Understanding the Anatomy of the GI System


To help break down and properly use the food you consume, your body has a highly functional system called the gastrointestinal or GI tract. At Arizona Digestive Health, we specialize in the wellness and maintenance of this essential system of the body. Our wish is to help you gain a greater understanding of your gastrointestinal health, and our doctors treat a large number of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases. If you’re seeking a GI specialist in Phoenix, AZ, then our practice can connect you with digestive health physicians near you. Keep reading to find out more about the GI tract and the role it plays in your health.

What is the gastrointestinal tract?

Your gastrointestinal system is made up of a sequence of linked organs that move and break down the food items you eat. By way of chemical and mechanical digestion, these bodily organs break down food into its most fundamental elements so your body can extract the nutrients it relies on and dispose of the waste. The digestive tract consists of hollow organs, including the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, and large bowel, that store and move food through the body. Also part of the intestinal system are the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. These components store and create digestive enzymes and juices, among carrying out other responsibilities.

What structures comprise the digestive system?

The various components of the gastrointestinal system all work together to carry out the important job of digesting food. Gastrointestinal organs in the order of digestive function include:

  • Oral Cavity: The primary portion of the digestive tract, the mouth is where mechanical and chemical digestion starts. You mechanically diminish food into smaller bites by chewing, and your saliva initiates the chemical component of digestive function.

  • Esophagus: When food has been diminished into manageable bites, it is delivered to the stomach by passing through 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 collected and mixed with acid and enzymes that further the chemical digestive process.

  • Pancreas: The pancreas generates enzymes that break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and creates insulin, a hormone that helps you process sugar.

  • Gallbladder: The important digestive chemical known as bile is housed in the gallbladder.

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

  • Small Bowel: The small bowel completes the process of breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and the broken-down nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.

  • Large Bowel/Appendix/Colon: In the large intestine, fluids are taken from digested food and what is left prepares to exit the body as stool.

  • Rectum: The rectum is a segment positioned at the end of the colon that stores stool until it is ready to be evacuated.

  • Anus: Located at the very end of the GI tract, the anus is made up of sphincter muscles that assist in managing the elimination of bodily waste.

A clinician who identifies, treats, and helps manage diseases of the GI tract is called a gastroenterologist or GI physician. People can connect with a gastroenterologist in Phoenix, AZ through Arizona Digestive Health, a physician-led group of experienced GI specialists.

What factors make the gastrointestinal system so important?

The organs in your gastrointestinal tract function to help the body process and take in essential nourishment from the food you consume. This nourishment is then used to give your body energy, aid in growth, and repair cells. Remnants of food remaining following the digestion process are then disposed of in the form of waste or stool. Should you be impacted by GI diseases, your ability to break down food and eliminate waste may be impaired, which can significantly influence your general health and wellness.

When should I see a GI physician in Phoenix, AZ?

In the event you’re experiencing alarming issues with your intestinal system, like ongoing heartburn, constipation or diarrhea, blood in your stool, or abdominal pain, we encourage you to visit a gastroenterologist at Arizona Digestive Health. Our doctors in Phoenix, AZ strive to put the needs of our patients first, using advanced technologies and treatments to maintain GI health. If you notice any symptoms, require a colon cancer screening, or desire to learn more about protecting your intestinal wellness, please contact Arizona Digestive Health for a treatment consultation.