The digestive system, what we know about it is pretty extensive, from how we eat to how it is processed; everything is pretty cut and dry…or is it? Our digestive tract is complex but has one main purpose, to digest and absorb. You must digest to it's components and then absorb the nutrients and some non-nutrients, like fiber, that need to be excreted. I want to delve into the process of digestion and then explore how the nutrients we absorb help stabilize our digestive system.
Your Digestive Health: The role nutrition plays on the digestive system.
Our digestive system is a complex set of organs that not many people know keep us alive. If you eat and eat and eat, and have no way of digesting the food, your body will eventually explode and you will die. That is the easy way to look at the digestive system, but, what I want to explore is how what we eat is literally who we become. Everything our body consumes has a place, whether it be bacon and eggs every day, or fruits and vegetables, either way, your body digests them and sends them to the proper places to do their magic. The digestive system plays a role in maintaining homeostasis by changing food and fluids into small molecules of nutrients to build and nourish cells and provide energy. Your digestive health is important because the consequences could be life threatening. The smallest of problems could turn into the biggest headaches. What you thought might be gas and mild diarrhea could turn out to be IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), or the small pain in your stomach could be an ulcer forming due to too much stomach acid buildup. I plan to explore what happens when you digest food, the consequences of inadequate food intake, the distribution of nutrients in food, and the metabolic effects of nutrients on your digestive tract.
Now, let's look at what makes the digestive system work, what organs make up this complex system and what do these organs do in retrospect to the system they are in. When talking about the Digestive sytem, you can't just pick one organ by which to study, only because all the organs that make up the digestive system have important roles in its proper functionality, and how it maintains homeostasis in the body. The digestive system is made up of 2 important sets of organs, the accessory organs and the digestive tract organs. The accessory organs are the ones that actually aid in the process of digestion, and those organs are; salivary glands (aid in starch digesting enzyme, and a trace of a fat digesting enzyme which is very important in infants), Liver ( produces bile, which is like a laundry detergent that helps clean and facilitate the digestion of fats), Gallbladder ( stores the bile until it is very much needed), Bile Duct (basically the highway for bile to move to the small intestine), Pancreatic Duct ( another highway that conducts pancreatic juice to the small intestine), and the Pancreas ( pretty important, it manufactures enzymes to digest all energy yielding nutrients as well as releases a bicarbonate that neutralizes stomach acid entering the small intestine. Now, the digestive tract organs are the true organs that contain the food and make them disappear; also they have the mechanical aspects of the digestive process included. The digestive tract organs include: Mouth ( chews and mixes the food with saliva), Esophagus ( moves the food to the stomach), Stomach ( adds up the acid,enzymes, and fluid. Also churns, mixes, and grinds food into a liquid ball), Small intestine (secretes the enzyme that digests carbs, fats, and proteins. The cells that line this intestine absorb nutrients into blood and lymphs), Large intestine A.K.A. the Colon ( accomplishes re-absorption of water and minerals, passes wastes such as fiber, bacteria, and unabsorbed nutrients to the rectum), Rectum (stores the waste prior to elimination), and the Anus (holds the rectum closed until ready to pass waste). As you can see, these all play a vital role in the clock that is your digestive system. Every cog and piece of the clock has to work properly in order for it to tell the right time, so you have to make sure you feed it the right things to help it maintain the proper cycles.
What is its role in the normal functioning of the human organism? What is its contribution to maintenance of homeostasis? The role of the digestive system to the normal functioning of the human organism is just that…digestion. As a human being, we consume food or beverages everyday to survive, but in order to function normally we have to watch what it is we digest. We cannot go around eating nuts and bolts, we have a complex system that must break down every food we eat into a protein or nutrient to fuel our body's with energy by chemically and physically altering the food to be absorbed and used by our body. The role of the digestive system is to break down solid foods, distribute the nutrients and proteins accordingly, and then turn the rest into feces for disposal. The digestive systems contribution to maintaining homeostasis is through the breakdown of foods we intake, our body provides us with more blood, and with more blood, comes more nutrients and minerals to help our bodies function. Basically, our digestive system is made up of organs that breakdown complex food particles into smaller , absorbable products. The digestive tract and alimentary canal (which will be discussed later) are the names for the tubular organs that go from the mouth to the anus. Our entire system , including the pancreas, liver and gallbladder, is sometimes called the gastrointestinal (or GI) system. The digestive systems main function is to digest, or break down molecules into smaller molecules, also, to absorb or take in nutrients into the intestinal cells for digestion, the main function of the digestive tract with respect to nutrients. The action that helps this along is called peristalisis, or the wavelike muscular squeezing of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine that pushes their contents along. Then the stomach comes in to grind and churn swallowed food, mixes it with acid and enzymes to form chime, and last but not least, the sphincter, which aids in closing a body opening. All these particular parts aid in maintaining homeostasis and functionality in the digestive system and tract.
