The Digestive System
Understanding how the gut works can help us keep things running more smoothly.
1) The mouth – breaks food down into manageable pieces and starts the digestive process
2) The oesophagus – here, powerful, rhythmic muscular contractions push food down to the stomach
3) The stomach – the food mixes with gastric juices for a few hours. Enzymes break down most of the proteins and acid kills off the majority of bacteria. The resulting thick liquid passes slowly into the small intestine.
4) The small intestine –, food particles move along this intricate tubing (about 6 metres long) and are broken down into simpler molecules, of carbohydrate, protein and fat. These are then absorbed into the blood stream.
5) The large intestine – the remaining food particles spend 12-48 hours here. Here, water and minerals are absorbed while bacteria break down undigested food stuffs.
6) The pancreas – not strictly part of the digestive system but this secretes an alkaline juice which neutralizes stomach acid, and enzymes that break down protein, fat and carbohydrates.
7) The liver – the chemical factory and warehouse of the body. Receives nutrients from the gut via the blood.
8) The gall bladder – concentrates bile and squeezes it into the small intestine, where it helps to digest fat.