10 Most Surprising Facts About Your Digestive System

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The job of your digestive system is to take the food that you eat and convert it over to nutrients that your body needs in order to live. When that is accomplished, it has to eliminate any waste that may be left over. The digestive system doesn’t do this all by itself. It has the help of your mouth, liver, stomach, gallbladder, and intestines.

Because this entire process just occurs automatically and doesn’t require your participation at all, you may take it for granted. There are some facts about digestion that you may not be aware of that might surprise you. Here are 10 interesting facts about the digestive system, the way it works, and some background information.


1. Your food doesn’t require gravity to reach your stomach.

Your esophagus has muscles that are resilient enough to send your food down to your stomach whether you are sitting upright or hanging bottom side up. Your esophagus has three zones: the esophageal body, the lower esophageal sphincter, and the upper esophageal sphincter. When your food is pushed over to your tummy, they call it peristalsis.


2. The stomach is not the center of digestion.

When you think of the digestive process you always think of your stomach. However, it is actually your small intestine that does most of the work. It dissolves your food, removes the nutrients, and then sends it off to your bloodstream.

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3. You can find the same enzymes in laundry detergent as in your digestive system.

It seems odd when you know that certain laundry detergents contain the same kinds of enzymes as the ones that are in our digestive system. Proteases, lipases, and amylases are three of these enzymes that we share with the same detergent you wash your clothes in. In the body, proteases are used in dealing with proteins as they break them down. Lipases work on breaking down fats and amylases cut through carbohydrates.


4. The small intestine is not really all that small at all.

While the small intestine is around an inch in diameter, the area of its surface reaches 2,700 feet, which is about half as big as a basketball court.


5. There are a variety of stomachs among animals.

While stomachs play a major part in digesting your food, it is different for animals. There are many animals that have a stomach that has many compartments such as cows, deer, and giraffes. Those animals have stomachs that have four chambers in them and assist them as they digest foods that are plant-based.


6. The smell from passing gas comes from bacteria in your stomach.

When you have flatulence, or pass gas, it occurs when the air you swallow combines with fermented bacteria that comes from your gastrointestinal tract. There are some components that the digestive system is just unable to break down. There are also some parts of foods that your system can’t absorb so they just keep getting pushed through to the large intestine. The bacteria releases a variety of gasses including hydrogen sulfide. That is the one that smells like rotten eggs which gives flatulence its odor.


7. The digestive system has more cases of cancer than any other organ in your body.

It has been determined that colorectal cancer comes in second as a leading cause of death related cancer in the US. It affects women and men alike and more than 135,000 people developed colorectal cancer in 2011 and there were more than 51,000 deaths from the disease. The number of deaths related to cancers related to the digestive system is greater than cancers related to any other organ.


8. Doctors were able to look more closely at the stomach thanks to a sword swallower.

Developing a tool that doctors could use to look more closely inside the stomach was a difficult process. In the beginning of the 1800s, an endoscope was developed to more carefully examine the urethra, nasal cavity, and ears. After another 50 years, another type of endoscope was created to check the bladder and urinary tract. By the end of the 1800s, another type of the instrument was created to more closely inspect the stomach but it was too stiff and patients and doctors were unable to use it. One German doctor finally got a sword swallower to get the endoscope into place so the doctors could examine him.


9. It took doctors almost 100 years to properly treat peptic ulcers.

Many times you are warned about taking too many aspirins which may leave you with an ulcer. Peptic ulcers are formed in your stomach on the lining from too many anti-inflammatory medications. After just about 100 years, doctors finally found the correct way to treat peptic ulcers after treating them incorrectly for so long.


10. Rumbling in your stomach isn’t just because you are hungry.

If you are trying to convince someone you are hungry because your stomach is growling, think again. Your stomach could growl when you have food already in it. Your stomach could be making noise while its digesting your food, it’s just that it sounds louder when your stomach is empty.

Now that you know all about how it works, here are some digestive system fun facts you would have never guessed are true.

  • Besides producing bile so it can break down fats, your liver has more than 500 other functions.
  • An adults stomach can hold around 1.5 liters of food which can stay there for up to 3 hours.
  • If you are a germaphobe, you won’t be happy to learn that a regular human has more than 400 kinds of species located in their colon.
  • The small intestine of a female is longer than a male’s.
  • You may want to slow down your eating habits when you know that food travels from your esophagus into your stomach in just seven seconds.
  • The length of your large intestine is about 5 feet.