May 29 is World Digestive Health Day. One of the most intricate and involved systems in the body, the digestive system takes up the most space in the torso, involves ten organs over nine meters of space, and contains over 20 specialized cell types.
And it all begins with your mouth.
The Digestive Process: In a Nutshell
As you chew your food, your teeth and the enzymes in your saliva begin breaking down the food and liquids into their chemical state—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The food then moves from the mouth, down the esophagus, to the stomach, where the breaking down process continues.
Strong stomach muscles and acids help to churn the food into a pasty substance called chyme. The stomach later slowly releases small portions of chyme into the duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine, a 20-foot-long organ) where the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder help to breakdown and digest fats and carbs.
As what was once food now moves through the small intestine, enzymes and bile continue to break down the substance into nutrients that can then be absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. Whatever isn’t absorbed by the end of the small intestine—electrolytes, fiber, water, and dead cells—then moves into the large intestine.
The large intestine is actually shorter than the small intestine—a mere 4 feet long compared to 20 feet! As the remaining residue passes through the colon, the large intestine absorbs most of the water as the strong colon muscles contract to mold the residue into stools and eventually release them through the rectum.
The Evolution Narrative: Doesn’t Cut the Mustard
Each element of the digestive process reveals our Creator and his intricate design for keeping us alive and healthy.
Each element of the digestive process reveals our Creator and his intricate design for keeping us alive and healthy—a system too elaborate and specialized to have evolved. But digestion evolution is the common narrative, as one academic source notes, “Vertebrates have evolved more complex digestive systems to adapt to their dietary needs.”1
But such evolution holds too many variables to be conducive for life. While the stomach can adapt gut bacteria to suit a particular diet, the stomach has never been observed to grow new organs or radically change its structure to allow for new foods. And even our healthy gut bacteria symbionts seem to point to our Creator and his intricate design of our digestive and immune systems.2
Our digestive system was created fully formed and functioning on day six of creation, when God created man and called him (along with the rest of creation) “very good” (Genesis 1:26–31).
World Digestive Health Day: Tough to Swallow
World Digestive Health Day exists to draw awareness towards various illnesses that affect digestive organs. In America alone, 25–45 million people suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), with two out of every three sufferers being female.3 Roughly 1.6 million Americans suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as colitis or Crohn’s disease.4 Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death for both men and women.5
World Digestive Health Day is a good reminder to eat healthy foods and remain proactive about our health so that we can be effective stewards of our bodies and servants of Christ.
These stats are to be expected in a fallen world, but World Digestive Health Day is a good reminder to eat healthy foods and remain proactive about our health so that we can be effective stewards of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19) and servants of Christ—always trusting in the sovereignty of God over our lives.
Fun Facts about Your Digestive System:
- Food takes about seven seconds to travel down the esophagus.6
- You can swallow your food while hanging upside-down. Your esophagus is strong and doesn’t need gravity to bring your food down! (Note: We don’t actually recommend eating upside-down.)
- Your stomach doesn’t always growl because it’s hungry. Your stomach makes rumbling noises as it processes your food.
- Fiber is important to digestion.
- From beginning to end, your food can take anywhere from 24–72 hours to fully digest.7