What is digestion?

If you want to know about digestion, then you need to understand what the digestive system does. In simple terms, it takes the food and drink you consume and turns it into the energy that your body needs to function. It also removes your body’s waste.

What makes up the digestive system?

The main parts of the digestive system include:

  • the pancreas and salivary glands, which produce digestive juices
  • the stomach, which breaks up the food into a liquid called chyme
  • the liver that produces bile to help you absorb fat
  • the small intestine that absorbs nutrients from soluble food into the bloodstream
  • the large intestine which absorbs water from food that can’t be digested and then turns it into faeces.

How long does food take to be digested?

Digestion isn’t a quick process and it can take many hours for your digestive system to fully breakdown what you’ve eaten or drunk. It can take between 16 and 30 hours for a standard meal to be fully digested but some foods can take longer. For instance, a burger or steak can take two to three days to be broken down.

If you want to help your digestive system work more effectively, try to not eat too much in one sitting, don’t skip meals and make sure you drink your recommended 6 – 8 glasses of water a day.

What happens when the digestive system doesn’t work as it should?

Occasionally, you may find that you suffer from constipation, diarrhoea or indigestion. It shouldn’t take long for these conditions to clear up by themselves but if they don’t, you should make an appointment to see your GP.

More serious conditions involving the digestive system include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis and peptic ulcers.


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Digestive Health