An Overview of Digestion
Digestion is a complicated process with multiple steps, and several different organ systems are involved. If one system is not operating at its best, the entire process can be delayed and constipation can result.
I think it’s helpful to know the process, so you can develop the best possible habits for supporting your body and helping it do its work properly.
Eating. Digestion of your food starts as soon as it enters your mouth. Whatever we eat or drink must be changed into smaller molecules of nutrients; chewing releases saliva which starts the breakdown of the food, so the nutrients can be absorbed into the blood and carried to cells throughout the body. When your parents told you to eat slowly and chew thoroughly, they were right – both aid your body’s natural processes.
Absorption. The food travels through your esophagus and then enters your stomach. The stomach contains hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes which serve to break the food down into particles that can be absorbed.
This liquid is then sent to the small intestine which is composed of three sections: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The food continues to break down in the duodenum, assisted by release of bile from the liver and secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
The food is moved through the intestines by contractions called peristalsis. It’s then moved into the jejunum and ileum, where approximately 90 percent of the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.
The food enters the large intestine, where symbiotic bacteria come into play, continuing the breakdown of waste, extracting remaining nutrients, and absorbing water.
Excretion. It’s at this point that feces from the large intestine exit the body through the anal canal.