Why is Digestion Difficult for the Body?

Why is Digestion Difficult for the Body?

Complexity of Digestive System

What organs are involved in digestion?

The digestive system is a long, twisting tube composed of hollow organs from the mouth to the anus, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) explains that the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are also involved in digestion. Saliva produced by the salivary glands in the mouth aids chewed food in moving down the esophagus to the stomach.

The digestive system is composed of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus, with the pancreas, gall bladder and liver aiding in the process. Cleveland Clinic states that these organs work together to break down and process food and nutrients. The digestive system helps to eliminate waste from the body.

What role do bacteria play in digestion?

The digestive system is a long tube of muscles up to 10 metres in length, with digestive organs attached along its length, that is inhabited by a large reservoir of microbes such as bacteria. Via Better Health Channel, these bacteria play an important role in the digestion process. Studies have shown that there is a lesser degree of bacteria living in the rest of the digestive system.

Lack of Nutrient Absorption

What is malabsorption?

Malabsorption is an umbrella term for a wide range of disorders that affect the ability to absorb nutrients from food, leading to indigestion and malnutrition. From the Cleveland Clinic, this is due to an inability to properly digest food, rather than a lack of nutrients consumed. Relatedly, the World Health Organization estimates that 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.

Malabsorption occurs when the body is unable to digest and absorb nutrients from food, which can be caused by inadequate production of digestive enzymes. Attributed to Merck Manuals, this can be seen with some pancreatic diseases or lactase deficiency Lactose Intolerance. Malabsorption can result from intestinal disorders such as chronic intestinal inflammation, infection, or obstruction.

The conclusion is that disturbances in motor, secretory, digestive, and absorptive functions can lead to malabsorption syndromes or lack of specific carrier mechanisms, as reported in the article "The Pathophysiology of Malabsorption" published on PubMed in 2015. Malabsorption can be caused by a variety of gastrointestinal disorders.

Poor Diet

How can digestion be improved?

Improving digestion can be achieved by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and taking time to relax before and after meals. Sourced from Medical News Today, this can help to reduce indigestion and stomach discomfort. Having a balanced diet with high fiber and low fat intake is recommended for optimal digestive health.

How can we maintain digestive health?

Increasing fiber consumption is the best way to maintain digestive health, according to experts at WebMD. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes can help keep digestion on track. Studies have shown that high-fiber diets are associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

What foods should I include in a balanced diet?

A balanced diet is necessary for a healthy digestive system, according to Guts UK. This means consuming a variety of foods from different food groups including starchy foods, fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy products, and fats and sugars in adequate portion sizes. Eating a variety of fibrous foods such as whole grains, legumes, and nuts can help improve digestion.

Digestive Disorders

What digestive diseases are there?

Digestive diseases are health problems that occur in the digestive tract, ranging from mild to serious. These include heartburn, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, gallstones, cholecystitis, cholangitis, and rectal issues such as anal fissure. As stated by MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, these conditions can have a wide range of symptoms and treatments.

Gastrointestinal diseases are common problems caused by functional issues where the GI tract looks normal but doesn't move properly. According to Cleveland Clinic, common examples include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, food poisoning, gas, bloating, GERD and diarrhea. It is important to receive proper diagnosis and treatment for gastrointestinal diseases to help reduce unpleasant symptoms.

How does fiber help regulate digestion?

Eating fiber-rich foods helps regulate digestion and reduce constipation, according to WebMD. Fiber helps move food through the large intestine more quickly, resulting in softer stool that is easier to pass. Consuming more fiber can also help reduce the risk of other digestive disorders such as diverticular disease.


How can stress affect digestion?

Stress can have a negative impact on digestion, causing spasms in the esophagus and increased stomach acid production, according to Dr. Koch from Everyday Health. This can lead to issues such as heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, and even changes in appetite. Chronic stress can cause long-term gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Stress can lead to digestive issues such as stomach aches, indigestion, heartburn and nausea according to Henry Ford Health System (hfhs.org, 2021). Stress slows down the emptying of the stomach and increases motor function in the large intestine which can contribute to digestive issues.

How does stress affect the body?

Stress can have a negative impact on the body, causing either diarrhea or constipation, muscle spasms in the bowel, and digestion issues, according to the American Psychological Association. Studies have found that stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Lack of Exercise

Do you have difficulty passing stools?

