By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.

Digestive System

Digestive SystemThe digestive system is a group of organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. It is also called the alimentary canal and the gastrointestinal tract. The major parts of that tube are:

Inside this tube is a lining called the mucosa. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says that in the mouth, stomach and small intestine, the mucosa contains tiny glands that produce juices to help digest our food. Other organs that aren't part of the tube - the liver, gallbladder and the pancreas - produce and store digestive juices that are used in the intestine. In addition, parts of other organ systems (for instance, nerves and blood) play a role in the digestive system.

The large, hollow organs of the digestive system contain muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement of organ walls can propel food and liquid and also can mix the contents within each organ. Typical movement of the esophagus, stomach and intestine is called peristalsis.

After we swallow, food enters the esophagus. At the end of the esophagus, a ring-like valve opens, to let food enter the stomach. The stomach stores the food and liquid, mixes it with digestive juices, and then empties its contents slowly into the small intestine. Food is further digested in the small intestine, where nutrients from the food are absorbed through the intestinal walls. Digestion continues in the large intestine or colon. The waste products of this process then remain in the colon, usually for a day or two, until the feces are expelled by a bowel movement.

The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) says more than 95 million people in the United States have a digestive problem and over 10 million end up in the hospital each year. Digestive diseases range from the occasional upset stomach (Read about "Indigestion") to the more life-threatening colon cancer (Read about "Colorectal Cancer") and encompass disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, the liver, the gallbladder and the pancreas.

The following links will provide you with information on a number of diseases and conditions that can affect the digestive system.

Appendicitis: see Appendicitis

Bowels, incontinence: see Fecal Incontinence

Bowels, constipation: see Constipation

Bleeding: see Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Campylobacter: see Campylobacter

Cancer, colorectal: see Colorectal Cancer

Cancer, esophagus: see Esophagus Cancer

Cancer, head and neck: see Head and Neck Cancers

Cancer, liver: see Liver Cancer

Cancer, oral: see Oral Cancer

Cancer, pancreatic: see Pancreatic Cancer

Cancer, stomach: see Stomach Cancer

Celiac sprue disease: see Celiac Disease (Celiac Sprue)

Cirrhosis: see Cirrhosis

Colitis, ischemic : see Ischemic Colitis

Colitis, ulcerative: see Ulcerative Colitis

Colon cancer: see Colorectal Cancer

Colon polyps: see Colon Polyps

Colorectal cancer: see Colorectal Cancer

Constipation: see Constipation

Crohn's: see Crohn's Disease

Cryptosporidiosis: see Cryptosporidiosis

Dehydration: see Dehydration

Diabetes: see Diabetes

Diarrhea: see Diarrhea

Dietary guidelines: see Dietary Guidelines

Diverticulitis: see Diverticular Disease

Diverticulosis: see Diverticular Disease

Dumping syndrome: see Rapid Gastric Emptying

Dyspepsia: see Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

E. coli: see E. coli

Enterobiasis: see Pinworm Infection (Enterobiasis)

Esophagus cancer: see Esophagus Cancer

Fecal incontinence: see Fecal Incontinence

Food safety: see Food Safety

Gallstones: see Gallstones

Gastritis: see Gastritis

Gastroenteritis: see Gastroenteritis

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): see GERD

Gastrointestinal reactive arthritis: see Reactive Arthritis

Gastroparesis: see Gastroparesis

Giardiasis: see Giardiasis

Head and neck cancers: see Head and Neck Cancers

Heartburn: see Heartburn

Hemorrhoids: see Hemorrhoids

Hepatitis A: see Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B: see Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C: see Hepatitis C

Hepatitis D: see Hepatitis D

Hepatitis E: see Hepatitis E

IBS: see Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Incontinence, fecal: see Fecal Incontinence

Indigestion: see Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

Intussusception: see Intussusception

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): see IBS

Ischemic colitis: see Ischemic Colitis

Listeriosis: see Listeriosis

Liver: see The Liver

Liver cancer: see Liver Cancer

Ménétrier's disease: see Ménétrier's Disease

Norwalk viruses: see Noroviruses

Oral cancer: see Oral Cancer

Pancreatic cancer: see Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatitis: see Pancreatitis

Peptic ulcers: see Peptic Ulcers

Pinworms: see Pinworm Infection (Enterobiasis)

Polyps, colon: see Colon Polyps

Proctitis: see Proctitis

Rapid gastric emptying: see Rapid Gastric Emptying

Rotavirus: see Rotavirus

Salmonella: see Salmonella

Shigellosis: see Shigellosis

Stomach cancer: see Stomach Cancer

Ulcerative colitis: see Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcers, peptic: see Peptic Ulcers

Whipple's disease: see Whipple's Disease

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

© Concept Communications Media Group LLC

Online health topics reviewed/modified in 2020 | Terms of Use/Privacy Policy

By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.