What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract—also called the GI tract or digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, và gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that 3d the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.

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The small intestine has three parts. The first part is called the duodenum. The jejunum is in the middle và the ileum is at the end. The large intestine includes the appendix, cecum, colon, & rectum. The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch attached khổng lồ the cecum. The cecum is the first part of the large intestine. The colon is next. The rectum is the kết thúc of the large intestine.

The digestive system

Bacteria in your GI tract, also called gut flora or microbiome, help with digestion. Parts of your nervous and circulatory systems also help. Working together, nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, & the organs of your digestive system digest the foods và liquids you eat or drink each day.

Why is digestion important?

Digestion is important because your toàn thân needs nutrients from food & drink to lớn work properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water are nutrients. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb & use for energy, growth, and cell repair.

Fats break into fatty acids và glycerol

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Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts that are small enough for your body toàn thân to absorb.

How does my digestive system work?

Each part of your digestive system helps lớn move food và liquid through your GI tract, break food and liquid into smaller parts, or both. Once foods are broken into small enough parts, your body can absorb và move the nutrients lớn where they are needed. Your large intestine absorbs water, & the waste products of digestion become stool. Nerves & hormones help control the digestive process.

The digestive process

Organ Movement Digestive Juices Added Food Particles Broken Down Mouth Esophagus Stomach Small intestine Pancreas Liver Large intestine
Chewing Saliva Starches, a type of carbohydrate
Peristalsis None None
Upper muscle in stomach relaxes to let food enter, and lower muscle mixes food with digestive juice Stomach acid and digestive enzymes Proteins
Peristalsis Small intestine digestive juice Starches, proteins, and carbohydrates
None Pancreatic juice Carbohydrates, fats, và proteins
None Bile Fats
Peristalsis None Bacteria in the large intestine can also break down food.

How does food move through my GI tract?

Food moves through your GI tract by a process called peristalsis. The large, hollow organs of your GI tract contain a layer of muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement pushes food and liquid through your GI tract and mixes the contents within each organ. The muscle behind the food contracts and squeezes the food forward, while the muscle in front of the food relaxes lớn allow the food to lớn move.

The digestive process starts when you put food in your mouth.

Mouth. Food starts to move through your GI tract when you eat. When you swallow, your tongue pushes the food into your throat. A small flap of tissue, called the epiglottis, folds over your windpipe khổng lồ prevent choking and the food passes into your esophagus.

Esophagus. Once you begin swallowing, the process becomes automatic. Your brain signals the muscles of the esophagus & peristalsis begins.

Lower esophageal sphincter. When food reaches the end of your esophagus, a ringlike muscle—called the lower esophageal sphincter —relaxes & lets food pass into your stomach. This sphincter usually stays closed khổng lồ keep what’s in your stomach from flowing back into your esophagus.

Stomach. After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles phối the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine.

Small intestine. The muscles of the small intestine phối food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, và intestine, và push the mixture forward for further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb water & the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. As peristalsis continues, the waste products of the digestive process move into the large intestine.

Large intestine. Waste products from the digestive process include undigested parts of food, fluid, and older cells from the lining of your GI tract. The large intestine absorbs water and changes the waste from liquid into stool. Peristalsis helps move the stool into your rectum.

Rectum. The lower over of your large intestine, the rectum, stores stool until it pushes stool out of your anus during a bowel movement.

Watch this đoạn phim to see how food moves through your GI tract.

How does my digestive system break food into small parts my body toàn thân can use?

As food moves through your GI tract, your digestive organs break the food into smaller parts using:

motion, such as chewing, squeezing, và mixing


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The digestive process starts in your mouth when you chew. Your salivary glands make saliva, a digestive juice, which moistens food so it moves more easily through your esophagus into your stomach. Saliva also has an enzyme that begins khổng lồ break down starches in your food.

Esophagus. After you swallow, peristalsis pushes the food down your esophagus into your stomach.

Stomach. Glands in your stomach lining make stomach acid & enzymes that break down food. Muscles of your stomach set the food with these digestive juices.

Pancreas. Your pancreas makes a digestive juice that has enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, và proteins. The pancreas delivers the digestive juice khổng lồ the small intestine through small tubes called ducts.

Liver. Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile that helps digest fats & some vitamins. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver khổng lồ your gallbladder for storage, or khổng lồ 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.

Small intestine. Your small intestine makes digestive juice, which mixes with bile and pancreatic juice to lớn complete the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, & fats. Bacteria in your small intestine make some of the enzymes you need khổng lồ digest carbohydrates. Your small intestine moves water from your bloodstream into your GI tract khổng lồ help break down food. Your small intestine also absorbs water with other nutrients.

Large intestine. In your large intestine, more water moves from your GI tract into your bloodstream. Bacteria in your large intestine help break down remaining nutrients and make vitamin K. Waste products of digestion, including parts of food that are still too large, become stool.

What happens to lớn the digested food?

The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients in your food, và your circulatory system passes them on khổng lồ other parts of your body toàn thân to store or use. Special cells help absorbed nutrients cross the intestinal lining into your bloodstream. Your blood carries simple sugars, amino acids, glycerol, & some vitamins & salts to the liver. Your liver stores, processes, and delivers nutrients to the rest of your toàn thân when needed.

The lymph system, a network of vessels that carry trắng blood cells and a fluid called lymph throughout your body to fight infection, absorbs fatty acids and vitamins.

Your body uses sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, & glycerol to lớn build substances you need for energy, growth, & cell repair.

How does my toàn thân control the digestive process?

Your hormones and nerves work together to help control the digestive process. Signals flow within your GI tract and back and forth from your GI tract to lớn your brain.


Cells lining your stomach và small intestine make and release hormones that control how your digestive system works. These hormones tell your toàn thân when to lớn make digestive juices & send signals lớn your brain that you are hungry or full. Your pancreas also makes hormones that are important to digestion.


You have nerves that connect your central nervous system—your brain & spinal cord—to your digestive system và control some digestive functions. For example, when you see or smell food, your brain sends a signal that causes your salivary glands to lớn "make your mouth water" lớn prepare you to lớn eat.

You also have an enteric nervous system (ENS)—nerves within the walls of your GI tract. When food stretches the walls of your GI tract, the nerves of your ENS release many different substances that speed up or delay the movement of food & the production of digestive juices. The nerves send signals khổng lồ control the actions of your gut muscles lớn contract and relax khổng lồ push food through your intestines.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases ( & other components of the National Institutes of Health ( conduct and support research into many diseases và conditions.

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What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Watch a video of Director Dr. Griffin phường Rodgers explaining the importance of participating in clinical trials.