Using nutrients

The liver is, in effect, the chemical factory of the body. Among many important metabolic functions, it stores glucose, vitamins, and minerals produced by food processing but not immediately usable by the body, and facilitates the breakdown of fats, which is vital for the conversion of food into energy. As well as digestive enzymes, the pancreas produces insulin (a hormone), and glycogen (a starch), both of which regulate sugar levels. Diabetes is the result of diminished insulin action. In the small intestine, the breakdown of food is completed. Nutrients are absorbed into the blood, carried to cells, and used in the release of energy. Undigested food is expelled from the anus.

Digestive ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis are believed to result from, among other factors, an unsuitable diet or chemical imbalances in the metabolic process.

In mouth, teeth crush food into small pieces, which are rolled by tongue into ball ready for swallowing

Salivary glands secret enzyme into mouth to lubricate food and start digestive breakdown

Food is rhythmically squeezed down esophagus

THE DIGESTIVE TRACT From where food enters the body at the mouth to where waste products are expelled at the anus, the digestive tract extends over a distance of up to 26 ft (8 m). Food can take anything from 13 to 20 hours to complete its journey through the system. Coordinated by the hypothalamus in the brain, the digestive system includes associated digestive organs such as the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Liver is key organ controlling metabolism

Solid waste passes into rectum before being expelled from anus

Salivary glands secret enzyme into mouth to lubricate food and start digestive breakdown

Food is rhythmically squeezed down esophagus

Liver is key organ controlling metabolism

Solid waste passes into rectum before being expelled from anus

In stomach, food is broken down by hydrochloric acid and pepsin (an enzyme)

Hormones in pancreas stimulate release of enzymes to break down food and control absorption of nutrients

Digested food constituents are absorbed through walls of small intestine into blood and lymph vessels

Water is absorbed from undigested food in colon

In stomach, food is broken down by hydrochloric acid and pepsin (an enzyme)

Hormones in pancreas stimulate release of enzymes to break down food and control absorption of nutrients

Digested food constituents are absorbed through walls of small intestine into blood and lymph vessels

Water is absorbed from undigested food in colon

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is the most common intestinal disorder. It afflicts 10-20 percent of adults in parts of the developed world, and twice as many women as men. It often starts in early adulthood and, although distressing, is not life-threatening. Formerly known as irritable colon syndrome or spastic colon, IBS tends to be intermittent.

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