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The 6 Functions of your Digestive System

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

Understand how your digestive system works and why it's important to nurture.

Diet alone won't help you if you suffer from any digestive discomfort. Healing your gut must be your priority. The majority of your immune system resides in your gut, and it is imperative that it is healthy and functioning optimally.

The 6 functions of your gut include: Ingestion, Mechanical Processing, Digestion, Secretion, Absorption and Excretion


Ingestion refers to the active process of how food enters your digestive tract thru your mouth. This function depends on your food habits. It is the personal part of making good healthy choices, organic, grass fed, gluten-free, whole food choices. This function requires thought and commitment. It is this step that will set all the other steps up for success.

Mechanical Processing

Mechanical processing is the crushing, chewing and tearing of food in your mouth helping it break down and move thru your digestive tract. This processing increases the surface area of your food so enzymes can break it down further. Chewing of food does more than just break down the food, it sends signals to your brain to release enzymes. It then mixes saliva and enzymes with your food.


Digestion refers to the chemical breakdown of food in your system. It is the splitting of food molecules into small fragments. It breaks down food into sugars, proteins, and fats so they can be absorbed. Proteins must be broken down into smaller fragments of amino acids as well as large polysaccharides broken down into glucose. Digestion is a critical point in the process, ensuring molecules are properly broken down to be absorbed and used for energy elsewhere in the body.


Secretion is the release of substances from your digestive tract and glands within your body. They release water, acids, enzymes, buffer and salts to aid in digestion. These substances provide lubrication and moisture for the products of digestion to move through your system and render them soluble and to be utilized in different ways.


Absorption is when digested molecules, electrolytes, vitamins and water cross from the interstitial tract (small intestine) outside of the digestive tract. They move into the bloodstream and are swept away to the liver. Absorption is how the body begins to utilize what you eat. It is the doorway into the rest of the body and being able to use food for energy and other processes. When bad food (unhealthy oils, gluten, trans fats, etc.) continually bombard the intestine, the cell walls in your gut become damaged and larger molecules and toxins enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your body creating an inflammatory response.


Excretion is the act of removing waste products from your body in the form of poop. Elimination is a key process in your digestive tract and will cause big problems if it is not functioning correctly. Constipation is one of those problems. The inability to eliminate causes backup, toxins, discomfort and other intestinal issues. Eating a high fiber diet is important to maintaining a healthy plumbing system internally. Ample water intake maintains moisture in your stool and helps it move thru your system.

Your digestive tract also protects you against corrosive effects of enzymes and acids, has a built in mechanical "moving" system to prevent stress and helps to protect you from foreign bacteria. It is important to drink lots of fluids, eat healthy whole foods filled with fiber and get enough sleep to help keep your digestive system in good working order.

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