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The Digestive System Facts: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Your Body

By    |   Tuesday, 03 May 2016 05:25 PM

The digestive system is how your body takes in, absorbs, and processes food as either biological fuel or disposable waste. Here are some facts you might not know about bodily digestion, which the famed Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov once described as a "complex" series of "separate chemical laboratories equipped with various mechanical devices."

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1. It's really big.
The digestive system can run to 30 feet in length inside the typical adult body, as measured from the mouth to the anus. Even that number only hints at this internal tract's full dimensions: The small intestine alone contains a total surface area of almost 2,700 square feet — the size of a tennis court — counting all of its folded membranes and nutrient-absorbing villi, according to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

2. Problems along the way are common.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has estimated that diseases of the digestive system — including gastritis, ulcers, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome — account for 51 million patient visits each year to doctor's offices, hospitals, and emergency care facilities.

3. It can affect your mood.
A 2013 article in Scientific American pointed to "mounting evidence … that diet and gut bacteria are able to influence our behavior, thoughts, and mood." A 2011 survey conducted by three European researchers reported by the National Institutes of Health noted that "an increasing number of clinical studies have shown that treating gastrointestinal inflammations with probiotics, vitamin B, D and omega 3 fatty acids … may also improve depression symptoms and quality of life."

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4. Diet matters.
For all the claims of ravenous eaters with cast-iron stomachs, the digestive system is not immune to injury. "What you eat can contribute to digestive problems," reports WebMD, noting also, "Many digestive problems can be prevented by eating a healthy, balanced diet."

5. You owe gastric health to a sword swallower.
The first gastroscope — a lighted probe placed into the digestive tract — was the work of a 19th Century German physician, Adolf Kussmaul, who got advice from a professional sword swallower on how to safely pass an artificial device down the esophagus, surgeon and author Camrat Nezhat wrote in his 2011 book, "Nezhat's History of Endoscopy." Kussmaul went on to perform the first gastroscopic procedure in 1868.

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The digestive system is how your body takes in, absorbs, and processes food as either biological fuel or disposable waste. Here are some facts you might not know about bodily digestion.
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2016-25-03
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 05:25 PM
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