The digestive process
The digestive process – what you eat and where it goes?
Have you ever thought about how the meals you eat provide energy?
It’s lunch break in school. You are sitting with your friends and enjoying the tiffin packed by your mom. A few idlis, chicken sandwiches or fruits – by the time you finish these goodies and head for your next class, you completely forget about the sumptuous meal. But do you realize what is happening with the food that is still lying in your stomach? You can visualise it like a science experiment in a chemical laboratory.
Your body is a marvellous machine far better than any invented by man and it can perform many important functions. But it also needs energy to survive and to do work. The oxygen you breathe in helps to ‘burn’ the food in order to give energy. The food you eat cannot be used by your body in that form. It has to be changed into a simpler form. This is done by a very special system called digestive system and the process is called digestion. One cannot get nutrients without it to remain healthy and grow properly.
How does the food get digested in our body? Do you know that the food which we eat goes through a number of processes before getting digested? How does a piece of bread, an apple or a glass of milk can give you energy? Have you thought about it?
It is interesting to know that the process of digestion begins in the mouth from the moment you take the first bite – in fact even before that! If some tempting dish is cooked in your house, just the aroma of it makes you feel hungry and you say, “It makes my mouth water!”. This ‘water’ is nothing but saliva, a watery fluid that is secreted by the salivary glands. It consists of chemicals called enzymes that mix with the food you eat and help in digesting it.
To learn more, do this activity in your mouth itself. Put a small piece of bread or chapatti and put it in your mouth, chew it for sometime but do not swallow. After 2 minutes, what do you feel? Do you get a sweet taste in the mouth?
When you chew the food it gets broken into small pieces by your teeth which help in cutting and grinding. The role of tongue is to mix saliva while food is being chewed and help in swallowing. Food then enters into a tube called food pipe, also known as oesophagus which connects the throat and the stomach. The stomach is like a mixer which churns and mashes the food to convert into a semi solid paste. Here it also mixes with ‘gastric juices’ secreted by the stomach walls that help in further breaking down the tiny bits of the food you ate. Some part of it is digested and the remaining passes to the small intestine.
The small intestine is the main region for absorption of digested food. Its inner surface has many finger-like projections which offer a large area that aid in the absorption of food. Juices secreted from liver and pancreas help in the digestion process. Undigested part passes to the large intestine. The large intestine absorbs water and the undigested food moves for disposal through rectum. This completes the digestion of food.
So kids, to keep healthy and fit, you must follow good eating habits. Help your digestive system by eating food rich in fibres like whole grains, proteins, fruits and green vegetables. If you have not chewed your food properly your stomach has to do that much extra work and gets overloaded – you suffer indigestion. Similarly overeating does not leave space for the stomach to do its expansion and contraction, again leading to indigestion. Always eat smaller quantities, at regular intervals and chew the food well as that helps in digestion. Do not run or do heavy exercise just after eating. Brush your teeth twice a day and always rinse your mouth with water after you eat.
Did you know?
The body produces about one litre of saliva a day and 95% of saliva is water.
Bacteria in the mouth break down sugars into acids and cause tooth decay.
The stomach can stretch to hold 2 to 3 litres of fluid.
The gastric glands produce about 2 litres of acidic fluid daily.
The small intestine is 285cms and the large intestine is 150 cm long.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. It produces bile juice which helps in digesting fats.
Next time when you sit for lunch or dinner, you will have all the knowledge of how your meals are digested.
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