Let's be completely honest: most of us don't appreciate the work, that the digestive system does for us. For the most part, once food leaves our mouths, it leaves our minds.
But what happens to food after you swallow it? The digestive system as a whole is made up of very complex and crucial moving parts. Here's what you need to know about what happens during digestion and how long it usually takes.
Obviously, the first step in digesting food is putting it in your mouth and chewing - but your teeth don't do all the work here. During this process, your salivary glands also moisten the food, making it easier for whatever you eat to pass through the esophagus when you swallow.
After making its way down the esophagus, food reaches the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle that relaxes to allow food to pass into the stomach. The stomach muscles then mix your food with digestive juices and the glands located in the lining of the stomach produce enzymes and stomach acid that help the food break down further.
The food then passes through the small and large intestines. In the small intestine, digested nutrients and water are absorbed into the bloodstream, and in the large intestine, liquid waste is transformed into stool, which is moved to the rectum. The rectum, which is at the lower end of the large intestine, stores stool, until it is pushed out during a bowel movement.
The time it takes to digest food - from the time you put it in your mouth to the time you spit it out - depends on many factors. It generally takes two to five days for people to digest the food, but this varies for everyone. The type of food you eat plays a pretty big role.
High-fiber foods can speed up digestion for you. Simpler foods (unprocessed foods) are easier to digest, because it is harder for your body to break down the complex chemicals in processed foods. Complex sugars, high-fat and high-protein foods take longer.
A number of conditions can have an effect on the digestive system, not all of them necessarily slow down or speed up the digestive system. The most common among these are cancer, acids, lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.
If you suspect, that your digestive system is not working quite right, be sure to consult your doctor to help you get to the root cause of your digestive system problems. The good news is that many digestive problems can be solved simply by making daily lifestyle changes.