Digestion: Everything you need to know.

Digestion: Everything you need to know.

From butterflies to stomach aches, our digestive system has a significant impact on our overall health. The first step to staying healthy is to understand how it works.

From friendly bacteria supplements to 'free from' supermarket aisles, we're becoming more concerned with our digestive health.

And it's no surprise: 40% of us have at least one digestive issue, such as indigestion, at any given time.

But how many of us truly understand what's going on in the entire nine metres of our digestive tract?

It's finally time to find out!

What exactly is the digestive system?

Although we eat food, our digestive system absorbs nutrients rather than food.

As a result, our food must be broken down into amino acids derived from proteins, fatty acids derived from various fats, and simple sugars derived from carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

Your digestion is a complex network of organs that manages this process, breaking down food into different compounds and excreting waste.

The entire procedure takes one to three days on average.

Digestion times vary greatly depending on whether you eat solids or liquids, with soups and juices taking less time to digest than hard foods.

Regardless of what you eat or how you eat it, everything you consume follows the same path from your mouth to your bloodstream or rectum (more on this below).

The gut is a part of the digestive tract that contains trillions of different microorganisms, or beneficial bacteria, many of which help support our immune system.

Furthermore, it contains over 100,000 nerve cells and is closely linked to our emotions, which is why we get butterflies or diarrhoea when we are nervous or stressed.

What is the significance of digestive health?

The digestive system breaks down the food that we eat into nutrients.

When nutrients are small enough, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream by the body.

Keeping the digestive system healthy ensures that the process runs smoothly and that we get the most out of our food.

However, digestive health has an impact on the health of the body's other physiological systems.

A healthy gut can lead to a healthy immune system, heart, and brain, as well as good quality sleep and weight maintenance.

  • Our digestive system is a complex network of organs that breaks down food into different compounds and excretes what we don't need as waste.
  • This process takes one to three days on average.
  • Keeping the digestive system healthy ensures that the process runs smoothly and that we get the most out of our food.

How does the digestive system function?

Let's take a close look at your digestion from beginning to end – literally.

The function of the mouth

Food is broken down into small pieces by your teeth, and the sight and smell of a delicious meal stimulates your salivary glands.

Saliva lubricates and further degrades food with the help of an enzyme known as amylase, which begins to convert carbohydrates into sugars.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you rush through your meal or talk while eating, you may swallow air, resulting in burping, bloating, or flatulence.

Maintain its health.

Friendly bacteria aren't just good for your gut; studies show they can also improve our dental health.

Did you know that?

Every day, the average person produces one litre of saliva.

The Function of the Oesophagus

Food travels down your oesophagus, or gullet, to your stomach via peristalsis, or automatic waves or contractions.

What could possibly go wrong?

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid travels back up into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Heartburn can be exacerbated by stress, obesity, smoking, and certain foods and medications.

Maintain its health.

Smoking cessation can help prevent heartburn and stomach ulcers, as well as lower your risk of developing Crohn's disease and gallstones.

Did you know that?

Food would reach your stomach even if you were eating upside down because peristalsis is so powerful.

The stomach's Role

Pressure from food travelling down the oesophagus signals the top of your stomach valve to open.

Gastric juices containing stomach acid and various digestive enzymes break down proteins in the stomach, producing a liquid known as chyme.

Peristalsis then moves chyme from your stomach into your small intestine.

What could possibly go wrong?

Contact with stomach acid can cause an ulcer if the protective layer lining the inside of your stomach is damaged. The H. Pylori bacteria or excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can cause this damage.

Maintain its health.

Avoid rushing your meals and try some yoga – studies show that certain yoga postures can help support your gastrointestinal health, and exercise in general helps increase the friendly bacteria in your gut.

Did you know that?

Metal can be dissolved by your stomach acid!

The Function of the Small Intestine

The small intestine, also known as the duodenum or small bowel, absorbs the majority of nutrients into your bloodstream via villi – tiny, finger-like structures that line the walls of your small intestine.

What could possibly go wrong?

Some digestive enzyme deficiencies can make it difficult to digest certain foods, resulting in food intolerances. Stomach ache, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhoea are some of the symptoms.

Maintain its health.

Eat a high-fibre diet – aim for around 30g per day – and consider more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, or kombucha, to help rebalance the bacteria living in your gut. If you don't already consume a lot of fibre, start slowly by increasing the amount every few days.

Did you know that?

The small intestine measures six metres in length.

The Pancreas, Liver, and Gallbladder Functions

Bile is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder before being released into the small intestine to break down fats.

