The digestive system consists of organs functioning together to convert your food into usable energy. Your digestive system plays an important role in your body’s general wellbeing. Studies(1) have shown that a majority of human diseases are a result of the inability of the digestive system to function well.
This article contains a summary of the benefits of a healthy digestive system as opposed to the detrimental effects of an unhealthy one.
What is a healthy digestive system?
A healthy digestive system is a collection of digestive organs and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract functioning at optimum to convert food into energy. The GI tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The digestive organs on the other hand consist of the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
These organs break down consumed food and convert them into basic nutrients to be absorbed into the blood by the small intestine. As blood flows around the body, it carries these nutrients with it to supply to cells for energy. On the other hand, the large intestine is responsible for removing undigested food from the system.
Why You Need A healthy digestive system
A healthy digestive system confers health benefits such as;
Stronger immune system
Your immune system is associated with your digestive system in a way. There are ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system and studies(2) have shown that the cells in the intestine secret antibodies in relation to them. This helps to regulate and develop your immune system against foreign pathogens.
Managing healthy weight
A healthy digestive system may help you to manage a healthy body weight. Your body burns calories during metabolism to convert food into energy. In other words, your digestive system uses part of the energy gained from food during digestion and reduces the amount of energy stored in the body.
Body detoxification is one benefits of a healthy digestive system. Not everything you eat is beneficial to your body, this is why the body expels it. During digestion, the liver functions(3) in processing these toxins. It separates toxins from nutrients and converts them to other forms, for removal. Some examples of toxins that are broken down by the liver are ammonia, excess proteins or even medications.
Regulating bowel movement
Regular bowel movement is an important indicator of a healthy digestive system. As far as you are eating regularly, unwanted food materials should be expelled regularly from the body. This is another benefit of a healthy digestive system.
Effects of an unhealthy digestive system
When your digestive system is in poor health, there may be recurring problems as such;
Acid reflux or gastro esophagus reflux occurs when the stomach acid moves up into the esophagus. Frequent occurrence of acid reflux may lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This condition is accompanied by heartburn – a burning sensation in the chest, bitter taste in the mouth, and difficulty in swallowing.
Another detrimental effect of an unhealthy digestive system is formation of gallstones. They are formed when bile secretion is hardened and deposited in the gall bladder. It is also caused by high cholesterol intake and incomplete emptying of the gallbladder.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements are not as frequent as they ought to be. It is caused by dehydration and intestinal pH imbalances. This condition is accompanied by hard and painful bowel movements. It may also lead to hemorrhoids from over exertion during defecation.
Diarrhea occurs when bowel movements are too frequent, loose, and watery. This condition may be caused by bacteria infection or intolerance to certain foods. It may be managed by increasing intake of probiotics and prebiotics.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is another detrimental effect of an unhealthy digestive system. It is a gastrointestinal disorder accompanied by pain in the abdomen, constipation or diarrhea, and excessive bloating.
Hemorrhoid forms when blood vessels inside the rectum become swollen by the pooling of excess blood. It is caused by constipation, diarrhea, straining and prolonged sitting. Symptoms include pain and rectal bleeding.
1. Yu-Jie Zhang, et al. “Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2015 Apr; 16(4): 7493–7519.
2. Hsin-Jung Wu, et al. “The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity” Gut Microbes. 2012 Jan 1; 3(1): 4–14.
3. Makoto Shimizu “Modulation of Intestinal Functions by Dietary Substances: An Effective Approach to Health Promotion” J Tradit Complement Med. 2012 Apr-Jun; 2(2): 81–83.