Digestive system function and diseases
The digestive system is a complex system which starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. In between this long hollow tube are located many organs which play a vital role in the absorption, digestion and breakdown of food particles. Food is first swallowed by the mouth and moved into the stomach where potent acids are released. The food is then liquefied and passed on to the small intestine, where more enzymes are released and the majority of food and essential vitamins are absorbed. The liquid food is then passed on to the large bowel where certain vitamins and potassium are absorbed. The liquid stool is acted upon by bacteria, becomes more solid and eventually is passed on to the rectum where it is stored until excreted by the anus. The lining of the entire digestive tract is very fragile and can get easily traumatized. New cells are replaced on a regular basis but sometimes the repair is delayed.
The entire digestive tract is under the control of nerves which relay signals from the brain and tell the bowel when to relax or contract. Other related organs which are included in the digestive tract include the pancreas which releases enzymes like insulin which breaks down sugar. The liver is vital for making proteins. It also helps to detoxify any poisons and is the chemical factory of the body. The gall bladder stores and releases bile which then helps in the absorption of fats from the intestine.
There are many digestive system diseases which can affect each of these organs. The swallowing tube like the esophagus can develop cancers and one may not be able to swallow. The stomach may produce excess acid which may cause abdominal pain, nausea, black stools and weight loss. Sometimes the ulcer may even cause serious bleeding and cause anemia. Other disorders of the stomach include dyspepsia and reflux disease. Stones may form in the gall bladder which may require surgery. The liver is prone to many complications chiefly from substances like alcohol, drugs and infections like hepatitis. The small bowel may get damaged and one may not be able to absorb food and essential nutrients. Digestive system diseases of the large bowel include disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, cancers, diverticulosis, and constipation; the anus may be prone to tears from hard stool or develop painful hemorrhoids.
In the majority of cases of digestive tract disorders, a preventive approach and a healthy life style can avoid most complications. Eating a healthy nutritious diet, exercise, drinking ample water and eating fiber is perhaps the best way of not only having a healthy digestive system but also having a healthy mind and body.