The Digestive System

Here we will understand the digestive system for kids, How does the digestive system work step by step, What is the main function of the digestive system?, parts of the digestive system and  interesting facts about Digestive system for kids. 

So let’s start the journey through the human digestive system and try to find out where our food goes and what process it goes through.

What is digestion?

Digestion is the process of converting the food you eat into nutrients. It is used for energy, growth and cellular repair of the body.

How many kinds of digestion?

There are two kinds of digestion.

Mechanical Digestion – Mechanical digestion is the physical breakdown of large pieces of food into smaller pieces through chewing. Mechanical digestion begins in the mouth as the food is chewed.

the digestive system for kids

In simple terms when you first take your bite and chew the food, that is mechanical digestion.

Chemical Digestion – Chemical digestion uses acids and enzymes to break down the food into simpler nutrients that can be absorbed and used by the body cells.

In simple terms Chemical digestion begins in the mouth when your food mixes with the saliva. 

What are the similarities between Mechanical Digestion and Chemical Digestion?

Both chemical and mechanical digestion occur in the mouth and are responsible for breaking down food into smaller pieces so our body can absorb the essential nutrients.

What is the difference between Mechanical Digestion and Chemical Digestion?

Mechanical digestion is the breakdown of food through physical action i.e Chewing.

Chemical digestion is the breakdown of food through chemicals such as acids and enzymes. 

What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is made up of a group of organs that work together to break down food we eat into tiny components so that essential nutrients can be easily absorbed by the human body and the waste discarded.

In simple words the digestive system is responsible to turn the food you eat into nutrients, which the body uses for energy, growth and cell repair.

the digestive system for kids

What are the main parts of the digestive system?

  • The Mouth
  • Pharynx
  • Esophagus
  • The Stomach
  • Small Intestine
  • Large Intestine (Colon)
  • Rectum
  • Anus

These organs are not a part of the digestive tract but help with digestion -:

  • Tongue.
  • Glands in the mouth that make saliva.
  • Pancreas.
  • Liver.
  • Gallbladder

How Does The Digestive System Work Step By Step?

Step 1 – The mouth

The mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract. In fact, the digestive system work starts before the first bite of a meal even enters our mouth. 

You must have ever felt that after seeing some tasty food you must have got water in your mouth. Have you ever wondered why this happens? 

That water is called saliva (or spit) and it isn’t just water. Saliva is released by the salivary glands into our oral cavity when we smell food or even see our favourite food. 

One of the enzymes in saliva called amylase helps tomoisten the food, making it easier to swallow.

Our teeth break the food into small pieces. At the same time, the tongue keeps moving food around, sending it to the type of teeth that will be best at munching it and then pushes food towards the back of your throat.

Mouth > Pharynx

Step 2 – Pharynx (Throat)

The food slides down the pharynx or throat until it comes to a fork where the pharynx divides into two tubes one is, the windpipe which goes into the lungs, second is, the esophagus goes into the stomach.

Swallowing food is a complex process that closes the windpipe (to protect our lungs) and moves food into the esophagus with the help of Epiglottis.

Epiglottis is a type of lid that prevents any food item or fluid from entering the windpipe when we swallow something.

The food then passes down the esophagus.

Mouth > Pharynx > Esophagus

Step 3 – Esophagus (Food Pipe)

The Esophagus, also known as the Gullet is a 25cm-long muscular tube extending from the pharynx to the stomach.

The muscles in the wall of the esophagus squeeze the food along until it reaches the gateway to the stomach. This squeezing process of the muscles is called peristalsis.

Peristalsis helps food to go into your stomach even if you were standing on your head.

Now the food reaches to the Stomach.

Mouth > Pharynx > Esophagus > Stomach

Step 4 – The Stomach

The stomach is a sac-like organ whose upper end is connected to the esophagus and the lower end is connected to the intestine.

It works as a food mixer and grinder. The stomach wall secretes gastric juices that include powerful enzymes that help break down food into a type of thick soup called chyme.

These gastric juices also kill a lot of germs and bacteria which may have come into your body with your food. Food hangs out in the stomach for around four hours.

From the stomach, food moves to the small intestine.

Mouth > Pharynx > Esophagus > Stomach > Small Intestine

Step 5 – The Small Intestine

The small intestine is 23-foot (7 meter) long coiled tube works as a ‘great team player’.

What are the main parts of Small Intestine?

The Small Intestine is made up of three segments – 

  • The Duodenum (first segment) where further breakdown of the food takes place.
  • Jejunum and Ileum (second & third segment) absorbs nutrients from the processed food into the bloodstream.

