How the Digestive System Works

How the Digestive System Works | Dr. Ali Ghahary

The digestive system is an important part of the body as it allows the tissues and organize to receive essential nutrients for proper function. This works by the digestive system breaking down food, extracting those nutrients, and then converting them into energy. This is an involuntary process that begins as soon as food is consumed.

The digestive system consists of several parts: the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus; all of these parts play different roles when it comes to digestion.

The esophagus consists of a hollow tubular-shaped organ between the neck and chest, connecting the mouth top the stomach. The muscles within the esophagus are what propel food into your stomach. The stomach is a large organ that digests food through different acids and enzymes, holding it for anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. The liver is an organ that filters toxins from the blood, as well as produces bile; breaking down things like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The sac-shaped organ known as the gallbladder stores bile that is produced by the liver, then releases it when necessary. The pancreas produces insulin as well as promotes metabolism. The small intestine begins the breakdown of food and absorbs nutrients, while the large intestine turns the food you eat into feces. Connected to the end of the large intestine is the rectum, which temporarily stores feces, which are then excreted through the anus.

These organs are an essential part of digestion, but they can also be disrupted from time to time. Digestive system disruption can occur as a result of the food you eat, stress, and certain diseases. Common problems that are associated with the digestive system include indigestion, acid reflux, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation, food poisoning, and irritable bowel syndrome – also known as IBS.

There are also serious medical conditions that can affect different parts of the body’s digestive system, such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hepatitis, diabetes, as well as liver cirrhosis and certain cancers such as colorectal, stomach, liver, pancreatic, and intestinal. Below are examples of how some of these conditions affect the body and the digestive system.

Celiac disease is a condition that occurs as a result of being sensitive to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is commonly found in wheat, barley and rye. If you consume products containing gluten, the body triggers an immune response that may include symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, nausea, headaches, fatigue, loss of bone density, bone or joint pain, mouth ulcers, and even heartburn and weight loss. Symptoms of celiac disease can be extremely varied, which can sometimes make it a difficult condition to diagnose – or take several years before one receives a definitive diagnosis. The best way to prevent symptoms of Celiac disease is to consume a gluten-free diet.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, though the exact cause of this condition is unknown. Someone with Crohn’s disease can develop symptoms such as severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss, and it’s also possible to become malnourished. For many, Crohn’s disease can be incredibly debilitating. Certain tests, such as a colonoscopy, CT scan or MRI can help confirm a diagnosis of suspected Crohn’s disease. To reduce inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs are often recommended, as well as medications known as immune system suppressors. Individuals with Crohn’s disease may also need to take anti-diarrheal medication, as well as iron and vitamin supplements, and may also have to follow a specialized diet.