How does the digestive system work?

How does the digestive system work?

What is the Digestive System?

The digestive system, one of the most sophisticated systems in the human body is made up of the GI tract, the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. These organs work together to change the food you eat into the energy and nutrients your body needs. After you consume food and liquids, the digestive system breaks them down into their basic parts: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins

The GI tract is a series of organs that are connected from your mouth, all the way to your anus, forming a “passageway”. These organs include; the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. Upon eating, the pituitary gland sends hormone signals to various glands which kickstarts the digestion process. The connection between all of these organs and their fluids requires a delicate balance that can easily be disrupted by numerous factors, including diet, stress, disease, and more.


What is the function of the Digestive system and why is it Important ?

The main aim of the digestive system is to help move food and liquid through your GI tract, break down these foods into smaller parts and extract nutrients and mineral in order to enable your body to absorb these nutrients and transport them where they are needed. Digestion is extremely important because your body needs nutrients from the food you eat and the liquids you drink in order to stay healthy, maintain growth and function properly. Nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Your digestive system breaks down and absorbs nutrients from the food and liquids you consume to use for important things like energy, growth and repairing cells. An inefficient digestive system is one of the main causes of a wide range of diseases because the inability to transform food into nutrients will starve your body of the adequate nutrients needed to aid in normal daily functions and growth.


How does the Digestive system work?

Each part of the digestive system helps to move food and liquid through the GI tract through a process called Peristalsis. Through the release of hormones and muscle contractions, food is moved down the GI tract and mixes with contents in each organ. The muscle behind the food contracts and squeezes the food forward, while the muscle in front of the food relaxes to allow the food to move.

Below is a table containing the various organs in the GI tract and how they aid digestion.




The mouth is the beginning of the digestive process. Once you start chewing, this stimulates a variety of hormones which signals to all other organs. Chewing helps break down the food and there are various enzymes such as Amylase that aid the breakdown of Carbohydrates. When you swallow, your tongue pushes the food into your throat. A small flap of tissue, called the epiglottis, folds over your windpipe to prevent choking and the food passes into your oesophagus.


This is the moment peristalsis begins. Once you swallow, your brain sends signals (hormones) to trigger the contraction of muscles which help push the food down your digestive tract.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter

This is a ring like muscle located at the bottom of your esophagus. It serves as the “gateway” between your throat and your stomach. It always remains shut to ensure nothing from the stomach flows back into the Esophagus and is only opened specifically during peristalsis as food flows from your throat to your stomach.


Once the food is in your stomach, another set of hormones are released which releases “digestive juices”. Your stomach mixes the food and liquid with these juices forming a mixture known as “Chyme”

Small Intestine

Once Chyme reaches your small intestines, the intestine mixes the food with other juices from the pancreas, liver and intestine (stomach acid, bile and enzymes) and subsequently pushes the mixture forward for further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. As peristalsis continues, the waste products of the digestive process move into the large intestine.

Large Intestine

The waste products from the digestive process which includes; undigested food, older cells and waste. The large intestine then absorbs the water and changes the waste from liquid to stool. Peristalsis then continues and moves the stool from your large intestine into your rectum


The end of the digestive tract, the rectum store stool until it is pushed out of your anus during a bowel movement.


Although these are the main organs involved in digestion, there are 3 other main organs that are not part of the digestive tract but are very crucial when it comes to digestion.

Pancreas -  Your pancreas makes a digestive juice that has enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The pancreas delivers the digestive juice to the small intestine through small tubes called ducts. The pancreas is also responsible for the creation of insulin and glucagon which are crucial for controlling the amount of glucose in the bloodstream

Liver - Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile that helps digest fats and some vitamins. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver to your gallbladder for storage, or to the small intestine for use.

Gallbladder - Your gallbladder stores bile between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder squeezes bile through the bile ducts into your small intestine.

Any defect in any of these organs above will lead to an inefficient digestive system which can cause indigestion.

Common Digestive problems

  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Food poisoning
  • Flatulence
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Other serious problems include
  • Celiac Diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Diabetes
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Cancers: colorectal, stomach, pancreatic, intestinal, and liver


Healing the Digestive System

As the digestive system is very complex and involves a number of organs that have to work in unison in a coordinated manner, it is susceptible to a number of defects which lead to illnesses. However, there are various practices we can perform daily that aid digestive health. The main 2 ways are through diet and lifestyle.

We have a variety of blends and herbs that can aid the digestive system such as Rosehip, Senna, Yellow dock, Yarrow and many more. Type in the keyword “digestion” to search the various herbs that aid various organs in the digestive system.



Further Reading

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