Digestion is something we do effortlessly; in fact, we do it automatically – after we’ve chewed and swallowed our food, of course. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating and integral process in our metabolism, and digestive health is important to our overall well-being.
Did you know that the digestive system is roughly 30 feet long? But what is the digestive system made of, exactly, and how does it work? In actuality, the digestive process is complex, involving a series of organs and substances that aid in the breaking down of food and the absorption of nutrients.
Functions of the Digestive System: How Does the Digestive System Work? Digestion is the process by which your body turns the food you eat into nutrients that are used for energy, growth, and cell repair. It is one of the key metabolic processes, and involves a complex series of organs that move food through the digestive system so it can be broken down and absorbed by the body.
When food is digested, it must be broken down into smaller molecules so nutrients can be absorbed. The body breaks food down into four main types of molecules, depending on the composition of the food, which you may be familiar with as the sources of nutrition.
Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches, and fiber are all examples of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, which have a simple chemical structure, can be found naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and as sugar that is added to food. Complex carbohydrates, which have a more complex chemical structure, are starches and fiber that may be found in starchy vegetables and whole-grain products.
Protein: Proteins are comprised of smaller molecules called amino acids, which the body absorbs through the digestion of meat, eggs, and beans.
Fats: Some fats are healthier than others, but fat molecules may help the body absorb vitamins, and can be a source of energy. Certain oils, such as olive oil or sunflower oil, are examples of healthy fats, whereas butter and greasy snack foods are less healthy fats.
Vitamins: Every vitamin has a different role in the body’s growth and health. Vitamins are classified by the fluid in which they dissolve: all the B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble, and vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.
Understanding the Human Digestive System: The Digestive Process The digestive tract, primarily known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is the portion of the digestive system that physically moves food through your body and absorbs nutrients. It is aided in breaking down this food by the liver, gallbladder, and the pancreas.
How Do Enzymes And Probiotics Support Digestion?
The GI tract is comprised of various tube-like organs, including:
Esophagus: The esophagus connects your mouth to the GI tract; food passes down your throat, through this organ after you’ve chewed and swallowed.
Stomach: The stomach is a muscular organ that stores food, and mixes it with digestive juices and enzymes (which we’ll talk about shortly) that further aid in breaking it down.
Small Intestine: Food passes from stomach into the small intestine, where the majority of digestion and the absorption of nutrients takes place. Here, the small intestine mixes food with digestive juices from the pancreas and liver. Nutrients pass from the walls of GI tract into the bloodstream so they can be delivered to the body.
Large Intestine: Whatever is left from digestion by the small intestine passes through the large intestine as waste. The large intestine absorbs any remaining water or nutrients, and excretes it as waste.
Digestion involves the movement of food through the GI tract, which, as you can gather, is a long process that requires the effort of several key organs. So, how does digestion work? The movement required to digest food is actually involuntary, which is how this process occurs without much conscious effort besides chewing – and deciding what you’re going to eat for lunch, of course! The organs of the GI tract are hollow, and hollow organs are lined with smooth muscle. The smooth muscle lining the esophagus, stomach, and intestines contracts to push food through the digestive system. This process of involuntary muscular contractions is known as peristalsis.
Along the way, digestive juices are used at each stage to break down food particles into smaller molecules. In addition to these juices, two other important substances are present in the digestive system: enzymes and probiotics.
Enzymes and probiotics may support digestion by having one or more of the following effects on the digestive system:
Supporting digestive tract health
Easing upset stomachs
Providing beneficial bacteria to promote healthy digestion
How Do Enzymes And Probiotics Support Digestion? Digestion is aided by numerous enzymes and probiotics, and Isotonix® offers several great products, such as our Digestive Health Kit or our Digestive Enzymes Formula with Probiotics, that are formulated to support a healthy digestive tract..*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product(s) is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.*