Today there is a considerable increase in digestive diseases.
It is necessary to take responsibility and know our digestive system to take the necessary measures for its care and thus preserve health.
The digestive system does important work for the body. Food is not in a form that the body can easily use, so it is the digestive system that has to break it down into its parts.
Through digestion, the body gets the nutrients it needs from food and removes everything it doesn’t need. This is a really basic description of the digestive system, but obviously there is so much more to it that makes it work and makes everything work.
And, unfortunately, this also means that things can go wrong quite easily.
For the purposes of this article, we are discussing a healthy digestive tract that has not been altered by surgery, such as colectomy , gallbladder removal, or resection.
The length of the digestive system
The digestive system can vary in length from one person to another, but it can be about 25 to 28 feet long in most people, some of them as long as about 30 feet.
The esophagus is about 9 to 10 inches long, the small intestine is about 23 feet long, and the large intestine is about 5 feet long, on average.
How long does it take to digest food?
The time it takes for food to digest can vary somewhat from person to person and between men and women. Studies have shown that the entire process takes about an average of 50 hours for healthy people, but it can vary between 24 and 72 hours, depending on a number of factors.
After food is chewed and swallowed, it passes through the stomach and small intestine for a period of 4 to 7 hours. The time it passes through the large intestine is much longer, averaging about 40 hours.
For men, the average time to digest food is generally shorter than for women. Having a digestive condition that affects transit time (the time it takes for food to pass through the digestive system) can shorten or lengthen the time.
Why is digestion important?
We eat because we need food, but our food is not something that our bodies can easily assimilate into our cells.
It is digestion that takes our breakfast and breaks it down. Once it is broken down into parts, it can be used by the body. This is done through a chemical process, and it actually begins in the mouth with saliva.
Once the components of food are released, they can be used by the cells of our body to release energy, produce red blood cells, build bones, and do all the other things that are necessary for the body to continue to function.
Without the digestive process, the body will not be able to support itself.
Process from mouth to anus
The digestive system is a long tube that runs from the mouth to the anus. It’s gross to think that way, but that’s exactly what it is. Now, there are valves, twists and turns in the way, but eventually, the food that goes into your mouth comes out of your anus.
The hollow space within the small and large intestine that food moves through is called the lumen. Food is pushed through the lumen through the digestive system by special muscles, and that process is called peristalsis.
When you chew and swallow food, these are the structures in your body that food passes through during its journey to the anus:
The breakdown of food begins with chewing and mixing food with saliva. Once the food has been chewed enough, we swallow it voluntarily. After that, the digestive process is involuntary.
After food is ingested, it travels down the esophagus and passes through a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter into the stomach.
The stomach is where the gum meets its way into digestion. There are digestive juices in the stomach that help break down food, and the muscles there mix the food.
After the stomach has done its job, there is another valve, called a pyloric valve, that allows food to move from the stomach to the first part of the small intestine, which is called the duodenum.
Once food reaches the small intestine, it mixes with even more digestive juices from the pancreas and liver to break it down.
The peristalsis in the muscles is still working, moving everything through. The small intestine is where most of the nutrients are extracted from food. The intestinal walls absorb vitamins and minerals.
Everything that the body cannot use or cannot break down moves through the entirety of the small intestine, through the ileocecal valve, and its next venture into the large intestine.
The large intestine does not digest much, but it is where a large amount of fluid is absorbed from the waste material.
Undigested materials move through, which can take a day or more, and then to the last part of the colon, which is the rectum. When there is stool in the rectum, it precipitates the urge to defecate, and eventually the waste materials are expelled through the anus as a bowel movement.
What habits could harm your digestive system?
These nine common habits could be causing damage to your digestive system.
Our digestive system has a very important job to do. It is responsible for digesting food and breaking it down into much smaller pieces so that the nutrients can be absorbed.
Here are nine habits that could be hurting your digestive system:
Although a bacterial infection (caused by Helicobacter pylori ) is the most common cause of gastric ulcers, medications, including aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ibuprofen, for example, can put you at risk for developing stomach ulcers. Avoid abusing them.
2. The time between meals
Eating or snacking too close to bedtime can lead to heartburn . Help your digestive system by taking your last meal or snack at least two to three hours before going to bed.
If you are susceptible to heartburn, put some books under one end of the bed so that your head is higher than your feet.
3. Eat too much
Try to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, which will make it easier for your body to digest food. Eating too much in one sitting can cause acid reflux or bloating.
4. Eat very little fiber
You need to eat about 25g of fiber per day to keep your bowel movements regular and prevent constipation .
If you’re looking for a fiber boost, try adding some of the following foods to your diet: sweet potatoes, oranges, apples, broccoli, walnuts, bananas, carrots, spinach, beets, green beans, and cauliflower.
5. Eating too fast
When you eat too fast, you don’t give your stomach enough time to expand, which can cause pain and discomfort. Additionally, you may also be swallowing unnecessary air that can inflate it.
6. Drinking too much alcohol
Alcohol can contribute to the development of ulcers or prevent them from healing. Drinking excessively or frequently can also cause an upset stomach and even diarrhea .
7. Chewing gum
Your gum habit can lead to swallowing too much air, which can make you feel bloated. Artificial sweeteners found in chewing gum can also aggravate bloating.
Sucking on a hard candy can have the same effect. If you want to keep your mouth busy, take a sip of flavored water.
8. Postpone a colonoscopy
Most colon cancer is found in patients who do not experience any pain or other symptoms. Schedule your first colonoscopy at age 50, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
9. Cleanse the intestines
If your intestines are healthy, they can be “cleaned” as part of the normal digestion process. Using laxatives that contain herbal extracts, such as senna, or chemical preparations that contain phenolphthalein, will make your intestines work overtime and can cause diarrhea.
