Most people have a rough understanding of how digestion works thanks to biology class back in school. We know the essential parts of the digestive system, such as the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
Get ready to smile. Here are some fun tidbits about our digestive system:
Digestion Starts in Your Mouth
When people think about digestion, many tend to visualize food breaking down in the stomach. However, it starts in the mouth.
Although the teeth are part of the skeletal system, they play a crucial role in digestion. When we bite and chew, we cut, tear, and grind our food down, making it easier to swallow and digest. Saliva also lubricates and helps in breaking down food.
Saliva Helps You Taste Your Food
The saliva that our mouth produces aids in the digestive process, but did you know that saliva also helps us taste our food? Once the food begins to break down in the mouth, our taste buds can pick up on the components of the food. The receptors in our taste buds can then detect and “taste” what we are eating.
Stomach Acid Could Burn Your Skin
The acid that breaks down what we eat is strong enough to burn your skin. So how doesn’t it burn through your stomach? The answer: There is a constant layer of protective mucus that lines the inside of our stomach.
This also explains heartburn, which you may experience from acid reflux. The esophagus does not have a protective mucus layer, so you get that burning feeling when stomach acid flows back upward to the esophagus.
The Small Intestine Is the Longest Section of Your Digestive System
We call it the “small” intestine because it is narrower than our large intestine. However, it is actually the longest section in the digestive system.
From end to end, the small intestine is about 20 feet long. To give some perspective, our entire digestive system is about 30 feet long – so the small intestine alone comprises about 66% of the entire system. Moreover, the surface area of the small intestine measures up to 2,800 square feet. (Compare that to the square footage of your own home!)
Stomach Cancer Was Once the Most Common Type of Fatal Cancer
In the 1940s, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths. It has gone down the rankings of the most common forms of fatal cancers – now placing at #8, with lung cancer now taking the top spot.
One possible explanation for this lower prevalence is the food we eat. The invention of the refrigerator means we no longer have to cure or smoke meat to last longer. We’re also more knowledgeable about its risk factors and what we should avoid to prevent stomach cancer from developing.
Gastroenterologists in Central Pennsylvania
There are many exciting things we can learn about our digestive system. Becoming aware of these bits of information also allows us to gain a better understanding of our body and how it works.
Here at Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates, our team of gastroenterologists can help you maintain a healthy digestive system. Our board-certified doctors can work with you to develop a treatment plan for digestive problems you may be experiencing, from acid reflux to liver issues.
Our clinic serves the areas of Carlisle, Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Newville, and all of central Pennsylvania. You can schedule your appointment by calling (717) 245-2228 or through our online appointment request form. We look forward to seeing you here.