Digestive system - Digestion - Function & Organs

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Digestive system - Functions & Organs explained

The digestive system is not just a long, dark tunnel of different sized tubes and bulges through which our food travels. On the contrary: The sophisticated interaction of different organs ensures that the body can absorb nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water and transport them exactly where they are needed. Tireless and highly efficient, the individual structures work to transform food into energy. Moreover, the digestive system also takes care of the disposal of the degradation products, which the body cannot continue to use. Therefore, it is all the more unpleasant when it comes to indigestion.

Digestion is hard work 

The digestive process begins with the mechanical comminution of the food by the jaw. The released saliva already starts to digest carbohydrates and prepares them for the following digestion. The food is swallowed and passed into the oesophagus, which then passes the chyme on to the stomach through a wave-like movement. In the stomach the food mixes with the stomach acid through movement, which breaks it up. If this is done in sufficient form, the lower part of the stomach is able to contract in a ring and push the pulp into the small intestine. Here the absorption of nutrients takes place, which are transferred into the bloodstream. After its journey through the small intestine, which can be up to five metres long, the chyme reaches the large intestine. Here the remaining water is removed and the non-digestible components are fermented by microorganisms. Once the food has passed through the colon, the digestive process is complete and only indigestible matter is excreted. The significance of this complex process becomes all the more clear when one also considers the neuronal network controlling it in the background. In total, there are over 100 million nerve cells in the intestine that directs the gastrointestinal functions and make this data highway possible. The vagus nerve - the tenth cranial nerve, which also regulates the heartbeat – coordinates exchange of information between the intestine and the brain in both directions. It is understandable that any disturbances within this network can lead to digestive symptoms and thus be extremely unpleasant.

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Pancreas, the digestive assistant

Did you know, that the pancreas is not only producing insulin, but has an important digestive function? The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates in food, which are mixed with the chyme in the small intestine. Upon any disturbance of the pancreatic enzymes, these substances may not be broken down properly and the absorption of the nutrients into the blood may be disturbed. As a result, not properly digested chyme – specially fats – is transported further into the large intestine, which may lead to diarrhea or flatulence. In addition, the lack of nutrients uptake may lead to weight loss or lack of vitamins.

Why balance digestion? 

Did you know that the gastrointestinal tract is in constant contact with almost all other important organs, especially the brain? The lively exchange between the body parts passes over one of the most important nerve pathways in humans, the vagus nerve. Through this channel, the gut sends more information to the brain than the other way around. If you balance and promote your digestion, you will also increase your quality of life. At the same time, this unfortunately also means: Indigestion can quickly mess up the entire inner balance. The digestive tract will signal this to you in such a case, usually through typical disorders and complaints. 

To prevent that from happening, it is important to keep an eye on your stomach and bowels and to balance digestion when necessary.

Indigestion is not uncommon 

If you suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort, you can be sure: you are not alone. More and more people are haunted by symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, fullness and nausea.  

One of the issues being discussed is whether the rapid increase in symptoms is due to the high demands placed on people by everyday life in our modern world. There is also the suspicion than an overall unhealthy lifestyle and permanent stress may trigger symptoms. 

Although gastrointestinal complaints are often easily manageable, this does not change the fact that digestive problems can be extremely stressful and severely limit quality of life, especially if problems with digestion persist over a longer period of time. Often, the symptoms even affect and aggravate each other, which is why a whole series of symptoms can occur simultaneously. It is hardly surprising that sufferers despair in search of relief. 

What can be the causes of digestive problems? 

Finding out what is behind a particular digestive problem can sometimes be difficult. There are several external influences such as stress, emotional pressure, travel, changes in dietary habits which may all trigger digestive symptoms. 

Typical gastrointestinal symptoms such as flatulence, stomach cramps, heartburn or permanent bloating may be associated with various disorders in the digestive system. Possible causes are:

  • Hypersensitive or irritated gastric nerves
  • Too fast or too slow movement of the stomach muscles (motility disorder) 
  • Incorrect distribution of gastric acid within the gastrointestinal tract
  • Inflammation of the gastric mucosa 

If you experience certain or multiple gastrointestinal problems over an extended period of time, you should seek medical help, as these could be can be a symptom of functional digestive disorders such as irritable stomach (functional dyspepsia) or irritable bowel syndrome. 

How to prevent digestive problems 

You can try to avoid the pain and the gastrointestinal discomfort by thinking about what triggers these symptoms. Is it stress? Then try to reduce it as much as possible, for example through relaxation exercises.  

Are there certain foods that you don't tolerate well? Then try to find a replacement that tastes good to you and does your gut good.  

Or is it an overall unbalanced and irregular diet? In this case, we have put together a few general tips in the next chapter that have already helped many people. You can influence your well-being in terms of digestion, at least to some extent. 

A man dressed in white t-shirt, seen only from hip to shoulder, suffering from stomach pain.

Balance digestion instead of overstraining: tips and home remedies

Especially if you complain of recurring abdominal pain, say after eating, you can try the following to balance your stomach and intestines:

  • Avoid overly greasy foods  
  • Enjoy only limited amounts of coffee and alcoholic beverages  
  • Regular meals may also help to support the digestive tract in its daily tasks 

There are several ways to support digestion. What helps is individually different. Just try it out... 

Relaxation - Treat yourself to regular breaks, where not only you will find relaxation - but also your digestion. 

Active Lifestyle - Keep moving to promote digestion! Physical activity supports the general well-being - including digestion. 

Sufficient water - Due to sufficient fluid, the chyme remains perfectly supple and lubricious - so drink enough.

Balance digestion instead of overstraining: tips and home remedies

Despite all available measures to balance the intestines and promote digestion, in many people with indigestion the symptoms often return or don’t ever leave. For a successful treatment of irritable stomach and irritable bowel syndrome, it is immensely important to know that the individual symptoms are often linked and can occur simultaneously. With the unique combination of nine proven medicinal plants Iberogast® pursues a comprehensive approach to treat multiple gastrointestinal symptoms. This helps to relieve digestive symptoms comprehensively, in a fast-acting manner- and the digestive system can regain its balance. 

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Your Digestive Symptoms 

From fullness over stomach cramps to nausea and vomiting: If your digestive system is out of balance, this can manifest itself in various symptoms. The search for the triggers is often difficult - psychological stress, lifestyle habits and eating habits are just some of them. 

 Digestive Complaints

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Disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract are usually not only extremely unpleasant and associated with numerous complaints, they often make a normal everyday life even harder. It’s good that there is Iberogast®: The combination of nine medicinal plants targets both the underlying causes and the annoying symptoms. 

All about Iberogast®

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