Healthy Digestive System
Everything that you put in your mouth and swallow, from food to medicines to liquids, is processed within your digestive system. Your digestive system breaks down foods that you eat into their simplest forms, like glucose (sugar), amino acids (that make up protein) or fatty acids (that make up fats). These are then absorbed into your bloodstream from the small intestine and the nutrients are carried to each cell in your body. Your body keeps what it needs and discards what it doesn’t need as waste products known as faeces or stools.
Your digestive tract starts at your mouth and ends up at your anus. Organs that are part of your digestive system include your stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver and large intestine. Each component of your digestive tract has a specific role in digestion. Maintaining a healthy digestive system is extremely important for your general health and well-being.
Some of the roles of the organs in your digestive system include:
- Mouth and oesophagus - food is ground up by your teeth and moistened with saliva to make it easier to swallow. Saliva contains enzymes which help break down carbohydrates into sugars. Your oesophagus then helps to move food down to your stomach by contracting.
- Stomach - food in your stomach is further broken down both mechanically as well as chemically. You stomach releases gastric juices and churns the food to help break it down.
- Small intestine - food in the small intestine is mixed with more digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from your liver.
Pancreas - your pancreas is one of the largest glands in your body. As well as digestive juices, it secretes a hormone known as insulin that is important in the regulation of sugar in your bloodstream.
- Liver - your liver has a number of different roles including, breaking down fats using bile, processing proteins and carbohydrates, filtering impurities, drugs and toxins, and generating glucose for short-term energy needs.
- Large intestine - once all the nutrients have been absorbed from your food, the waste is moved into the large intestine. Faeces are then stored in your rectum and passed out of your body through your anus.
Maintaining a healthy digestive system
Healthy digestion is essential for your overall health and well-being. Generally, our digestive system lets us know if there is something that disagrees with it, i.e. eating foods that don’t agree with your body or drinking