Understanding the Digestive System

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Digestion and Your Health

Understanding the digestive system and health (“digest” from Latin, digerere, meaning “to separate and carry apart.”) begins at the mouth. The human gastrointestinal tract (GI tract, or digestive system) consumes and digests foodstuffs, absorbs nutrients, and expels waste.

Once you put something into your mouth, you have entered the realm of digestive health, which is a series of interrelated actions functioning to support and sustain the human body, that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus where waste is excreted.

The length of this system is a wonder! How long it takes to digest food from the time you eat it to the time you excrete it, is surprising.

The facts are irrefutable:

  • The digestive tract averages nine meters long, about 9.846 yards.
  • According to Michael F. Picco, M.D., “After you eat, six to eight hours go by for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine where most nutrient absorption takes place.”
  • Your large intestine (colon) is for further digestion, absorption of water and elimination of undigested food.
  • 50 percent of stomach contents empties into the intestines within an hour; a total emptying of the stomach takes around two hours.
  • 50 percent emptying of the small intestine takes one to two hours.
  • Transit through the colon (large intestine) takes 12 to 50 hours, varying widely among individuals.
  • Based on a Mayo Clinic study from the 1980’s, “total transit time from eating to elimination, averages 53 hours. The average transit time through just the large intestine (colon) is 40 hours, with significant differences between men and women: 33 hours for men, 47 hours for women.”

The major organs of the digestive health system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. The liver, pancreas and a host of other connected organs assist these main organs to accomplish their mission, which is to enable food breakdown and nutrient absorption, and to remove waste.

Absorption and Elimination are Key

The two most important aspects of digestive health functions are absorption, getting food-material nutrients into the bloodstream where they will be carried to the cells and ingested, and the elimination of waste.

Villi (from Latin, villus, “a fleece, wool”) play a large part in the actual absorption of the nutrients and they explain why the surface area within the digestive tract is so vast. These fingerlike, hairlike vessels built on the circular folds of the inner lining of the small and large intestines, prepare the nutrient particles for passage through the lining wall into the bloodstream. Laid out end to end the digestive tract surface area is as large as a football field!

In this day and age of vitamin and mineral-depleted foods, supplemental food products that aid or ease the absorption process within the digestive tract not only relieve stress on the digestive process, but also the immune system that functions in alignment with the digestive and other systems that make up the total functionality of health in a human body.

We will take up the endocrine system in the next article of this human body system series of blog posts.

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© 2014 by Ron Kule and Desiree Lotz. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER: As always, the information provided here, and the links to other information, are intended to inform our readers on an educational level. We are not doctors and we do not diagnose conditions of wellness or illness. We recommend that you consult with a licensed, knowledgeable physician or professional regarding your health.