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Some of you may know that I had an ostomy for about three months. Specifically an ileostomy. I have realized, however, that not many people know that there's a big difference between an ileostomy and a colostomy (including a few healthcare professionals). Because of this, I thought it might be good to write a post about colostomies.

As I started writing and thinking about it, I realized that it's important to know more about the digestive tract. I decided to conduct a little more research before explaining the different types of ostomies. I thought it might be helpful to write a post about my findings. 

Please remember: I am not a doctor, a nurse or any kind of medical professional. I am writing about what I have found in my own research online. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt and know that you should always consult your doctor about any medical advice.

What is digestion?
Basically, it is the process of turning food into energy and byproducts or waste (aka, poop!). It begins before we even start eating, being activated by smells, sights or even thoughts!

Take a look at the chart below, and follow along as I use numbers to indicate the organs I am talking about.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.


The brain has a strong influence on the stomach. When we think about food or eating, our bodies start producing the proper chemicals needed for the breakdown of food. 

Our mouths produce saliva from the salivary glands. Saliva contains 98% water and 2% enzymes, electrolytes and antibacterial substances. We produce anywhere from 1 - 2 liters of saliva a day (which equals about 4-8 cups). Our tongues and teeth start the breakdown of food with chewing.

Your throat, or pharynx receives food after being chewed. It is then sent to your stomach via the esophagus using a wavelike muscle contraction called peristalsis.

Once the chewed up bits of food (called bolus) reaches the stomach, the acids start breaking everything down. After it separates food by churning and using chemicals, the broken down food (called chime) is pushed through the pyloric valve, located at the bottom of the stomach, into the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine).

This organ regulates insulin and produces enzymes to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

The liver performs over 500 different functions. When it comes to digestion, its main function is the creation of bile, which helps dissolve fats.

This is where bile is produced. It is then released into the duodenum. What we eat determines the concentration of the bile produced.

The small intestine is comprised of three main parts. The duodenum which is where the "chyme" is mixed with a number of enzymes, aiding in the absorption of proteins. The lining of the jejunum and the ileum is designed for the absorption of proteins and carbohydrates.

The large intestine is also comprised of three parts. When food enters here, it is no longer being broken down. What is left at this point is mostly water, plant fiber, electrolytes and some dead cells from the intestinal wall lining. The three main parts of the large intestine are the cecum, colon and rectum. The colon absorbs the remaining water, salt and vitamins before it exits the body.

When food/waste reaches the rectum, it is stretched. This sends a signal to the brain telling it that it is time to pass a bowel movement. The waste is then pushed through the anus, which is the opening at the other end of the digestive tract. Its function is to control this expulsion of feces and prevent exposure to the environment.

So this is what I've found out about the digestive tract in my own limited research. There is so much more to it than this, but here are the basics. Remember, I am no medical professional, so this post is NOT intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Please refer to your doctor if you have any questions. I have not had the training of a doctor and would not be a good person to ask. I hope all of you are well! Keep in touch!!!

ALSO: I want to say a BIG thanks to Shelly from Shelly's Story for her suggestions and information (she's studying to be a doctor!). Check out her blog if you get the chance. You can also find her on Twitter @UlcColitisProbz.

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