What is Digestion?
Digestion is the breaking down of food into forms that our bodies can use. Our bodies use food as fuel to provide energy for work, play and growth. Your digestive system is responsible for converting the food we eat into energy for our bodies to use.
How does Digestion begin?
Digestion or the breaking down of food into small molecules that will be absorbed into our bloodstream begins when you put food in your mouth and begin to chew. Your teeth help to break the food apart, saliva helps to soften the food and your tongue helps to push the food into your throat when your ready to swallow.
Where does the food go when we swallow?
When we swallow the food goes into a tube called the esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that is connected to the stomach. The muscles that surround the esophagus help to squeeze and push the food into the stomach.
Can we swallow if we are upside down?
Yes, you can swallow upside down because the muscles around the esophagus are strong enough to push the food up to your stomach. I do not, however, recommend you try this anytime soon.
What about the stomach?
The stomach is a sack that receives the food from the esophagus. Your stomach is located just below the heart. The stomach makes digestive juices (acids and enzymes) that help to break our food down into a thick liquid or paste. This thick liquid or paste is called chyme. Your stomach is a muscular organ that is able to move in order to mix the food with digestive juices. Food usually remains in the stomach for about two hours.
Where does the food go after it leaves the stomach?
After leaving the stomach the food enters the small intestine. Your small intestine is a 20-25 foot tube that is coiled up in your abdomen. The center of your small intestine is right behind your belly button. The most important part of digestion takes place in the small intestine. As the thick liquid food paste travels through your small intestine the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are absorbed by millions of tiny finger-like objects called villi and sent into your bloodstream where the nutrients can travel to all your body cells.
Does the body use all the food we eat?
No, the body does not digest all the food that we eat. The undigested food leaves the small intestine and then enters the large intestine. The large intestine is about five feet long so it is shorter than the small intestine. The large intestine is however thicker or wider than the small intestine and that is why it is called the large intestine. I know, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either.
So what does the large intestine do to the undigested food?
The undigested food enters the large intestine as a liquid paste. In the large intestine water is removed from the liquid paste turning what is left into solid waste. Remember, liquid paste to solid waste. The solid waste then collects in the rectum at the end of the large intestine and will finally leave the body through an opening called the anus.
What causes our stomach to growl?
Stomach growling occurs when the stomach receives signals from your brain to begin digestion but the stomach is empty. Your brain might sense you're running low on energy (glucose) or even seeing or smelling something you want to eat can get things going. The motion of the stomach muscles begins, but the organ is hollow. The movement of the muscles mixing the acids of the stomach in the hollow space of the stomach produces vibrations we hear as growling, or rumbling, or gurgling.
The obvious solution is to eat, but this is not always practical. Because your body responds to things that you do daily I suspect that people who eat on very regular schedules may be more susceptible to this problem. For example if the stomach receives food at noon every day (like fifth grade students), then the body will expect food at noon, whether food is present or not.
Make sure you eat a HEALTHY breakfast so that your body doesn't run low on fuel(energy) before lunchtime.