The digestive system is made up of the digestive tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and intestines and other organs that aid in digestion such as the liver, pancreas and gall bladder.
The breaking down of food for digestion begins in your mouth. As you eat something, your teeth break down the food, and your saliva helps to breakdown and it moistens the food so you can swallow it easily. Saliva also turns sugars into starch.
After chewing, the food is swallowed and travels through the esophagus. The esophagus is a soft, muscular tube that moves food from your mouth to your stomach. Involuntary muscles in your esophagus contract like a wave. This is called peristalsis. Once the food has reached the end of the esophagus, it enters the stomach.
The stomach is very strong and has a lining that is tough enough for the acid found in the stomach. Stomach muscles churn and mix the food with the acid and enzymes to break it down further. Food stays in the stomach for 3 – 6 hours and is turned into a thick liquid. Once the food has mixed enough, it is ready to leave the stomach and travels into the small intestine.
The small intestine is a long tube about 8 meters long. It is smaller in diameter than the large intestine. The inside of the small intestine is covered with small finger like projections called villi. The villi help absorb nutrients in the body. The small intestine includes 3 different parts; the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The small intestine also breaks down food using enzymes released by the pancreas and bile from the liver. The small intestine is where most nutrients are absorbed. Peristalsis is also at work in this organ, moving food through and mixing it up with the digestive enzymes and bile from the pancreas and liver. The duodenum is mostly responsible for the continuing breakdown process, with the jejunum and ileum being mainly responsible for absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.
The liver is the largest internal organ of the body. The liver produces bile, which helps the body absorb fat. The liver also stores energy and helps your body get rid of toxins. Bile is stored in the gall bladder until it is needed. The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest protein, fats and carbohydrates. It also helps to neutralize the stomach acid. The enzymes and bile travel from the liver and pancreas into the small intestine through ducts. These substances help further break down the food so the nutrients can be absorbed easily.
The next stop is the large intestine. The large intestine is about 2 meters long. By the time food reaches the large intestine, most of the nutrients are absorbed. The main job of the large intestine is to take out important minerals and liquid from waste. The end of the large intestine is called the rectum. This is where waste is collected until it leaves the body through the anus.
There are many different things that can go wrong in the digestive process. There are also different diseases associated with the digestive system. One specific disease is Crohn’s Disease.
As you know, you need to eat food to keep your body going. Your digestive system processes this food. It absorbs nutrients and gets rid of waste. When you have Crohn’s disease, your body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in your digestive tract and causes swelling. Crohn’s disease usually affects your small intestine but can affect any part of your digestive tract from your mouth to your anus.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are diarrhea, fever, rectal bleeding, joint swelling, weight loss, blocking in intestine, abdominal pain, vomiting.
It is very difficult to diagnose Crohn’s, as many of the symptoms may seem like a bad flu or cold. The symptoms will most likely be going on for a long time to finally figure out what is happening. Often, a colonoscopy is done to determine the location of the intestine, where the disease is most active.
There is no known specific cause of Crohn’s Disease. Scientists believe some people get Crohn’s because they carry a specific gene passed down from their parents. Others believe Crohn’s disease is caused by bad bacteria in your digestive system, which is made worse by triggers. Some environmental things may trigger the disease and can affect each person differently. The triggers that are associated with causing a flare up of Crohn’s are stress, types of food, smoking or sometimes nothing.
Each person living with Crohn’s disease needs a personalized plan to treat the disease. Treatment includes: medication, diet and nutrition, along with surgery. Medication can be taken to reduce swelling of the intestines. When swelling reduces, many of the symptoms are also reduced.
Diet and nutrition is a way to reduce symptoms and flare ups also. It is important to maintain good nutrition because many patients are malnourished and dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. It is important to keep your body nourished and to drink lots of water. Certain types of food seem to make symptoms worse. Spicy food and high fiber food can cause more swelling than soft, bland foods.
Surgery may be the only option if symptoms cannot be controlled by medication and diet. A surgery of the intestines to remove the diseased section and rejoin the two good portions can be done. Surgery does not guarantee another portion of the digestive tract will be affected in the future.
Crohn’s disease affects many people. Although we don’t know what causes Crohn’s, there are new developments everyday for treating this disease.
The digestive system is a complex system of the human body, which includes many different organs. It allows us to turn the food that we eat into vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies to be strong. I have learned that because there are so many processes and steps in digestion, there can be lots of problems along the way. I have also learned from my research that it is important to drink lots of water and eat healthy foods because our bodies need proper nutrition to stay strong and healthy.