Our body is a complex mechanism. The number of processes occurring at any given time within the body is mindboggling. Out of all the processes that keep us alive, the digestive system carries out a large chunk of essential processes throughout the day to keep us healthy. Here are some interesting facts about it:
1. Digestion is Health
Food is essential for our body, it sustains us, and provides us with important nutrients; however, it is the process of digestion that gives us the required energy from food. If digestion is compromised, the body is no longer supplied with energy, and our ability to carry out a task becomes severely limited, but more importantly, our body becomes unwell. In alternative medicines, especially Ayurveda, bad digestion is considered the root of all diseases.
2. Beginning from the Mouth
Most people think that the digestive system begins from the stomach; however, the mouth is also a part of this system. As soon as the food is chewed in the mouth, the process of digestion is initiated with the help of saliva, as it gets mixed with the food. Interestingly, on average, 2 pints or nearly a liter of saliva is produced each day.
3. Eat like a Bat
Since the human body is designed in a way that it doesn’t rely on gravity to push food to the stomach, we can ingest food being upside down. This is possible because of the esophagus, a tube-like muscle that carries food and liquids to the stomach with waves. This action is called peristalsis. While eating this way makes us highly susceptible to choking, it can be done.
4. Stomach Juice is Dangerous
Once our body is finished extracting nutrients from the food, the process of disposal begins. Hydrochloric acid plays a huge role in this process, and this isn’t a weak acid either because it is known to corrode stainless steel as well. Moreover, if it is mixed with water, it becomes more corrosive. Therefore, to protect the stomach from being corroded away, mucus surrounds the lining of the stomach in a thick layer. The stomach produces new mucus every two weeks to protect itself.
5. Small Intestine but Big Job
Despite its name, it is roughly 23 feet long. It does a very important task, which is to absorb all the nutrients from the food. It is able to do it with these three:
- Mucosal Folds- As the name suggests, these are folds on the inside of the small intestine. These folds resemble a gummy worm, and these significantly increase the surface area of the intestine.
- Villi- These tiny cells are like warehouse associates working on a conveyer belt. They absorb all the nutrients from the passing food.
- Microvilli- Each villi cell has these tiny hair-like structures that increase the surface area for more absorption.
6. The Large Intestine
This organ is about 5 feet long, so why is it called a large intestine? Because, science, that’s why. Compared to the small intestine, which is packed tightly with many turns, the large intestine is fairly straight. Most of the digestion is already done before the food reaches this organ; however, it absorbs mainly fiber but also salt, water, and nutrients from the food that isn’t digested. Finally, the waste is passed from the colon and to the rectum to exit the body.
Enzymes are an essential part of digestion, and there are four types of enzymes in the digestive system. These are:
Protease- Its function is to break proteins into small proteins into peptides and amino acids.
Lipases- All fats are processed by this enzyme.
Amylases- Carbohydrates are turned into simple sugars by this enzyme.
Pepsin- This also breaks down proteins but at an acidic pH.
8. Saliva the Savior
When we vomit, whether it is due to bad food or alcohol, our digestive system starts excessive secretion of saliva. This happens to protect the teeth from stomach acids, including hydrochloric acid.
9. The Smelly Side
The only reason our body passes gas is because of fermentation. When the fiber intake is reduced or processed foods are consumed, the body has trouble passing the food, which results in less absorption of nutrients in the small intestine and fermenting of the food. Thankfully, as the food reaches the large intestine, bacteria in the large intestine start breaking down the food, and during this process, gases like methane and hydrogen sulfide are released.
10. Physical Activity for Digestive System
While eating right is a huge part of keeping the digestive system healthy, exercise is equally important as well. During movement of the body, the digestive system is stimulated and the blood flow to organs is also increased for better digestion.
11. First Peek in the Stomach
Adolph Kussmaul, a German physician, was the first person to look inside the stomach. He asked a sword swallower to swallow an endoscope to see the inside of the stomach.