet is one of the most effective preventative methods against digestive problems. In addition, you might also want to take supplements that cleanse the colon, intestines, and liver. After all, the digestive tract works better when it is clean and free of toxins.
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