The Digestive System


   Have you ever thought about what happens to your lunch after you swallow it?  Where does it go?  How does it help you to grow?  This process is called the digestive process.  There are many steps in this process that involve many different parts of your body.
 
    Digestion begins before you ever put the food into your mouth.  When you smell food, you begin to salivate, or get a lot of spit in your mouth. (Yuck)!  When you salivate, your salivary glands release enzymes (chemicals that help to break food down into smaller parts) into your saliva.  Your body is preparing itself to take that first bite!
   Digestion continues in your mouth as you take your first bite.  Your tongue and your teeth chomp and smash the food into tiny little pieces.  Chewing your food serves at least two purposes.  First, it keeps you from choking when you swallow, and that's always a good thing!  Second, it helps the enzymes to break down the food faster.  Your mouth is where you begin to digest carbohydrates, nutrients that are found in bread, grain, starch, pasta, fruit, vegetables, and anything else with sugar in it.
 
    After you swallow your food it enters your esophagus.  Your esophagus is a long tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.  The food you eat is pushed through the esophagus as little muscles around your esophagus push the food into the stomach.  These little muscle movements are called peristalsis.
 
    When your food gets to the bottom of your esophagus, it enters your stomach.  Your stomach is full of an acid called hydrochloric acid.  Hydrochloric acid helps your stomach to break down proteins, nutrients that are found in meat and beans.  Your body needs acid to break down proteins, because proteins are very strong.  They are so strong that they don't come apart easily.
 
    Next, your food goes into the first part of your small intestines, we call this part the duodenum.  Your pancreas, liver, and gallbladder release lots of enzymes into your small intestines through small tubes, which are called ducts.  These enzymes help your body to finish breaking down the carbohydrates and to start breaking down lipids.  You might have also heard lipids called fats; they're the same thing.  Your small intestines are lined with villi.  Villi are like little fingers that help your body to absorb all the yummy nutrients that are being broken down.  When the villi absorb the nutrients, they send the nutrients to your bloodstream, so the rest of your body can be nice and healthy.
 
    The food that is left over moves on to your colon or your large intestines.  Not too much happens here.  Your colon helps to absorb left over water and few nutrients here and there.  Mostly, your colon takes all the left over food and turns it into feces.  You might know feces by another name: poop.
 
    The journey ends when you go to the bathroom.  The feces passes through your anus and then your rectum.  After that, we all know it goes into the toilet, and the sewer from there.

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