How Food is Digested

What types of food do you enjoy eating? If you’re similar to many children, pizza, watermelon, and chicken fingers might be at the top of your list. Or perhaps you also enjoy pickles, ice cream, and corn on the cob.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the food you eat inside your body? How does it transform a slice of watermelon into the necessary nutrients and energy for growth and strength? Let’s explore your body to discover exactly how the food you eat is processed.

Your body breaks down the food you consume in a process called digestion in order to obtain the necessary nutrients and energy. The organs and systems involved in digestion form your digestive system. Although you may be aware that the stomach plays a significant role in digestion, the process actually begins in your mouth!

When you see and smell the meal you are about to eat, your mouth begins to produce saliva. This liquid in your mouth, also known as spit or saliva, initiates the digestion process…even before you take the first bite.

Once you sink your teeth into your food, your saliva starts to break down the chemicals in the food, making it easier to swallow. After sufficiently chewing the food, your tongue helps push the smaller pieces into the second part of the digestive system: the esophagus.

The muscles in the walls of your esophagus contract, pushing the food down your throat and into your stomach. The stomach is where the real digestion process begins. Similar to a mixer, your stomach breaks down the food into smaller and smaller pieces.

The walls of your stomach have strong muscles that help to mash up the food. The stomach walls also produce gastric juices containing acids that break down the food and eliminate any bacteria present.

From the stomach, the mashed-up food mixture moves into your small intestine, which is not actually small at all! It is a long, coiled tube located beneath your stomach. If stretched out, it would be approximately 22 feet long!

In the small intestine, the food mixture from the stomach is further broken down with the assistance of juices produced by three important organs: the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder. These organs produce specialized digestive juices that aid in the absorption of vitamins and nutrients from the food you consume.

This part of the process can take some time. It is not uncommon for the food mixture from the stomach to spend up to four hours in the small intestine as your body uses the specialized digestive juices to process the minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the food mixture.

By the time the small intestine completes its work, the parts of the food mixture that your body can utilize become a thin, watery mixture that can pass from the small intestine into your bloodstream and then onto the liver for further processing. The parts of the food mixture that your body cannot use move into the large intestine.

The large intestine is wider than the small intestine, measuring about 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) in circumference compared to 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) for the small intestine. However, it is only approximately five feet (1.5 m) in length. In the colon, which is a part of the large intestine, water is absorbed, causing the waste parts of the food mixture to become firmer. These parts then pass through the rest of the digestive system until they are eliminated during a trip to the bathroom.

Give it a try!

We hope that today’s Wonder of the Day was not too difficult to understand! If you still want to learn more, you can explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

– Test your knowledge of the digestive system by taking the fun and interactive Digestive System Quiz online. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the parts initially. Just enjoy learning their names and their locations within the body. Challenge a friend or family member to help you study until you can correctly identify all the parts. Have fun!

– If you think the human digestive system is complex, you should consider being a cow! Many people believe that cows have four stomachs, but the truth is that they have one large stomach with four distinct compartments. To learn more about the interesting digestive system of cows, visit The Anatomy of a Cow’s Stomach online. What do you think? Would you prefer to have your stomach or that of a cow? Share what you learn with a friend or family member!

– Do you ever struggle to digest certain foods? Sometimes our bodies simply do not tolerate certain types of foods or their ingredients. In such cases, modern medicine provides us with a wide range of stomach remedies to help us feel better. Take a trip to a local pharmacy with an adult friend or family member. Explore the aisles to see the variety of over-the-counter remedies available for stomach ailments and other digestive problems. Which products have you tried before? If you have any questions, ask the pharmacist on duty for assistance in finding the answers.

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