The efficient functioning of the digestive system is of utmost importance for leading a balanced life. Any deficiency or disturbance in that digestive system might be a tough nut to crack, as it will create an imbalance not only on the routine day-to-day life, but might turnout to be fatal if not attended to and rectified as early as possible.
The process of digestion involves breaking down the food consumed mechanically and chemically and then converting the same into such forms that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the cells. Except for water, salt, glucose and other small molecules, all other types of food that goes into the body undergo the digestive process.
The digestive process actually begins in the mouth. As the food is broken into small pieces by chewing, it is mixed with saliva, which moistens and supplies enzymes that start breaking down the carbohydrates. The food, having been chewed sufficiently, is carried through the esophagus to the stomach. As soon as the food reaches the stomach, it is churned by the muscular muscles in the stomach and further broken down into smaller pieces. The walls in the stomach secrete gastric acid and an enzyme called pepsin that helps in further breaking down the proteins. In addition, special mucous-producing cells present in the stomach prevent it from digesting its own tissues with these strong digestive juices.
The food, thus converted into a semi-fluid state called chime, leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine where the bile from the liver and enzymes from the pancreas break down the fat and proteins. Amino acids segregated from the proteins and glucose from the sugars are absorbed directly into the blood stream. Fiber products and other undigested waste products left over in the small intestine move to the large intestine, where much of the water they contain is reabsorbed. Fiber absorbs large amounts of water, along with some of the starches from vegetables and fruits provide the bulk that helps stimulate the muscles of the colon.
Depending upon the nature of the contents in the meals as well as the metabolic rate of the person, it might take anywhere between two hours and six hours for a meal to be fully digested and its nutrients absorbed.
The disorders in the digestive system mainly comprise inflammation of the stomach lining, also called as gastritis, problems in the intestines such as ulcer, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or cancer anywhere in the digestive system. Sometimes digestive disorders might occur as an adverse reaction to any medication, emotional upset, mild viral infection, ear disorder, migraine headache or motion sickness.
In order to avoid digestive disorders, it is advisable to consume plenty of fluids, especially six to eight glasses of water, juices and other non-alcoholic fluids on a daily basis. In addition, plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products and other high-fiber foods should be consumed to help in the digestive process and avoid disorders in the system.