What are the anatomical, physiological, chemical and cellular mechanisms behind the structure(s) or performance parameter? In other words, how is chemistry important to the function? What is the basic structure and functions? Chemistry plays a key factor in the digestive systems functionality. Mechanical and chemical processes aide in helping the digestive system move along. Mechanical is the first process, or the physical process, that starts digestion. The job of mechanical digestion starts with your mouth, where small bits of food , like meats or vegetables, are torn into even smaller pieces that can be swallowed without choking. The chewing of your food and swallowing, are all functions of the mechanical side of the digestive system. Chewing is quite important because it has both mechanical and chemical functions. If you chew your food properly, the small particles will react with saliva (which contains the enzyme ptyalin) and turn your starchy foods into sugars. Saliva also softens rough or sharp foods, such as fried tortillas chips and things of that nature, so they do not tear the esophagus, as well as, making food soft and slippery enough to slide easily down the esophagus. Chewing makes the nutrients that are trapped inside indigestible skins (kernels of corn or seeds) burst open into digestible foods. Once they have been mashed up and moistened for swallowing, it is more comfortable for your bosy to digest. Many people feel that if you chew your food for extended periods of time, it will aide in the digestion of it, but chewing longer does nothing for digestion. In fact, chewing at a peaceful pace and a calming attitude during a meal helps more then stressing yourself to constantly chew for extended periods of time. Now, the mechanical aspects of digestion don't just happen to be chewing and swallowing, it also deals with the stomach and intestines. The stomach and intestines have the fun tasks of turning the solids to liquids with various mashing and squeezing actions. As I stated earlier, peristalisis, or the wave like motion of squeezing, starts with your tongues movement of swallowing, and then the stomachand intestines push the food through the tract by way of peristalisis. Not only does the stomach hold your food, mash it up into a fine paste, but both the stomach and intestines add water to them so that the mushy paste is more fluid and moves easier along the tract. Now comes in the sphincter and the muscles of the stomach, they work together to one: keep the food from creeping back through the esophagus, by closing off one opening and allowing the other to stay open; and two: allowing the digested foods ( thick liquid paste) to mix thoroughly with your digestive chemicals to form chyme.CHyme doesn't look anything like the food you swallowed. The starches have been split, proteins uncoiled and clipped, and fat separated from the mass. So, your stomach is acting like a mini holding tank, the muscular pyloric valve at your tummy's lower parts, is controlling the chime from exiting your stomach into your small intestine. Instead, it allows it to escape a little at a time so that ina few hours, these little escapes empty out your stomach.By the time your small intestines have emptied into your large intestines (your colon) , digestion is almost complete.
Onward, to the chemical aspects of digestion… basically, enzymes in your body chemically react with every different type of food you eat, from fats (Fatty acids and glycerol), to proteins (Amino acids) and carbohydrates ( monosaccharides or glucose), these enzymes have a particular chemical in each of them to breakdown each food, divide into a nutrient or protein, and distribute it where it needs to go.The digestive organs that act as chemical reactors in your digestive system are the salivary glands, the stomach, the pancreas, the liver, and the small intestine. Every food you eat will breakdown differently in your body, for example, a carrot with be digested completely different than a greasy piece of pizza. Why? Because a carrot provides more nutrients, which need to be absorbed and distributed, as opposed to greasy pizza being mainly fat, which is absorbed and kept, not so much distributed or used as an energy source. So, you ask, how do these organs work to chemically aide in digestion? Well, first, it all starts again, with the mouth, the enzyme in saliva (ptyalin) starts rapidly breaking down starch, and another enzyme intiates a little digestion of fat. Saliva also helps maintain the health og your teeth in two ways: it washes away food particles that would normally stay and cause decay and it neutralizes decay promoting acids produced by bacteria in your mouth, pretty neat huh? Now, in the stomach is where protein digestion begins. Cells in your stomach harbor gastric juices, which are a mixture of water, enzymes, and hydrochloric acid. This strong mixture activates a protein digesting enzyme and intiates protein digestion, which is the stomach's main function. The strength of the acid solution is measured in pH. The lower the ph, the more acidic solution, and the higher the pH, the more basic the solution. Saliva is the more basic of the solutions , while stomach acid is the stronger of the two. With the small intestine, it is the king od digestion and absorbtion, and basically finishes what the mouth and stomach started. The small intestine is like a little chemist lab, when the liquid mixture comes through, little messengers tell the gallbladder to contract and release the right amount of bile, into the intestine. Other hormones tell the pancreas to release pancreatic juices contain the bicarbonate in small amounts adjusted to neautralize our highly acidic stomach acid that has reached the small intestine. All these actions come together in the intestine environment to perfectly support the enzymes working in our digestive system. As the pancreatic and intestinal enzymes do there chemical bonding thing to hold the larger nutrients together, the smaller pieces are released into the intestinal fluids. The intestinal walls have some pretty neat digestive enzymes of their own that perform last minute breakdowns of nutrients so they can be absorbed. Finally, the digestive process releases pieces small enough for the cells to use and absorb. By this time digestion by human enzymes and absorbtion of fat, carbs, and protein are complete to enter the colon. Water, fiber and some minerals remain in the tract and are released through the feces.
