How Does The Digestive System Digest The Food You Eat?

how does digestion work

Today, our modern diets and lifestyles are definitely linked to certain diseases, not least a whole variety of digestive issues.

In fact, the overall health of our digestive system is very closely related to the food we eat, what exercise we get, and last, but not least, what our stress levels are like.

The Digestive System: How It Works?

What is the digestive system?

It is a group of organs [1] that takes the food that we eat during the course of the day and turns it into energy. The food we eat is important. It gets turned into energy.

So you can imagine – plenty of nutrients need to be in our food.

And also, it is the digestive system that interacts with many other parts of our body, i.e. the nervous system, the immune system, the endocrine system, and other organs [2].

All this hard work helps to regulate the function of the digestive system.

The correct function of the digestive system is imperative

What is really interesting about digestion that you might not have known is that digestion starts in the brain [3].

It is the hypothalamus in the brain that coordinates how the appetite works and how much food we eat. You might be tired and stressed out.

Then the chemicals in your brain are going to influence what you eat because they will be attempting to find balance.

The primary job of the digestive system is to turn the food we eat into fuel for the body.

The Western lifestyle and eating habits are linked to digestive diseases that just keep on growing.

The way you live your life and what you eat have a lot to do with the health of your digestive system.

The digestive system is part of 11 other human body systems.

Its main job is to convert the food you eat into energy.

This amazing bodily system includes a host of nerves, bacteria, hormones, and blood [4].

What is the job of the digestive system?

digestive system process


It is the digestive system that interacts with all the other body systems – the endocrine system, the immune system, and the nervous system.

In your digestive system, you will have digestive juices [5] that contain enzymes.

These speed up the chemical reactions in your body. They break down food into nutrients.

Then you also have cells in the lining of the stomach and the small intestine.

It is these cells that produce and release hormones.

These stimulate the digestive juices and regulate your appetite.

There are also nerves that control the digestive system, connecting the digestive system organs to the brain as well as the spinal cord [6].

They also release chemicals that stimulate or relax the muscles.

There are nerves in the GI tract that get triggered when there is food present, allowing the digestive system to work properly.

There are millions of people in the USA who suffer from chronic digestive disturbances

1) They either eat too fast, or they swallowed their food in large pieces

They eat the wrong food combinations; drink too much fluid with their meals, and much more.

As for stress and emotional upsets – these are just some of the main causes of indigestion.

The common symptoms of indigestion are heartburn, coated tongue, sour belching, a heavy, distressed feeling in the stomach after eating, flatulence, a bad taste in the mouth, sometimes even difficulty breathing, palpitations, and nausea.

2) There are plenty of acid-forming foods to avoid

Examples are fish, meat, and chicken that head the list.

It is because they contain amounts of phosphorus and sulfur which are acid-forming.

They contain their own cellular wastes such as uric acid which were present in the tissues and blood at the time the animal was killed.

Lentils, peanuts, eggs, cheese, and a lot of cereals and grains all rank close to meat in their acid content.

3) The ancients realized they were getting sick

In fact, in the days of old, when the ancients started adding more meat and heavy, rich foods to their diets, they noticed they were getting sick.

They started taking their medicine with their food.

3) Herbs were their answer

erbsHerbThey would include herbs such as ginger, fennel, sage, anise, or mint to prevent indigestion.

The American Indians also recognized the true purpose of culinary herbs for digestion.

Let’s see basically how digestion works…

  • How digestion works is that food gets moved through the GI tract [7]. Digestion already starts in the mouth, when you start chewing.
  • The food ends up in the small intestine.
  • As the food passes through the GI tract, it mixes with digestive juices along the way. This causes any large pieces of food to get broken down into smaller pieces.
  • The smaller pieces or molecules are then absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream.
  • The bloodstream delivers the broken-down food throughout the entire body.
  • There will be waste products after digestion takes place and these will pass through the large intestine and out of the body. This is when you feel the need to pass a stool, which is the solid matter of waste.

Look at this video. It shows the process of digestion when you start eating.

Check out the table below. It shows the different parts of the digestive process, performed by each of the digestive organs.

ORGAN The movement The digestive juices used Food particles that get broken down
Mouth Used for chewing Saliva Starches
Esophagus Used for swallowing None None
Small intestine Peristalsis Small intestine digestive juices Protein, starches, and carbs
Stomach Upper muscle in the stomach will relax to allow food to enter and the lower muscles mix the food with digestive juices Stomach acid Protein
Liver None Bile acids Fats
Pancreas None Pancreatic Juice Fats, starches, and protein

But how do I keep my digestive system in order? 

Problems in the digestive system can occur.

These can be in the form of gas, heartburn, bloating, and constipation.

They all reflect what is happening inside your body.

Even as we get older, all the natural cycles start to slow down and no longer work as well.

That’s what a top gastroenterologist, Gerard Mullin, at John Hopkins says.

The main drivers of changes in our gut health are when there are shifts in our gut immunity, stomach acid, and gastrointestinal flora.

This is a very complex ecosystem of bacteria in our digestive system.

When you experience good gut health, you are less likely to experience inflammation

Inflammation can be so damaging to your body. And you are likely to experience lapses in immunity.

Here are a couple of very good tips to protect your digestive system because it’s not only about what food you eat.

“Everything ties up together”, says Gerard Mullin.=

1) Make sure you eat right

 “Americans’ fiber intake is 40-50% of what it should be, says Dr. Mullin.

You need a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and veggies that provides fiber to build good bacteria and gut health.

2) Get enough sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep, you can also expect to put on extra weight.

That will set you up for digestive system disorders.

Exercise is the best way to maintain a good body weight.

You should also lose weight if needed.

This will help to ward off digestive system problems.

Get moving more

As with all other aspects of health, exercise is vital so you can lose weight and maintain a good weight.

Manage your stress

Reducing stress is vital if you want to reduce heartburn. There isn’t a magic diet that works. But relaxation therapies help.

If you feel anxious and depressed, get help

Mood and digestive system health are very closely linked to the brain-gut connection.

Final Thoughts

So that your body stays in general good health, your digestive system health is of top priority.

Your body has many digestive system parts and functions.

They all need to be in an optimal state to work properly. Lots of symptoms can indicate to you that your digestive health is poor.

This you might notice in the form of diarrhea, bloating, indigestion, and stomach pain.

Thing is, you will feel them quite badly at times, and they should not be ignored.

They can be a result of a leaky gut or any of the other digestive diseases – maybe even H. pylori.

Fortunately, you can enhance your digestive system by eating a healthy diet that contains whole foods and fiber, chewing your food well, reducing stress, and drinking plenty of water.

Avoid problematic foods like farmed meats, takeaways, and processed foods. Also avoid too much alcohol consumption, cigarettes, and drugs like NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

To enhance your digestive health, lose weight if necessary, participate in daily exercise, and even consider taking a daily probiotic with digestive enzyme pills.

Then if the question is asked, how is your digestive system, and is it working well? – Your answer will undoubtedly be YES!