Once you’ve had your meal, the body needs 24 hours to transport all the food through the digestive tract, a nine-meter long vessel. Throughout this journey, the food we consume is mixed up with stomach acids and digestive juices that allow the body to extract all the nutrients that it needs to fortify its strength and gain energy. Once all the nutrients have been absorbed by the body, the leftovers of the meal are adjoined with billions of dead bacteria scrapped along the body, and allowed to pass out of the body.
Let’s follow this journey that our food makes through the digestive tracts to understand how the human digestive system performs its incredibly important functions:
The entire process begins in the mouth, where 28 powerful teeth allows us to break down our food into tiny pieces and chew on all the flavors. The tongue has an important function of moving the food around in our mouth to make sure it rotates between all the teeth that aid in chewing and breaking it down. The tongue also aids in swallowing the chewed food and then pushing it down the throat. As we swallow our food, the epiglottis, a small piece of cartilage, closes up the windpipe to make sure the food doesn’t end up down the wrong pipe.
The mouth also hosts the salivary glands, which are responsible for generating the sticky liquid in our mouth, known as saliva. This saliva aids in moistening up the food we eat, making it much easier for us to swallow each bite. Moreover, the mouth is also laden with many chemicals, known as enzymes, which aid in breaking down the food. Isn’t it incredible that our mouth starts watering just by the aroma of delicious food!
Here’s a fun fact: the salivary glands in our mouth are capable of generating nearly six cups of saliva each day.
Fast Fact: While adults tend to have 32 teeth, children usually start up with 28 and go on to grow four wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 24.
The oesophagus, also referred to as the gullet, is a tube that is 25cms long and contracts to allow the chewed food to pass into the stomach. The squeezing movements of the muscles are known as peristalsis, and it takes place throughout the digestive system. The oesophagus products a sticky mucus to aid the food on its journey through the digestive tracts.
Fast fact: The process of peristalsis makes sure that the food you have consume reaches your head even if you were doing a headstand.