Kids are naturally curious about what’s happening around them, and much more about what’s happening inside their bodies. One of the things they frequently ask is what happens to the food they eat once they swallow it. Surely, you would not want to answer their questions with made up stories or end up scrambling for answers to a simple question.

Learn more about the digestive system for kids and share your newly acquired knowledge in a fun and easy-to-learn way.

Kids’ Digestive System: A Simple Overview

Kids’ Digestive System
Photo by Leysi24 / CC BY-SA

You get the necessary nutrients for growth, development, and energy to perform daily functions from the food you eat, but have you ever wondered what happens to the food inside your body and how your body gathers the entire nutrient it needs?

Digestion is the process of breaking down food molecules into tiny water soluble food molecules that can get into the bloodstream. The digestive system functions are primarily to digest food, so your body can absorb nutrients and to get rid of waste and toxic substances. It comprises of various body organs each with different roles.

Truly, the human body does many amazing things and digestion is one of them. Find out how each part of the digestive system take part in digesting food particles and turn them into waste matter.

The Amazing Organs Involved in Your Digestion

Digestion is a step-by-step process involving many different organs of the digestive system, which include:

It Starts with Your Mouth

You use your mouth for talking, eating and kissing, of course. Digestion starts once you put the food in your mouth. The teeth, tongue and the salivary glands in the mouth are the ones primarily responsible for initially digesting the food.

You take a bite and you chew food with your teeth. The tongue is a hardy muscle that helps prevent you from swallowing the food too early. The salivary glands found in your inner cheeks, under the tongue and in the upper part of your mouth produce saliva that moistens the food and the cavities of your mouth. It lubricates the mouth and throat for easier passage of food. The saliva also contains amylase, which helps break down carbohydrates.

After You Swallow: The Throat

Photo by Semhur / CC BY-SA

The throat or pharynx lies just behind the mouth. It connects the mouth and the esophagus. The throat is part of both the digestive and respiratory system because the food and air pass through it.

After swallowing the food, it goes into the throat. The soft palate located at the back and upper portion of the mouth lifts to prevent food from going up your nose. The uvula, a small flap connected to the soft palate, helps prevent fluids from going up your nose. In the lower part of the throat is a muscle called epiglottis, which acts as a door to the trachea or windpipe. When food goes down the throat, the epiglottis closes to prevent food and fluids from going into the windpipe and straight to the lungs.

More Than Just Gravity: The Busy Esophagus

The esophagus is a muscular tube, about 20 centimeters long, that connects the throat and the stomach. Its lining is made up of mucus membrane, which helps keep the esophagus moist. In the upper and lower part of the esophagus are two muscular bands – the upper esophageal sphincter and the lower esophageal sphincter. The upper sphincter prevents food from going back up the throat and the lower sphincter will open to let food into the stomach then closes to prevent food and gastric acids from going back up the esophagus.

If you think food could easily pass through the esophagus like a ball being pulled down by gravity, you’re wrong. Once in the esophagus, food will be pushed lower towards the stomach muscle contractions, a process called peristalsis.

Digestion Starts in the Stomach

Finally, the food reached the stomach, but digestion isn’t over yet.

stomachThe stomach located at the upper part of your abdomen just below the chest area is a J-shaped pouch made of muscles. It’s like a big fat letter J, which is hollow on the inside. The stomach is 12 inches high and six inches wide. Usually, it can hold up to one liter of food and fluids but since it is elastic it can expand to accommodate greater food volume.

The stomach maintains a certain pH or acidity level to encourage the production of pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein. The stomach muscles will contract and relax to properly mix food particles and pepsin. Food stays in the stomach for about two to five hours then it will travel into the small intestine.

If the esophagus has a lower esophageal sphincter to prevent food from going back up, the stomach has a pyloric sphincter. After leaving the stomach, food becomes a chyme or a pulp of partially digested food particles and gastric juices.

