You just ate lunch and your stomach is making ridiculous noises. You may be thinking, “What is happening with my insides?”
We can tell you. Those scary sounds coming from your stomach are most likely related to digestion. Knowing the ins and outs of your digestive system can help you understand what to eat to better help your body digest foods, and maybe even stop your stomach from grumbling.
Digestion is the process by which your body breaks down food and liquids into smaller parts to build and nourish cells, and to provide energy. There is certain steps food and liquid must take before exiting your system.
Step 1: Mouth
To more easily absorb different foods, your saliva helps break down what you’re eating and turn it into chemicals called enzymes.
Step 2: Esophagus
Once your food is broken down from saliva and chewing, it moves through your esophagus, which is the pipe that connects your mouth to your stomach. A process called peristalsis – the tightening and relaxation of muscles in the intestine to transport food and waste products – allows food to move more smoothly through the digestive tract. This means that food can only travel in a single direction, so you could stand on your head while eating and food will continue to move through your esophagus to your stomach!
Step 3: Stomach
Your stomach is where food is stored and further broken down by acid and powerful enzymes. From there, food moves into the small intestine.
Step 4: Small Intestine
Most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, where food is broken down even more by enzymes released from the pancreas and bile from the liver. Anything left in the small intestine moves into the large intestine, which is also known as the colon.
Step 5: Large Intestine, Colon, Rectum and Anus
The colon is a 5- to 7-foot long muscular tube that connects the small intestine to the rectum. It’s responsible for processing waste. On average, it takes about 36 hours for waste, or stool, to get through the colon and exit the rectum through the anus.
Gastroenterologist Michael Puff, MD, knows the ins and outs of your digestive system. “It’s amazing in its ability to break down and absorb nutrients, while simultaneously protecting us from bacteria and other potentially harmful substances,” he said.
Want to help your digestive system move things along? Stick to a healthy diet and drink lots of water.