Healthy Habits

A normal meal stays in the stomach for two to three hours. A big meal may "tummy nap" for five hours or more! No wonder you're often wiped out after a large meal.

Healthy Habits

It takes about ten minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full of food. So eat slowly and enjoy what you're eating. Eating too fast and while you are distracted (like watching TV) means you might be overeating.

Healthy Habits

High fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans help move waste out of your body. Fiber lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease.


Food goes on a grand journey — an internal health trek — through your body, from when you first eat it to when you get rid of what's left as waste product. This is how you get energy and nutrients to power your growth during your adolescent years. Without proper digestion and good nutrition, your health will suffer. Get the scoop on the digestive process and learn about the organs necessary to achieve it. Here's a look on the inside to help you get on track.

illustration of food traveling when eaten

Food, Its Incredible Journey

Keeping your digestive system in great shape by eating lots of healthy foods and drinking water should be a master plan for life. It's good to start now while you're still growing and building a strong body.

Keep in Mind Fatty foods can be difficult to digest. Try to eat them in moderation. Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals helps solids bulk up in the large intestine so you can smoothly move out the waste.

Check out the "The Well-Traveled Meal" chart to see the interesting path food takes — and how important this whole process is!

The Well Traveled Meal
  • Your teeth and tongue chop up the food and then it’s mixed with saliva.
  • Food goes through the pharynx and down the esophagus into the stomach.
  • Digestive juices in the stomach break down food into a creamy mixture.
  • This mixture goes into the small intestine where more juices are added.
  • The digested food and nutrients are absorbed into your blood through the wall of the small intestine.
  • The liver processes nutrients by filtering out any harmful substances or wastes before the nutrients can be carried in the blood to the rest of the body.
  • The undigested food enters the large intestine as a liquid paste. Water is removed from the liquid paste turning what is left into solid waste. The solid waste then leaves the body when you go to the bathroom.

Play! Organize this — PUTTING ORGANS IN ORDER!

Have fun putting organs in the right order with ORGANize This, our interactive game. Take a scrambled mess of digestive organs, straighten them out, answer some questions and get them correctly organized. More fun than playing "Operation" — anatomically correct!

How Your Digestion System Works

More details on the Well-traveled Meal.

Mouth illustration

Mouth - The mouth has three major weapons for starting the breakdown of our food so that our bodies can use it as energy:

Small_number_1Teeth are responsible for grinding, mashing and chewing the food.
Small_number_2The tongue is the main player in swallowing. It has the power to move and mush the food.
Small_number_3Saliva is mixed with the food to help it continue its journey into the esophagus.
Pharynx illustration

Pharynx — The pharynx is the passageway from the mouth to the esophagus. It also is a part of the respiratory system, moving air from the mouth to the lungs.


Esophagus — The esophagus is like a stretchy pipe that's about 10 inches long. It connects the mouth to the stomach. When food moves down the esophagus, it goes toward the stomach.

Stomach illustration

Stomach — Surprisingly, the stomach is only about the size of your fist! But it can stretch to hold a full meal and drink. The stomach is muscular so it can stretch and shrink so often. It squeezes and churns the food, mixing it with digestive juices (acids and enzymes).

Small Intestine illustration

Small Intestine — Here's a fact to impress your friends.
Your small intestine is 20 to 25 feet long! It is twisted, folded and turned many times like a gigantic bowl of spaghetti. The pancreas, the liver and the gallbladder send different juices to the first part of the small intestine. The pancreas makes juices that help the body digest fats and protein. A juice from the liver called bile helps to absorb fats into the bloodstream. The gallbladder is like a warehouse for this bile, holding onto extra amounts of it when the body needs it. As the thick liquid paste travels through your small intestine, the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats) from the food can finally pass through the wall of the small intestine into your blood.


Liver — The nutrients from food go to the liver first. The blood brings them there before going anywhere else. The liver processes the nutrients by filtering out harmful substances and wastes. The liver figures out how many nutrients will go to the rest of the body, and how many will stay behind in storage. After everything has passed through the liver for inspection, the nutrients can be carried in the blood to the rest of the body.


Large intestine — The large intestine is the end of the road for food digestion. Even when most of the nutrients have been absorbed from the liquid food mix in the small intestine, some parts of the food remain because the body can't use them. This leftover waste moves into the large intestine. On its way, it goes into the colon — the part of the large intestine where most of the water that is left in the liquid mix is absorbed into the blood. As the water leaves the mix, the remaining waste gets harder as it moves along until it becomes a solid. When this solid waste reaches the end of the large intestine, it collects in the rectum at the end of the large intestine and finally leaves the body through an opening called the anus.

Digestion — The Journey Without End

Now you've got a good idea of how your body deals with what you eat. It's a cycle that continues as your dietary needs constantly must be met to keep you alive. You've got to keep your machine energized and fueled up. That's the way it works, a journey without end. Your digestive organs perform an amazing process tied directly to good nutrition and to a lifetime of smart eating decisions. Good digestive system health gives you the energy and nutrients for adolescent growth.

Do you have a student access code?

Enter your access code below and then enter your name and submit your progress report.