The Small Intestine Does Most of the Work

The small intestine is a tubular coil, which is more than six meters long and about as wide as your middle finger. The small intestine is pretty long and narrow, isn’t it? Yet, it still is amazing to think that it can fit inside your belly where you can find many other organs.

About 90 percent of digestion takes place in the small intestine. This is where most of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrient absorption happen. The small intestine has three sections, the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Its inner walls are covered with tiny finger-like projections called the villi and the tip of the villi is also covered with tinier villi called the microvilli.

As chyme is about to enter the small intestine, the submucosal glands in the duodenum will release an alkaline mucus to reduce the acidity of the chyme. The lumen located at the hollow middle part of the intestine, the pancreas, and the liver will secrete enzymes to further digest the chyme chemically. Once the nutrients from foods turn into chemical molecules, they will pass through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream.

Your Largest Organ: The Liver

liverDid you know that the liver is the largest solid organ in your body? By the time you become an adult, its size will be that of a football.

Apart from being the largest solid organ, the liver plays big roles, too. It cleanses your blood, it stores energy from sugar and it secretes bile, which is vital in digesting fat.

When vitamins, mineral, and other nutrients get into the bloodstream, the blood will pass through the liver first before circulating all over your body. The liver will sort out the substances your body needs and does not need. The good stuff will get a go sign while the harmful stuff will be carried back to the intestine with the help of bile. The harmful substances will get out of your body together with your poop.

Often Ignored, But Important: Your Gallbladder

Too often, the gallbladder is hardly given a thought unless it starts to hurt. Located in the upper right of the abdomen, the primary function of the gallbladder is to store the bile unused by your body. The liver produces bile the stores it in the gallbladder and when the small intestines send a signal the gallbladder will release it.

In some instances, surgical removal of the bile is necessary but there is nothing to worry because digestion still goes on without it. It’s one of the organs your body can do without.

Your Pancreas and Enzymes

The pancreas is another taken for granted organ; although, it plays vital roles in digestion. Located in the upper part of the abdomen behind your stomach, one of the pancreas digestive functions is the secretion of enzymes, which break down proteins and fats in the food you eat. It also releases bicarbonate to neutralize gastric acid coming from the stomach to the small intestine.

The Appendix: An Organ You Can Do Without

Photo by Drvgaikwad / CC BY

The appendix is a small organ found at the beginning of your large intestine. One of its ends is open and connects to the large intestine while the other end is closed. It contains cells that fight off infection similar to your tonsils.

The pancreas has a lining, which gathers fluid from the blood vessels and collects it in the middle of the appendix. When something blocks the open end of the appendix such as a large particle or an inflamed tissue, the appendix will push so hard to release the fluid to the large intestine. The squeezing by the appendix can cause colicky pain. As fluid accumulates, the pancreas will increase in size until it damages a part of its wall and causes it to burst.

Burst appendicitis can make you sick. An ultrasound, which helps the doctor see what’s happening inside your belly, can help determine pancreas problem. Removal of the appendix may be necessary but don’t worry, it’s another organ your body can go on without.

Finishing the Job: Your Large Intestine

If 90 percent of digestion takes place in the small intestine, the remaining percentage happens in the large intestine.

The large intestine is shorter than the small intestine, about five feet in adults. But, the reason they call it large is because of how wide it is.

The main function of the large intestine is to absorb water from the digested food particles. Food can stay for 18 hours up to two days. Did you know that you can live without your large intestine? When an illness affects the large intestine, a doctor can remove it surgically and your body can still go on. However, since its function is to absorb water your poop becomes liquid without the large intestine.

large intestine
Photo by BruceBlaus / CC BY

The colon or the large intestine is prone to developing many disorders. It can become clogged or inflamed due to a poor unhealthy diet, too much stress and overgrowth of bacteria. Forgetfulness, sensitivity to certain foods and dry and dull-looking skin are some of the unsuspicious manifestations of a colon problem. Colon cleansing is a way of getting rid of the toxin buildup and the easiest way to do it is take a colon cleansing supplement and feed your gut with probiotics. Intensive Colon Cleanse and Maximum Digestion Probiotic by Digestive Sciences is one of the emerging brands in colon cleansing supplements.

