Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by alvina from sacromento, CA. alvina Wonders, “How do you digest food? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, alvina!
What are your favorite foods to eat? If you're like a lot of kids, pizza, watermelon, and chicken fingers might be near the top of the list. Or, you might also like pickles, ice cream, and corn on the cob, too.
Have you ever WONDERed exactly what your body does with all that food you eat? How does it convert a slice of watermelon into the stuff your body needs to grow bigger and stronger? Let's take a look inside your body to find out exactly what happens to the food you eat.
Your body breaks down the food you eat to get the nutrients and energy it needs in a process called digestion. The parts of your body involved in digestion make up your digestive system. While you may know that the stomach plays an important role in digestion, the process actually gets started in your mouth!
When you see and smell the meal you're about to eat, your mouth starts to water. That liquid in your mouth — more commonly known as saliva or spit — gets the process of digestion started…even before you take the first bite.
When you do sink your teeth into your food, your saliva begins to break down the chemicals in the food. This helps make the food easier to swallow. When you've chewed the food sufficiently, your tongue helps to push the smaller bits of food into the second part of the digestive system: your esophagus.
The muscles in the walls of your esophagus squeeze the food down your throat into your stomach. The stomach is where the process of digestion really gets going. Like a mixer, your stomach churns up the bits of food you ate into smaller and smaller pieces.
The walls of the stomach have strong muscles that help to mash up the food. Your stomach walls also produce gastric juices that contain acids that work to dissolve food and also kill any bacteria that might have been in the food.
From the stomach, the mashed-up food mixture moves to your small intestine, which doesn't happen to be small at all! It's a long tube that's all coiled up inside you beneath your stomach. If you stretched it out, it would be about 22 feet long!
In the small intestine, the food mixture from the stomach is broken down even further with the help of juices produced by three important organs: the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder. These organs produce special digestive juices that help your body absorb all the vitamins and nutrients from the food you eat.
This part of the process can take a little time. It's not uncommon for the food mixture from the stomach to spend as long as four hours making its way through the small intestine, as your body uses the special digestive juices to process the minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the food mixture.
By the time the work of the small intestine is done, the parts of the food mixture your body can use are just a thin, watery mixture that can pass from the small intestine into your blood and on to the liver for further processing. The parts of the food mixture your body can't use pass into the large intestine.
The large intestine is wider than the small intestine (about 3-4 inches, or 7.5-10 cm, around compared to 1-2 inches, or 2.5-5 cm, around for the small intestine), but it's only about five feet long (or 1.5 m). In the part of the large intestine known as the colon, water is absorbed so that the waste parts of the food mixture get harder. Those parts eventually travel through the remainder of the digestive system until you eliminate them with a trip to the bathroom!