The Digestive System at a Glance

Your gastrointestinal, or digestive, system breaks down the food you eat into simple chemicals. These are then absorbed into the blood and carried to the body’s cells, where they are used for energy. The system includes many parts, each of which plays a unique and important role.

The digestive tract is a coiled, muscular tube that extends from the mouth to the anus and is sometimes called the gut. It is aided in its functions by the liver, which produces bile to help break down fats, the gallbladder, which stores the bile until it is needed, and the pancreas, which makes juices that convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats into nutrients for the body.

When you swallow, food mixed with saliva travels through the esophagus into the stomach.

In the stomach, food is mixed and churned with digestive juices.

From the stomach it travels to the small intestine. Here, digestive juices produced in the liver, pancreas and small intestine break down the food. That mixture passes through the intestine wall into the blood, which carries the nutrients throughout your body.

Excess water and undigested food pass into the large intestine, where water is absorbed into the blood.

Solid waste from the large intestine is stored in the rectum, until the muscles of the anus push it out of the body.