Before trying out any colon cleansing product, ask your doctor if it’s necessary and if it’s safe for you to use.

The End of the Road: Your Rectum

From the large intestine, the digested food comes out to the rectum as stool. The rectum is eight inches long and it stores poop until your brain tells it to release by pooping, of course. When the brain gives a go signal the rectal sphincter relaxes and the rectal muscles contract to push poop through.

Your Anus Works with Your Pelvic Floor

The end part of the digestive tract is the anus, which consists of the pelvic floor muscles and anal sphincters. The internal anal sphincter tells you whether the passing poop is solid, liquid or if it’s not poop and just gas. The pelvic floor muscles prevent poop from going straight to the anus from the rectum while the external sphincter lets you hold poop for a time just enough to get to the comfort room.

There you go, that’s how a mouthwatering slice of pizza or an extra-large fries is turned into fuel for your body.

Digestive System Facts for Kids

Now you know the organs involved in digestion. It’s time to discover tiny bits of amazing information about adults’ and children’s digestive system.

  1. bacteriaYour Gut Contains Has An Ecosystem of Bacteria. When you hear the word bacteria, the first thing that comes to mind is getting sick. There are bacteria that make us sick and there are friendly bacteria that aid your health. Did you know that human beings have an average of 400 million different species of bacteria in the colon? Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria is vital maintaining digestive and overall health.
  2. The Time It Takes Food to Travel From Your Mouth to Your Stomach Depends on What It Is. Liquids may take a couple of seconds. Semisolid foods like prodigy or cereal can take a maximum of four seconds while solid foods like burgers and biscuits may take about seven seconds.
  3. Digestion Defies Gravity. How’s that? Whether you’re upside down food will still travel from your mouth to your stomach and your intestines when you eat.
  4. A Woman’s Small Intestine Is Longer Than a Man’s. This is according to a gastroenterologist who said that women’s small intestine is 10 cm longer than men. According to theories, this could be due to the fact that women have to absorb more water during pregnancy and for giving birth.
  5. Its Name May Not be Appropriate to Its Size. Did you know that the surface area of the small intestine is about 2,700 feet? That’s more than the size of a basketball court. Wow.
  6. Your Stomach Secretes Acid to Aid The Breakdown of Food. One of the gastric acids called hydrochloric acid can dissolve metal but it won’t affect the plastic.
  7. When You Smell or See Something Savory, Your Mouth Drools. Did you know that your salivary glands can produce one to two liters of saliva a day even with the absence of mouthwatering delicacies? That’s enough drool to wet your shirt.
  8. fart
    Photo by Towsonu2003 / CC BY-SA

    Bacteria Cause The Rotten Egg Smell of Gas. Internal gas is a combination of gas you swallow and the gasses formed when there is fermentation of food in your digestive tract. There are certain food components your digestive system can’t break down and will be passed to the large intestine. Groups of bacteria will try to break it down. During this process, bacteria will emit gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide, which make your fart awfully smelly.

  9. We Eat a Lot of Food. On average, a person eats 1,102 pounds of food per year.
  10. Only a Small Portion of What You Eat Becomes Poop. Every day, an adult person eats and drinks approximately 11.5 liters of food and drinks, but only 100 milliliters become poop.

These are only some of many interesting and amazing facts about your digestion. You may already know some of them and some may come as a surprise. Now, it’s time to share your knowledge about the digestive system to the kids out there.

Make learning digestive system for kids more fun and easy, you can create the digestive system for kids’ worksheets. Come up with digestive system activities for kids or let them watch a digestive system for kids’ video here. Digestive system games are also a great idea. The more fun kids experience, the more they’ll be interested in learning.

The more you know about digestive system facts, the more you’ll be able to share your knowledge with kids in a fun and easy-to-learn way.