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This is how the digestive system works

The digestive system is a complex system that travels from the mouth through the body to the colon and rectum. If an imbalance occurs in any part of the digestive system, it may cause stomach problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating or flatulence.
Digestion begins in the mouth, where chewed food is mixed with saliva containing starch-degrading enzymes.

In the stomach, food is dissolved with gastric juice containing acids and protein-degrading enzymes that help to decompose the food.

In the duodenum and small intestine, the decomposition continues with help from the liver, which adds bile to decompose fat. More digestive enzymes are added from the pancreas.

Decomposition continues as the food is pushed through the 5 – 6 meter long small intestine. Nutrients, vitamins and minerals can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall.

When food reaches the colon, it is almost completely decomposed. Bacteria living in the colon metabolize the rest of the nutrients. The colon absorbs and passes on moisture from the contents of the intestines into the body, so the indigestible remains – such as dietary fibres – become more solid and ready for excretion from the rectum.

Muscle contractions in the intestinal wall (peristaltic movements) ensure the movement of the intestine contents through the intestinal system, thus avoiding constipation.

The duration of the food journey through the digestive tract varies from person to person, but is usually 1 – 3 days. The transit time depends on several factors, such as diet, the content of fibres, the absorption of liquid, physical activity, bowel movements, medical treatment, as well as psychological and social factors.

Sources:
Patienthaandbogen.dk (The patient’s manual)
Gerd Johnsen: ”Regulér din tarmfunktion ved forstoppelse, diaré eller ufrivillig afføring”
(Adjust your bowel function to avoid constipation, diarrhoea or involuntary defecation)

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