What is digestion?

Digestion is the process of breaking down large molecules into smaller molecules or into such tiny sizes that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

The body enables this process via mechanical and chemical methods. The intestinal tract is about 25 feet long starting from the mouth and ending in the anus. This means, food is taken in through one end, i.e. the mouth and let out through the other, i.e. the anus. Along the way, nutrients are absorbed into the blood as per the need of your body. And what is not required is eliminated. This entire process is known as digestion.


Senses and their relation to digestion

Sight and smell are directly related to digestion. Do you want to know how? Let’s take a look.

Thinking about it, a connection between your eyes, nose and stomach sounds puzzling. But has it ever occurred to you that the sight or smell of yummy food has made your stomach rumble instantly? This happens because sight or smell of something appetizing sends a signal to your brain. Your brain then signals the rest of your body that “yummy food is on the way” which then makes your mouth water, stomach muscles contracts and then your intestinal glands start to release digestive chemicals – and interestingly, all this from just the thought and anticipation of eating tasty food.

Tasting and chewing

Now let’s get to what actually takes place. Teeth chew the food to break it down to smaller bits after which your salivary glands release saliva which makes the food in your mouth turn into a mushy lump so that it can easily slide down your throat and esophagus which is the food pipe or the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. In other words, saliva makes it easier to swallow food all the way from the throat to the esophagus.

Sliding into the esophagus

Just as the food is entering the esophagus, the salivary glands secrete a gush of saliva to help the food move smoothly down the tube. Then the esophagus starts to react. The esophagus has muscles that contract and produce wave like motions which is commonly known as peristalsis.

Digesting food-that’s what the stomach does best

Similar to the esophagus, the stomach too has muscles which contract. When they contract, they break own the food into smaller pieces with the help of stomach juices which is the hydrochloric acid and mucus. What started out as a nice sandwich or chips is now a thick liquid called chyme.

Absorption of nutrients by the small intestine

The chyme is then pushed along the small intestine where the necessary nutrients are squeezed out.  Once every bit of the good stuff has been juiced out, the chyme moves to the large intestine.

The final stage

The large intestine, which is also known as the colon, its main function is to churn out all the water from the mass delivered to it and convert it to waste that is eliminated from your body. Muscular contractions in the rectum push the waste, feces out of your body. This is the end of the digestion process. 

Listen to the signals your stomach and intestines send you, and they will work perfectly for you.

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