Digestion consist of all processes in the human body that are involved in the conversion of the food you take into a form that your body can absorb and make use of. The organs of the digestive system are responsible for this processes with additional or accessory help from the liver, gall bladder and pancreas.
After digestion, any remnant of the food you take that the body does not and cannot make use of is eliminated out of the body through defecation. When the body is unable to eliminate this unwanted fecal matter, they can become harmful or toxic to the body system.
How Long does it Take to Digest Food?
The time for which it takes your body to digest food and eliminate the unwanted part varies depending on what type of food it is and to some extent, whether you are a male or female. Generally, the more liquid the food, the faster it moves through the digestive tract.
Studies show that digestion is faster in males than females. Averagely, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to move from your mouth to your small intestines where most of the absorption takes place, after which the un-absorptive or unwanted food is transferred to the large intestine to be eliminated through the anus.
Food moves slower in the large intestine – about 33 to 40 hours before it gets to the anus (under normal conditions). It can take much lesser time in some situations. Conclusively, it can take up to 40 hours in males and 47 hours in females for food to move from mouth to anus after digestion.
How the Body Digest Food
Food digestion is a combination of various processes and organs in the body that carry out different functions and involves Chemical actions as well. The summary of food digestion as it moves through the digestive tract is as follows :
Digestion of the food actually begins in the mouth as you chew the food to break it down to smaller pieces. Your saliva also helps in the process and contains chemicals that further begins the digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth.
Throat and esophagus
The broken down food in the mouth needs to be swallowed. The throat is comprised of the oropharynx which opens into the esophagus. The movement of the food in the throat is a more voluntary action initiated by your decision to swallow, but in the esophagus, the movement of the food is involuntary – peristaltic movement is responsible for the motion of the food and you have no control of it. There is no active further digestion of food in the throat and esophagus.
The esophagus opens directly into the stomach which is considered as a storage organ for the food. The stomach secretes some chemicals that starts the digestion of proteinous food. In addition, the acid produced by the stomach helps in detoxification and killing of harmful bacteria that may have contaminated the food you ate. After sometime, the stomach then empties it’s content to the small intestine in the process called gastric emptying for further digestion.
The small intestine
The small intestine has 3 parts – duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The duodenum is directly connected to the stomach and most of the remainder of food digestion occurs there. Accessory organs including the pancreas and gall bladder (which is connected to the liver) have openings or ducts into the duodenum for the digestion of the food through the action of the chemicals they secrete.
The walls of the small intestine contains finger-like structures called villi which are able to absorb the nutrients and other useful materials from the digested food into the blood stream. The last part of the small intestine (ileum) opens into the large intestine to transfer the unusable or unabsorbable food for elimination out of the body.
The large intestine
The large intestine has different segments which include the caecum (where the appendix is attached to), the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and ends as the rectum. Sometimes, if the need be, the large intestine can further absorb more materials from the food like water and some electrolytes, minerals and vitamins. Otherwise, the left over food content reaches the rectum where it is ready to be passed out as faeces.
The anus is the opening from which unwanted food matter finally leaves the body. It has two valves or sphincters which are responsible for controlling the passage of the faeces out of the body. The internal sphincter is what keeps the faeces from coming out when you are not ready to go to the toilet. The external sphincter is what relaxes to allow the faeces come out freely when you are ready and seated in the toilet.
Choosing your diet carefully can help maximize the entire process of digestion including the absorption of useful nutrients that can improve your general health and well-being. Therefore eat smartly.