How Digestion Works

Digestion is a complex process, but we all do it unconsciously every day. You may not know that it is made possible by the ability to break down food without digestive enzymes. To understand how digestion works, let's first look at what happens during digestion and then go into detail about each stage of the digestive process.

First, for food to be digested effectively and transported through the gastrointestinal tract, different molecules are absorbed through small holes in your digestive system called villi. These villi provide direct access to nutrients like sugars or amino acids originating from ingested food such as proteins or carbohydrates.

As soon as the food is broken down and is ready to be absorbed, a small amount of the digested food is released into the duodenum to be further broken down. The rest of the nutrient-rich food moves towards the ileum, a large part of which passes through the intestinal wall and enters into your bloodstream. These substances are small enough to pass through cell membranes and therefore can easily permeate into all parts of your body, including your brain.

When all 12 segments (called sectors) of intestines have processed nutrients from what you ate earlier that day, your system releases a series of hormones called Peptide YY or PYY, which belong to one sector's group. They meet with the intestines and instruct them to send any remaining nutrients through the colon into your large intestine for storage. Water is also pulled from the digested food through osmosis, and this mixture becomes semi-liquid and brown. This mixture is passed into your large intestine, where it mixes with a series of bacteria, which play a significant role in keeping you healthy.

The food passes through your colon or large intestines in about 48 hours (or even less!), where it isn't broken down but instead stored as waste until you excrete it back out of your body. The process is known as egestion because you are expelling waste from your body. The colon is not a muscle but an organ that doesn't perform an action per se. It does, however, help separate the waste in your body into three different parts. The first part of waste material is called faeces, and it's made of mostly water, some nitrogenous compounds and some other materials that help excrete all kinds of toxins from your body (such as toxins produced by bacteria), including antibiotics or other drugs you may have been taking. The second part is known as "shoulders", which are essentially large deposits of concentrated coils of bacteria known as intestinal flora. Finally, the third part is called "tail", which consists mainly of water and is sometimes poo!

During your colon's passage through your intestines, it mixes with bacteria from the largest source of bacteria in the body. The active role each segment plays in keeping you healthy requires these helpful bacteria to be alive and well. If there are too many harmful bacteria or friendly bacteria are not exposed to plenty of food, your system will become overwhelmed, leading to several digestive problems. When you have an upset stomach or feel that something is amiss in your stomach, a visit to the doctor is recommended. A tiny sample of your stool will be taken and sent to a lab, where they will determine if there are too many harmful bacteria in your system. Other tests will also be performed to test for diseases, including parasites and viruses, as well as other problems that may be affecting the way your intestines digest food.