Gastroenterology – A Gut Reaction

The digestive system is a complex system that involves the process of taking food into the body, and turning it into a digestible form that can then be assimilated into the body to supply the necessary nutrients for function and good health.

Food is taken into the body through the mouth where it's broken down by a combination of proper chewing and natural body fluids produced in the mouth. The broken down food is then passed through the esophagus into the stomach where it is combined with digestive enzymes that further break down the matter into digestible form. Then nutrients from the food are absorbed into the body through the small intestine. Stretched out, the average small intestine is about 22 feet long, and the large intestine is about 5 feet long. That's a lot of geography. The residual, called fecal matter, is then passed through the small intestine into the large intestine to the rectum where it is eliminated by the body as waste or feces. Constipation can occur if there is not enough liquid absorb to moisten the feces as the passes through the large intestine.

This process involves other vital organs such the pancreas, which is located benefit the stomach where it connects to the small intestine through the duodenum. The pancreas produces insulin and glucomen; digestive enzymes and hormones that help breakdown carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The liver, a major player in metabolism, aids in the breakdown of small and complex molecules. Most commonly, the liver is known to detoxify the body when alcohol is introduced into the body but, it also produces bile, which emulsifies fats and neutralizes acids in partially digested food. The gall bladder stores bile secretions from the liver.

When the digestive systems is working perfectly and efficiently, it takes the average piece of food about 75 hours to travel from the mouth, and through the system as waste. The body may react to certain foods with excess gas or heartburn, those reactions are usually harmless and will gradually go away as the food continues to make its way way through the body. However, a number of things can go wrong including minor ailments like ulcers, which are caused by gastric acid eating away the mucus lining of the stomach or small intestine. Major ailments include liver failure, or inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterologists are the specialists who study, diagnose, and treat ailments of the digestive system.

Gastroenterology is the study of this complex system which fuels our bodies and keeps them functioning properly. It involves the esophagus, stomach, pancreas and both intestinal structures. Take care of it by eating a proper diet that includes plenty of water, and see a doctor immediately if problems occur that make digestion uncomfortable, or longer than usual.