Constipation is a digestive issue that can cause difficulty passing stools, straining during bowel movements, feeling like a blockage in the rectum, and an inability to completely empty the stool from the rectum. Cited from Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include passing fewer than three stools a week, having lumpy or hard stools, and straining to have bowel movements. Other associated symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea.

How can I improve my digestion?

Improving digestion is possible by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax before and after meals. Attributed to Medical News Today, tips and tricks for improving digestion include avoiding rushing meals and ensuring adequate hydration. Adequate hydration has been associated with improved digestion, as drinking enough fluids helps food move through the digestive tract more easily.

What are the risks of not exercising?

Not exercising can lead to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, including increased waist circumference and insulin resistance, according to Dr. Morski from LIVESTRONG.COM. Recent studies have also suggested that sedentary time can worsen health, so regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Medication Side Effects

Can medicines taken by mouth cause digestive problems?

Medicines taken by mouth can cause harmful effects on the digestive system, even if they are usually safe and effective. Sourced from Johns Hopkins Medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter medicines may interact and cause side effects when taken together. It is important to speak to your doctor before taking any medications to ensure their safety.

Medications can cause a range of digestive issues, such as esophageal and stomach irritation, bleeding, and ulcers, as noted by Ken Sternfeld, RPh in an article on MedShadow Foundation. With over 6 billion prescriptions dispensed in 2021 in the United States alone, the risk of adverse drug reactions is high.

It is important to be aware of digestive side effects of medications which can lead to nutrient and fluid depletion, as stated by WebMD (2022). Paying attention to GI problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain can prevent further health risks. Nutritional deficiencies caused by medication side effects can be avoided by regularly monitoring your diet and supplement intake.


How does aging affect digestive system muscle contractions?

The digestive system's muscle contractions weaken with age, which can decrease the efficiency of food digestion and absorption. According to Hanan, a digestive specialist from WebMD, these muscle contractions push food along the digestive tract just like squeezing a toothpaste tube. Studies have found that an increased risk of digestive diseases such as diverticular diseases, constipation and heartburn is associated with aging.

Aging is a factor in several digestive system disorders, such as diverticulosis, according to Digestive Disorders on msdmanuals.com (2020). The digestive system generally has a lot of reserve built into it, so aging has less effect on its function than on other organ systems.

Are you experiencing infrequent and difficult bowel movements?

Constipation is a condition characterized by infrequent and difficult bowel movements, often accompanied by abdominal discomfort, bloating, and straining. Sourced from the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of constipation may include passing fewer than three stools a week, having lumpy or hard stools, feeling as though there's a blockage in your rectum, feeling as though you can't completely empty the stool from your rectum, and needing help. Constipation can often be caused by a lack of fiber in the diet.


Can smoking increase the risk of developing digestive system cancer?

Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing cancer of the digestive system, including mouth, lip, voice box, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon and rectum. Mentioned in Johns Hopkins Medicine, if you smoke it is recommended to try and quit. Research has found that long-term smokers are more likely to develop cancer of the digestive system than nonsmokers.

Can smoking lead to vision problems?

Smoking long-term can lead to serious vision problems, such as glaucoma, according to Healthline (2023). It can also affect the optic nerve and lead to other conditions that affect the eyes. Smokers are more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.

How does cigarette smoke damage the lungs?

Cigarette smoke causes damage to the lungs by impairing the ability of scavenger cells to remove foreign particles from alveoli, which leads to tar accumulation. As stated by HowStuffWorks, this tar is similar to what is used to pave roads. Smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer and other illnesses.

Alcohol Consumption

What enzymes break down alcohol?

Alcohol is broken down into smaller molecules by two enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on niaaa.nih.gov. This process is known as alcohol metabolism, and it enables alcohol to be eliminated from the body. Studies have found that some people may have a higher risk of developing liver disease due to their genes, which affects how their bodies process alcohol.

Can alcohol affect bowel movements?

Yes, alcohol can affect how much and how often a person poops. It can irritate the digestive system and change how the body absorbs fluids, leading to either diarrhea or constipation, according to Medical News Today. Alcohol consumption also affects the gut microbiota, which can influence digestion and bowel movements.

How does alcohol affect the liver?

Alcohol metabolism is key to alcohol's dangers, particularly for the liver, which metabolizes most of the alcohol in the body and produces acetaldehyde. Attributed to Verywellmind.com, this is a contributing factor to Alcohol-Related Liver Disease. Research has found that even moderate drinking can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.


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