Editor’s Note: This article is intended for information purposes only. It does not substitute a doctor. It is vital to always consult a medically trained professional for advice that suits your needs best.
When talking about the digestive system, the tendency is to focus on just the stomach and intestines. But it goes beyond the process of breaking down food into substances that can be used by the body. Thus knowing why the digestive system is important should be essential in maintaining good health.
Parts of the digestive system
The digestive system is consists of several internal organs:
Also called the GI or digestive tract, this is a series of hollow organs (meaning those with a hollow center) joined in a long and twisting tube from top to bottom:
- Small intestine (three parts: duodenum, jejunum, ileum)
- Large intestine (including appendix, cecum, colon, rectum)
These are the:
The organs of the digestive system work together with the nerves, hormones, bacteria, and blood in digesting the food and liquids consumed every single day. Digestion is all aided by the bacteria in the GI tract (called gut flora or microbiome), according to the United States National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).
Why digestive system is important
The digestive system enables the body to get the nutrients from food and drinks that make it work right and well. Examples of nutrients are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. All these are broken into smaller parts (amino acids, fatty acids, simple sugars) that the body can absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair.
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Digestive system diseases
There are several reasons why the digestive system doesn't run smoothly, thus causing problems that may be permanent or temporary. It could be due to an inherited faulty gene or having an immune system that mistakenly attacks the digestives, or maybe something you just ate.
Here are some common digestive ailments:
1. Acid reflux
2. Celiac disease
3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
8. Peptic ulcer
9. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
10. Diverticular disease or diverticulosis
11. Constipation and/or hemmorhoids
12. Food poisoning
13. Different types of cancer, including gastric, colorectal, and esophageal
How to keep your digestive system healthy
For general digestive health, Harvard Health Publishing recommends to:
1. Quit smoking or don't start smoking at all
2. Avoid being overweight
3. Exercise regularly
4. Go for a balanced and healthy diet, with lots of vegetables and whole foods
5. Manage stress
6. Limit alcohol consumption
7. Increase fiber and fluid intake to avoid getting hemmorhoids
8. Avoid overeating
9. Make sure not to miss a meal, especially if you GERD.
10. Check your medication (pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs) that might be causing symptoms of peptic ulcer and/or other digestive diseases.