Understanding the Structures of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract


To digest and properly use the food you consume, your body has a very important system called the gastrointestinal or GI tract. At Colorado Gastroenterology, we concentrate on the maintenance and wellness of this crucial system of the body. Our goal is to help you better understand your GI health, and our physicians treat a large number of gastrointestinal diseases and conditions. If you’re looking for a GI doctor in Denver, CO, our caring team can help you locate a digestive health specialist near you. We encourage you to read on to discover more about the digestive system and the role it plays in your health.

What should I know about the digestive system?

Your gastrointestinal system consists of a number of linked organs that transport and break down the food you take in. As a result of mechanical and chemical digestion, these organs diminish food into its most simple components so that your body is able to take in the nutrients it needs and expel the waste products. The gastrointestinal tract is composed of hollow organs, such as the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, and large bowel, that house and move nutrients through your body. Additionally grouped in the digestive tract are the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. These organs store and generate digestive enzymes and fluids, along with carrying out further functions.

What are the structures of the digestive tract?

The various components that comprise the GI tract work together to perform the essential function of digesting food. The organs of the digestive tract in order of function include:

  • Oral Cavity: The first portion of the digestive tract, the mouth is where chemical and mechanical digestion begin. We mechanically break food down into smaller pieces by chewing, and saliva starts the chemical component of digestive function.

  • Esophagus: Once food has been reduced into manageable bites, it makes its way to the stomach via the esophagus. The esophagus performs muscular contractions when you swallow, moving food to the next phase of digestion.

  • Stomach: The stomach is a chamber found in the upper part of the abdomen, which is where food is stored and mixed with acid and enzymes that propagate the chemical digestive process.

  • Pancreas: Your pancreas creates enzymes that process carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and creates insulin, a hormone that helps the body process sugar.

  • Gallbladder: The gallbladder stores the vital digestive chemical known as bile.

  • Liver: The liver carries out a variety of digestive functions, including the production of bile and the reduction of toxins.

  • Small Bowel: The small bowel finishes breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and the processed nutrients are taken up into the circulatory system.

  • Large Intestine/Appendix/Colon: In the large intestine, fluids are extracted from our digested food and the remnants are prepared to evacuate the body in the form of stool.

  • Rectum: The rectum is a chamber found at the end of the large bowel that stores stool until it is ready to be eliminated.

  • Anus: Found at the very end of the digestive tract, the anus is comprised of sphincter muscles that aid in controlling the evacuation of bodily waste.

A practitioner who diagnoses, treats, and helps manage diseases of the GI tract is referred to as a gastroenterologist or GI doctor. You or a loved one can connect with a gastrointestinal doctor in Denver, CO through Colorado Gastroenterology, a physician-led network of board-certified specialists.

Why is the digestive system so vital?

The organs that make up the GI tract work to help the body break down and uptake vital nutrients from the food you eat. These nutrients are then utilized to give you necessary energy, facilitate growth, and for cellular maintenance throughout the body. Remnants of food left over after digestion are then eliminated from the body in the form of waste or stool. When you are affected by intestinal diseases, your ability to break down food and get rid of stool may be impaired, which can significantly affect your overall health and wellness.

When should you visit a GI specialist in Denver, CO?

Should you experience worrisome issues with your GI health, like ongoing heartburn, constipation or diarrhea, blood in your stool, or abdominal discomfort, we urge you to meet with a GI doctor at Colorado Gastroenterology. Our specialists in Denver, CO strive to put the needs of our patients first, incorporating advanced treatments and technologies to help protect your intestinal health and wellness. If you have GI symptoms, require a colon cancer screening, or want to learn more about how to protect your digestive health, please contact Colorado Gastroenterology to arrange for a treatment consultation.