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What are some facts about the digestive tract?

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Quick Answer

The digestive tract processes hundreds of pounds of food every year and contains approximately 30 feet of tubes, according to National Geographic. This system is responsible for digesting food and excreting solid wastes from the body.

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Full Answer

The process of digestion begins when saliva mixes with food in the mouth. Dr. Barbara Bolen says humans produce around 1 liter of saliva daily. Chewed food forms a bolus and then moves into the throat. The throat pushes the food into the esophagus, a muscular tube. From there, the food bolus travels into the stomach.

Gastric juices in the stomach contain hydrochloric acid, a very corrosive substance. What keeps the acid from damaging the stomach is a thick layer of mucus, according to Dr. Bolen. Hydrochloric acid and enzymes break down the food bolus into a substance called chyme. As chyme travels to the small intestine, it mixes with bile produced by the liver and enzymes produced by the pancreas.

The small intestine is responsible for almost all nutrient absorption. As a result, problems with the small intestine may lead to nutrient deficiencies. Once nutrients are absorbed, the small intestine sends fiber and water to the large intestine. This is where liquid is absorbed and solid waste is formed. Dr. Bolen notes the digestive system contains more than 500 different types of bacteria. These bacteria are used to fight disease and help absorb some nutrients.

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