Meanwhile, your pancreas produces digestive enzymes, which are used by the digestive system to help break down carbohydrates, protein, and fats so that they can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

What could possibly go wrong?

A fatty diet high in junk food or excessive alcohol consumption can cause fat to accumulate in your liver, increasing your risk of developing liver disease significantly.

Maintain its health.

Reduce your alcohol consumption and increase your intake of liver-supporting foods like broccoli.

Did you know that?

Your liver performs over 500 functions and is the largest solid organ in your body, weighing between 1.3kg and 1.8kg.

Functions of The small intestine

Finally, food reaches your large intestine, also known as the colon or large bowel, where it is absorbed along with any remaining nutrients.

This solidifies waste products – yes, we're talking about poo – and makes them easier to pass.

When enough waste accumulates in your rectum, the lowest part of your large intestine, you feel the need to relieve yourself.

What could possibly go wrong?

Constipation can result from not getting enough fibre in your diet.

Maintain its health

Drink plenty of fluids to reduce your chances of constipation. Maintain a healthy level of stress as well – stress hormones can contribute to digestive issues such as diarrhoea.

Did you know that?

Stools spend an average of 33 hours in the large intestine in men and 47 hours in women.


The digestive system consists of a variety of organs found throughout our bodies. It consists of your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and large intestine.

How long does it take for food to digest?

The length of time it takes for food to pass through the entire gastrointestinal tract (GI) is determined by the type and quantity of food consumed.

Food generally takes 6 to 8 hours to pass through the stomach and small intestine before reaching the large intestine.

Once in the large intestine or colon, it stays there for 10 to 59 hours to be broken down further.

The entire process can take anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days.

What foods are the most difficult to digest?

Food with a more complex structure, according to our in-house nutritionists, is generally more difficult to digest and takes the body longer to digest.

Protein and processed foods, for example. Because digestion does not begin until the food reaches the small intestine, high fat foods take the longest to digest.

Other foods, on the other hand, may not be difficult for the body to digest, but they can have an impact on digestive health and irritate and inflame the GI tract.

This includes acidic foods, spicy foods, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol.

Can food remain in your stomach for several days?

Food should pass through the stomach in 2 to 4 hours.

However, as previously stated, depending on what you ate, it can stay in the large intestine for anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days.


The time it takes for food to move through the gastrointestinal tract is determined by what was eaten and the amount consumed. Also, high fat foods take the longest to digest. Remember, food can sit in the large intestine for anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days.

Tips for a Healthier Digestion

Is it possible for you to improve your digestion? Without a doubt! Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Reduce stress - One of the major lifestyle factors influencing digestive health is stress. Stress reduces the diversity of gut bacteria and raises the risk of digestive disorders. Take frequent breaks, spend time outside, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and experiment with aromatherapy and breathing techniques.
  2. Get enough sleep - Sleep quality and gut health are linked. Sleep deprivation can alter the gut microbiota, negatively impacting digestive health.
  3. Regular exercise helps to enrich the diversity of bacteria in the gut and lowers the risk of weight gain, which can cause digestive disorders.
  4. Limit your alcohol consumption – alcohol causes inflammation in the gut and can harm your health and well-being.
  5. Drink plenty of water - staying hydrated aids in bowel movement regulation. In terms of bowel movements…

How many times should you poop per day?

We asked our nutritionists about it, and they said there is no universally accepted number of times a person should poop.

Anything from three times per day to three times per week is considered healthy.

Anything more or less than this (constipation or diarrhoea) could be a sign of a faulty gut.


You can improve your digestive health by making a few lifestyle changes.

They include:

  • sleeping well
  • reducing stress
  • increasing your water intake

The frequency of your bowel movements is determined by how your body functions.

When should you see your doctor?

Consult your doctor if any of the above symptoms persist for longer than is normal for you.

Make an appointment right away if you also have a loss of appetite, black or bloody stools, or unexplained weight loss.

In Conclusion

The digestive system's power should not be underestimated, but most of us are guilty of overlooking it and not giving it the TLC it requires from time to time.

Recognizing the important role our digestive system plays in our bodies, from extracting nutrients from food to determining how regular our bowel movements are, is the first step toward achieving good digestive health.

We hope you found this overview useful and that it inspires you to think about your digestive system a little more and pay attention to what it's telling you about your body.

You'll be surprised at how simple it is to monitor your digestive health, especially with so many digest health tablets and supplements available to help boost your system.

Make today the day you start paying more attention to your digestive system; you'll be surprised at how many benefits it can provide!