Your Digestive Tract, Top to Bottom
Your body is composed of numerous systems. Each network carries out numerous primary and secondary functions necessary for survival. Few bear greater importance than your digestive system, which is an intricate collection of cells, tissues, and organs performing key tasks.
Digestive System Overview
If asked to describe what the digestive tract does, you would likely maintain that said network breaks down the food and beverages you readily consume. While this assumption is correct, this system’s responsibilities are far greater.
Granted, when you eat or drink, said substances enter your digestive tract and are first gradually broken down by its components. That said, during digestion, countless other pertinent events take place including:
- The absorption and distribution of key nutrients.
- The synthesis of nutrients into even smaller parts needed to carry out specific bodily functions.
- The creation of life-sustaining energy.
- The absorption of vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream where said chemicals are transported to the rest of the body.
- The formation and storage of waste products.
- Waste product elimination.
Edible products undergo a biological process known as peristalsis. As peristalsis progresses, large, thick muscles contained in your digestive system, sometimes also referred to as the gastrointestinal, or GI tract, push said foods through the network, which enables these byproducts to mix with important systemic liquids like bile, gastric juices, and a host of enzymes.
Digestion is also aided by bodily chemicals called hormones and features known as nerves. Hormones are substances containing messages from the brain regarding how specific digestive actions should be executed. Nerves submit brain signals instructing digestive tract features to perform specific duties.
Digestive Tract Components
Your GI tract is so large that medical professionals divide it into two distinct categories, the upper and lower portions.
The Upper Digestive System
The upper and entire GI tract begins with your mouth. In actuality, this component commences the digestion process even before you consume food or beverages.
The very first digestive act involves stimulation of the salivary glands. These units release the saliva needed to help soften and break down the products entering your mouth.
That said, once eating begins, oral features like your teeth and tongue enable you to chew edible items enough to a point where they can be reduced to quantities small enough to be swallowed.
Once foods or liquids are swallowed, such materials travel into a transportation structure called your esophagus. This elongated, tube-like structure is where the peristaltic process begins. Esophageal muscles push digestive byproducts down the esophagus and into the stomach.
Doctors and gastrointestinal specialists label this hollow-shaped organ a container in which foods and beverages are temporarily stored. While a guest of the stomach, these products mix with enzymes, which foster more expedient and efficient digestion once the existing contents exit. Moreover, the stomach releases acids responsible for further food synthesis.
After leaving the stomach, partially digested food heads for the final upper GI component called your duodenum. This feature is actually the upper portion of the small intestine. Peristalsis continues as food continues to be broken down into crucial nutrients.
The Lower Digestive Tract
Jejunum And Ileum
When digested products leave your duodenum, they enter the first parts of the lower GI region. The bottom portions of the small intestine are known as the jejunum and ileum. Said features execute the critical role of absorbing nutrients into the bloodstream for systemic transportation. Additionally, at this stage, solid food products become more liquified as they mix with water, enzymes, and various digestive juices.
Once necessary nutrients are absorbed, lingering material is passed into the large intestine, which, in medical terms, is known as your colon. This organ creates and processes liquid-like digestive waste products and ultimately hardens said materials into the stools or feces you gradually evacuate.
The large intestine continues peristalsis and pushes stool into your rectum several times per day. Waste products remain here until such time as said materials are eliminated from the body.
Though relatively small, the anus is an intricate collection of tissues and muscles designed to control stool evacuation and typically enables you to complete this process at your convenience or when noticeable urges strike.
Other Lower GI Components
Though not directly part of peristalsis, several organs situated in your lower GI tract are paramount to optimal digestion including the:
The pancreas creates and releases enzymes fostering the proper digestion of vital nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Additionally, this gland synthesizes a crucial metabolic hormone called insulin. Your body cannot adequately break down sugar or regulate systemic levels of said substance without insulin.
Your liver breaks down nutrients taken from the small intestine. Moreover, this organ produces a vital digestive chemical known as bile. Arguably, however, the liver’s most crucial function is the processing of potentially harmful toxins and other waste products from the digestive tract.
The gallbladder’s primary function is to store bile. When indicated, said structure releases bile into the duodenum. This action enables your small intestine to process important nutrients like fats.
Digestive Tract Ailments
Like any other bodily network, your gastrointestinal system could be stricken with illnesses like cancers and genetic disorders.
However, because the digestive process is so intense and exposes organs executing said efforts to countless potentially abrasive substances originating inside and outside the body, your GI tract can be impacted by a host of common ailments.
In many cases, these maladies can be attributed to increased inflammation precipitating a host of untoward and possibly serious symptoms, like digestive issues, discomfort, and potentially even bleeding.
Occasionally, the digestive tract encounters sensitivities or difficulties processing specific nutrients. These ailments can produce symptoms ranging from minor digestive complaints to severe nutritional deficiencies requiring aggressive replacement therapy.
Additionally, a poorly functioning digestive network could exercise a profoundly negative influence over other bodily systems. The simple fact is that every bodily component requires adequate nutrition to perform on an optimal level. Damaged or ailing digestive tracts often cannot carry out this critical process.
Digestive Tract Maintenance Tips
Naturally, certain maladies are not always preventable. However, you might be able to keep certain conditions at bay or, at the very least, improve adequate digestive operations by adhering to suggestions such as:
Consuming A High-Fiber Diet
Fiber enjoys a reputation for keeping your digestive tract in continual motion. Delays in the digestion process can limit nutrition and slow waste elimination. Edibles, like vegetables, grain products, and fruits can prevent the occurrence of these potentially serious problems.
An often overlooked but crucial aspect of digestive health is an issue called the gut flora. Thousands of bacteria and other pathogens call the digestive tract home. The truth is, however, that not all of these organisms are bad. Many are considered beneficial and aid in the digestion process.
That said, various illnesses, environmental influences, and lifestyle habits could disrupt healthy gut flora. When a significant imbalance favoring bad over good flora occurs, you stand at an increased risk of developing a wide array of digestive and systemic concerns.
Fortunately, these pitfalls might be overcome through the self-administration of probiotics. These dietary supplements contain favorable gut floral substances needed to maintain healthy balances.
Water is crucial to optimal digestion. This life-sustaining liquid increases the large intestine’s water content. Said events enable stools to formulate and pass with greater speed and efficiency.
Physical activity is paramount to ensuring proper hormonal balances. Furthermore, increased fitness helps you maintain a healthy weight. The digestive tracts of Overweight or obese persons experience undue strain, which can precipitate diminished performance and various maladies.
Stress has a negative impact on every bodily system. However, increased tension’s deleterious influence on the GI system is even more profound. Stress is capable of either overly expediting or slowing peristalsis and causing the excessive release of hormones and digestive juices.
Curtailing Or Eliminating Bad Vices
Exorbitant participation in digestive tract-irritating vices, such as cigarette smoking, caffeine intake, and alcohol consumption can wreak havoc within your GI network.
If you experience any type of digestive discomfort or disruption, the team of Gastroenterology of Greater Orlando looks forward to helping you. Our community-minded, professional, skilled, and experienced team of noted specialists can perform a thorough evaluation, identify the offending issue, and formulate an individualized treatment plan.
Our practice began more than 15 years ago and has emerged as one of the leading gastroenterology practices in central Florida. We perform a host of diagnostic procedures using state-of-the-art equipment in a friendly, comfortable, and inviting atmosphere where patient care is always a top priority. Contact us today!