10 Fascinating Digestive Health Facts
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In honour of World Digestive Health Day, dive into these fun digestive facts!

How the digestive system works to keep us health on world digestive health day

Do you know how your digestion works? The digestive tract is a complex and fascinating system that plays a vital role in our health and well-being. From breaking down food to absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste, our digestive system is constantly working to keep our bodies nourished and healthy. 

Here are 10 facts you might not have known about digestion, and how your digestive tract works:  

1. The digestive tract, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is a long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. It’s longer than you think! In fact, the average human digestive tract is about 30 feet long – that’s about the length of a school bus!

2. The digestive tract is composed of several organs, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. Digestion also relies on the support of accessory organs such as the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder.  

3. If we were to estimate the surface area of the digestive tract, including the internal surface of the small intestine and large intestine, it could be anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 square feet! This is due to the extensive folding and microscopic villi that line the walls of the intestines, which greatly increase the surface area available for nutrient absorption.

4. It’s estimated that there are trillions of bacteria living in our gut, comprising hundreds or even thousands of different species. The exact number of bacteria can vary from person to person depending on factors such as diet, lifestyle, and genetics. Collectively, these bacteria are known as the gut microbiome, and they play an important role in digestion, immune function, and overall health. 

5. The digestive process includes two different types of digestion:  

  • Mechanical digestion – this refers to the physical breaking down of food such as chewing food with our teeth, and the churning and break up of food by the powerful muscles of the stomach  
  • Chemical digestion – this is the breaking down of food via enzymes and acid, some examples being salivary amylase, which starts to break down starches in our mouth, and pepsin, an enzyme in our stomach that helps to break down proteins. 

6. The actual absorption of that food takes place mainly in the small intestine. Similar to the stomach, there are enzymes in the small intestine to help further break down food, making it easier for nutrients to be absorbed and used by the body.  

7. On average, it takes about 6-8 hours to digest a meal, although the exact time can vary depending on the composition of the meal, and can be influenced by other factors such as metabolism, physical activity, and digestive disorders or diseases. Some parts of the meal, such as carbohydrates, are typically digested more quickly than fats and proteins, which can take longer to break down and absorb. 

8. Our gut is often called our “second brain” – this is because it is home to a network of approximately 100 million neurons (more than the spinal cord!)!  This complex network of neurons is called the enteric nervous system, and it is capable of operating independently of the brain and spinal cord, controlling digestive functions such as muscle contractions, enzyme secretion, and blood flow. It’s also thought to play a role in regulating mood and emotions, like when we describe a “gut feeling.” 

9. Stress can have a big impact on digestive health, leading to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. This is because stress can disrupt the normal contractions of the digestive muscles and affect blood flow to the digestive tract. 

10. Your digestive tract is unique to you! Each person’s digestive tract is slightly different, with variations in length, shape, and function. These differences can influence digestive health and at times may require personalized treatment. 

To sum it up, the digestive tract is a complex and remarkable system that plays a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. From the length of the tract to the bacteria that live within it, there is much to learn about this important part of our bodies. By understanding how the digestive system works and how it can be influenced by various factors, we can make informed choices about our diet and lifestyle to support optimal digestive health. 

Struggling with digestion? A dietitian can help! Give us a call and book an appointment with one of our digestive health dietitians, and let us help your gut feel good!  

Struggling with uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, or diarrhea? Contact us to learn about nutrition counselling.

For more information on nutrition counseling for digestion issues and support on what to eat for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), the low FODMAP diet, constipation, diarrhea, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, colitis and other digestive health concerns, CONTACT US.

One of our specialized gut health dietitians can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling.

Learn more about our programs here

Check out these related posts on our blog:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As seen in


Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This