Well, since we have covered how the digestive system works, now lets explore how ist placement is suitable to its functions.The structure of the digestive system is suited for its unique task because it is very well spread out. Like I stated earlier, food enters the mouth, you chew it into small particles, so then you can swallow it. After the food is swallowed, it passes thru the esophagus into the stomach, where most of the magic happens, In the stomach it is thoroughly mixed with your gastric juices by a butter churning motion. The food that has been churned and partially digested is called chyme. Chyme goes from the stomach to the small intestine where the completion of digestion occurs. The juices, enzymes and bile break foods down to be absorbed and sent on their way. The waste and roughage goes through the large intestine and out as feces eliminated from the body. If the digestive system was not spread out the way it is, food could not go through the proper channels to breakdown the way it needs to . Also, it could not and would not be able to be eliminated as easily from the body if not for its suitable placement and structure. The digestive system has to be long and spread out because of the time it takes and the actions it takes to produce the digestion process. You cannot have your digestive system crammed in on location or have it spread out among your leg, then nothing would move properly, if at all! The layout of your digestive system is the same as any working machine, you have the brain of the machine, which is your mouth and esophagus, the muscle, which is your stomach , small intestine, pancreas, and gallbladder, and the closer, which is your colon and anus. These have to be specifically placed so that all parts can have time to work their magic to keep us functioning.
One thing I do think is interesting is how much of what we eat effects our digestive system , as well as, how our digestive system effects our entire body. The digestive system seems to effect all systems in some way, only if it is not functioning properly. As we age, of course our eating habits and things will decrease, but we don't want to go without providing ourselves with the proper nutrients to live. If we don't eat well, we don't digest and distribute nutrients that's our body needs for our immune system to stay strong. If our immune system gets weak, we are more susceptible to disease. Also, overeating of the wrong foods, like sugars and fatty foods , can give you cavities, can cause your insulin and glucose levels to be off balance which cause diabetes, and can also give you gallstones . The process of making foods into nutrients and absorbing them is very efficient. Within 24 to 48 hours of eating, your body digests and absorbs about 90 percent of the carbs, fat and proteins in a meal. If you don't drink enough milk and digest the calcium, your teeth and bones will become brittle and weak, which in turn, will weaken your immune system. If you do not consume and absorb enough vitamin A, C and E, your skin and bones will pay the price , becoming weaker, less flexible and more prone to disease. Your muscles need protein and fat to survive, because that is what your blood vessels need to let your muscles breath, so without the protein and fiber absorbtion, your muscles and blood vessels could not get adequate energy to help maintain your energy levels to function day to day.Your digestive system absorbs enough nutrients to distribute them to all of the other organs and systems in your body, so if you decide one day , you do dnot want to eat healthy, and maybe want fast food everyday, or something to that effect, your body will slowly decline because fast food does not digest well and doesn not have the adequate nutrients to distribute in order for the other body systems to function. You can take supplements and vitamins, but they are absorbed and digested differently because they are not natural foods. You have to eat healthy foods to gain the nutrients in order to let your digestive system do its job. Mainly, the digestive system filters out waste and toxins to keep your overall health intact, without it, everything would start to slowly decline and your body would give up , other systems would stop functioning properly, and you would die.
There is much scientific research going on about the digestive system, mainly because although a tough system, so many things can go wrong with it. Between ulcers, diabetes, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatic cancer, liver disease, these are all things in the digestive system that can effect everything in the digestive system and how it functions. Scientist who have studied digestion have suggested that some organs of the digestive tract analyze the diets nutrient content and and deliver juice and enzymes appropriate for digesting those nutrients. The pancrease especially because it has been observed to adjust it's output of enzymes to digest the carbs, fats and proteins to high degrees. Current research has shown that the digestive system is a key factor in having a healthy immune system, as long as we keep eating right. Our body depends on us to function and take care of it, but you do not have to be a vegan to eat healthy and keep your gastrointestinal tract intact. Your bodies immunity and metabolism are all collated with how well you take care of your digestive system. Once you let it fall and decide to eat things that will harm it, disease and organ failures will not be far behind.
There aren't any problems with the digestive system that we as humans have not found a way to cure, or fix, if caught in time. The problem is catching the problems in time. Certain digestive failures are things we can detec right away, such as appendicitis, or gallstones, even ulcers or heartburn, but others are a bit more complex and require regular checkups with your doctor. Things like liver disease, IBS and IBD, these are problems that need to be addressed as soon as you feel symptoms or just out of the ordinary when it comes to your digestion.
The digestive system is a complex set of organs that play a major role in keeping humans healthy. Whether it is breaking down foods in order for us to have the proper nutrients and energy to survive, or it is filtering toxins out of our system in order to stop us from contracting diseases, the digestive system is too important to ignore. Your health is too important to ignore, and in order to make sure both are intact and well maintained, you must become aware of what you eat and put inside your body. Know you health limits, and try to be conscious of what you eat, and what your body will absorb well, because we only have one body and we cannot rely on just one system to keep it functioning. You have to be willing to help yourself in order to stay healthy and happy.