Small Intestine absorbs most nutrients with the help of the very vital organs i.e. liver, pancreas and gallbladder.

Liver – It produces bile that breaks down fat and also detoxifies the body. The liver also helps process nutrients in the bloodstream.

Gallbladder – It stores bile ( produced by liver) and secretes when it is needed.

Pancreas – It makes digestive enzymes that help digest proteins, fats, and carbs. It also produces insulin.

While food is in the small intestine, nutrients such as sugars, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals are absorbed and pass through the walls and into the bloodstream.

The leftover (the waste) moves into the large intestine ( colon).

Mouth > Pharynx > Esophagus > Stomach > Small Intestine > Large Intestine

Step 6 – The Large Intestine

The large intestine is the final part of the digestive system.

What are the main parts of the Large Intestine?

The Large Intestine is made up of three segments – 

  • The cecum – beginning of the large intestine.
  • The colon – extends from the cecum and connects to the rectum.
  • The rectum – where solid waste (poop) are stored until they leave the digestive system through the anus as a bowel movement.

Here Bacteria feed on undigested matter, releasing more nutrients. Water is absorbed from the undigested remains, which leave the body through the anus as feces (poop).

The anus is the last part of the digestive tract.

Mouth > Pharynx > Esophagus > Stomach > Small Intestine > Large Intestine > Anus

In Summary - How does the digestive system work step by step?

Step – 1 The Mouth
The mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract. When we eat food, we chew it into smaller pieces and swallow it. Then it mixes with saliva which comes from the Salivary Glands.

Step – 2 Oesophagus (Food Pipe)
Then the food goes down to the Oesophagus (Food Pipe)

Step – 3 The Stomach Through Oesophagus food comes into the Stomach. The stomach wall secretes gastric juices that include powerful enzymes that help break down food into a type of thick soup called chyme.

Step – 4 The Small Intestine
From the stomach, food arrives in the small intestine. Here, the digestive juices from the liver, gallbladder and pancreas help to break down and absorb food nutrients like sugars, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Step – 5 The Large Intestine
The large intestine is the final part of the digestive system.

After winding its way through the small intestine, food enters the large intestine where water and minerals are absorbed from the undigested remains, which leave the body through the anus as feces (poop).

The anus is the last part of the digestive tract.

Interesting Digestive System Facts For Kids

FACT 1. ⫸ Food would get to your stomach even if you were standing on your head.

FACT 2. ⫸ Enzymes in your digestive system are what separate food into the different nutrients that your body needs.

FACT 3. ⫸ Your salivary glands can produce more than 32 ounces, or 4 – 6 cups of saliva per day.

FACT 4. ⫸ Food takes about 7 seconds to travel from the mouth to stomach through the esophagus.

FACT 5. ⫸ Food stays in your stomach for 3 to 4 hours.

FACT 6. ⫸ Your stomach can hold about 1.5 liters of food and liquid at a time

FACT 7. ⫸ Epiglottis is a type of lid that prevents any food item or fluid from entering the windpipe when we swallow something.

FACT 8. ⫸ Small and large intestines together are known as Bowels.

FACT 9. ⫸ The small intestine is about 22-23 feet long while the large intestine is only about 5 feet long.

FACT 10. ⫸ The second part of your small intestine is called the jejunum (funny name).

FACT 11. ⫸ Over 90% of digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place in Small Intestine.

FACT 12. ⫸ Cows, deer, and giraffes have four-chambered stomachs which help them digest their plant-based food.

FACT 13. ⫸ Some animals – including seahorses, lungfishes and platypuses – have no stomach. Their food goes from the esophagus straight to the intestines.

FACT 14. ⫸ Gut-brain axis regulates how food is digested by the digestive system.

FACT 15. ⫸ The Average human being has over 400 bacterial species in the gut.

FACT 16. ⫸ It takes about 2-6 hours to digest and empty the food from the stomach to the intestines.

FACT 17. ⫸ The human body takes about 6 hours to digest fat-rich food, whereas 2 hours to digest carbohydrate-rich food.

FACT 18. ⫸ Liver is the most important organ for digestion.

FACT 19. ⫸ Fiber is an essential dietary nutrient for the human body.

FACT 20. ⫸ The medical term for the hiccups is singultus.

FACT 21. ⫸ The longest hiccups lasted from 1922 until February 1990. Mr Charles Osborne holds the Guinness World Record for the longest attack of hiccups.

FACT 22. ⫸ No one knows why hiccups exist.

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