Your Body. How It Works. Digestion and Nutrition
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The food we eat has to be broken down into other substances that our bodies can use. This is called digestion.
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Without digestion, we could not absorb food into our bodies and use it. Digestion happens in the digestive system , which begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. After we swallow, our food passes through these organs in turn:.
Different things happen to food as it passes through the digestive system:. Measuring about 20 feet 6 meters in length, the small intestine is where the major digestion and absorption of nutrients take place. These nutrients are taken into the bloodstream, via millions of tiny, fingerlike projections called villi, and transported to the liver. What's left in the digestive tract passes into the large intestine, where it's eaten by billions of harmless bacteria and mixed with dead cells to form solid feces.
Water is reabsorbed into the body while the feces are moved into the rectum to await expulsion. Other organs that play a key role in digestion include the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. The pancreas is a gland organ located behind the stomach that manufactures a cocktail of enzymes that are pumped into the duodenum.
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A duct also connects the duodenum to the gallbladder. This pear-shaped sac squeezes out green-brown bile, a waste product collected from the liver that contains acids for dissolving fatty matter.
The liver itself is the body's main chemical factory, performing hundreds of different functions. It processes nutrients absorbed into the blood by the small intestine, creating energy-giving glycogen from sugary carbohydrates and converting dietary proteins into new proteins needed for our blood. These are then stored or released as needed, as are essential vitamins and minerals. The liver also breaks down unwanted chemicals, such as any alcohol consumed, which is detoxified and passed from the body as waste.
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