An outbreak of diarrhea will cause you to become dehydrated and lose many of the good microorganisms that perform important functions in your digestive system. Also, instead of “cleaning” you, laxatives may cause constipation by interfering with peristalsis.
What could you add or take away from your diet to help your digestive system stay healthy?
According to DrAnton Emmanual, Consultant Gastroenterologist at University College Hospital in London, 40% of people have at least one digestive symptom at a time.
So what can we do to aid digestion and make our stomachs feel happy and healthy? A good place to start is by taking a look at the foods you eat. Some may be more useful than others.
There is a lot of information out there; “Do not have caffeine after 2 pm”, “drink 8 glasses of water a day”, it can be difficult to keep up with the best to prevent stomach pain and promote good digestive health.
With so many diets and recommendations, it can be difficult to know what is best for you.
Of course, some foods affect people in different ways, and each of us is different, so it is important to remember that not all “rules” apply to everyone in the same way.
We’ve put together a handy list of foods that could help you keep your tummy feeling in tip-top shape, and we discovered some interesting food facts along the way.
Eat plenty of fiber
Fiber doesn’t just make you feel fuller for longer; It can help prevent heart disease and diabetes, but is possibly best known for helping digestive health. Adults should aim to eat around 30g a day.
Fiber comes from foods that are made from plants. Well, meat, fish and dairy products do not contain any fiber. There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber – dissolves in water found in your digestive system
- Insoluble fiber : does not dissolve it and passes through the system without being broken down.
If you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fiber could be a major factor in your diet, as it can affect your symptoms.
Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and soften stools, which can ease constipation. Insoluble fiber moves food through your digestive system easily because it does not break down, but if you are suffering from diarrhea it may be best to limit this type of fiber.
Foods that contain soluble fiber:
- Oats, barley and rye.
- Root vegetables.
Foods that contain insoluble fiber:
- Nuts and seeds.
So when it comes to keeping your digestive health in check, water can really help. Of course, the taste can be a bit boring at times, so you can try sparkling water or add a lemon or lime wedge.
The power of probiotics
You may have heard of these bacteria described as “good” or “friendly,” but officially, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can be in the form of dietary supplements or added to foods like yogurt.
Although there is little evidence to support the claims, probiotics have been said to restore the natural balance in your body if you have recently had an abdominal infection or stomach disorder.
When it comes to helping your digestive health, probiotics can help reduce bloating and flatulence in IBS patients.
There is evidence to suggest that they can also reduce some of the symptoms of being lactose intolerant (unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products).
To be completely clear, there is no official definition of “superfood,” but the term is often associated with particular foods that claim to be beneficial to our diets for a number of reasons.
This could be physical benefits, such as a reduced risk of disease, and claims have been made about certain foods that increase intelligence.
Fortunately, the EU has banned claims that are not supported by scientific evidence. And it is important to remember that research done often does not relate to the correct concentration of foods to be useful for the average person.
The NHS uses the example of garlic, which contains a nutrient that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure, but would have to be consumed in unrealistic amounts to have any effect (we doubt anyone would like 28 cloves per day).
There are 7 popular foods that have been described as “super” and they are named below:
- Bayas de gogi.
- Dark chocolate.
- Oily fish.
- Granada juice.
- Fruits and vegetables.
Of all the things you can eat to maintain a healthy stomach and keep your digestive health in tip-top shape, many of the fruits and vegetables are probably the most obvious, or the one you’ll probably hear about the most in terms of benefits.
Some studies have stated that you should eat 5 meals a day including fruits and vegetables.
Vitamins and minerals are contained in fruits and vegetables that can ensure that your body has a healthy and balanced amount necessary to function properly.
Fruits and vegetables are generally low in fat and calories, although some contain higher amounts of natural sugars than others, and the best part is that there is a great variety, so you are sure to find some that you like to include in your meals.
What’s more, they can be dried, frozen, canned, or fresh and will still count toward your 5 meals a day.
These are some of the most common fruits and vegetables and the benefits they can bring to a balanced diet:
Broccoli : contains vitamin Bl, magnesium, protein, zinc, calcium and iron. Broccoli is linked to improving the body’s ability to stop cancer cells from growing.
This is backed up by Alison Hornby, a dietitian with the British Dental Association who says: ‘Broccoli may not live up to expectations, but it nonetheless contains many nutrients, such as folate, soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins C and A, and calcium, which is needed for numerous functions in the body.
An 80g serving will count towards your 5 per day.
Apples: With a low calorie count (around 95) and 4 g of soluble fiber per apple, they are also a good source of the immune system. increase vitamin DO.
Carrots: Although the myth that carrots help you see in the dark is somewhat questionable, they contain beta carotene, which makes them appear orange, and is converted to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A helps your body’s immune system fight disease and infection, and actually helps low-light vision. It is also good for your skin.
Bananas – Bananas contain potassium which helps control the fluid balance in your body. They also keep your heart muscle healthy, as potassium helps generate an electrical charge that keeps your heart rate constant.
Balance is key
Ultimately, a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and carbohydrates is the one most likely to help your body stay healthy and promote good digestive health. But we all know that it can be difficult to achieve.
However, being aware of what food can do for your body is half the battle and that way, you can increase your intake of particular foods that you like the taste of, which contain the same things as the ones you like! less interest you! (For example, brussel sprouts for broccoli).
Keeping track of your abdominal girth and how your body processes the food you eat is important to your overall well-being, and your body needs to digest food to create energy and ensure that cells can repair themselves.
Hopefully, this guide will help you get started navigating the wealth of information on diet and food. In case you’re curious, we’ve listed our sources below, so you can find even more.
Exercise is well regarded when it comes to maintaining a healthy digestive system, since physical movement can properly stimulate the intestines for a good transit of stool to the anus.