Do you understand the gut? Here is an extract from a book I wrote in collaboration with #EvelinaLondonChildrensHospital.
The parts of our body that make up the digestive system are together called the Gastro Intestinal Tract, the GI Tract or simply the Gut. Their function is to break food into minute pieces, extract and absorb the nutrients and get rid of any waste.
The GI tract is a long tube of muscles and nerves (the enteric nervous system) that work together to create movement from the moment food enters our mouth until the waste remnants come out the other end as poo (which medical people often call stool or faeces.)
This is called mechanical digestion.
The liver, gallbladder and pancreas produce and release chemicals called digestive enzymes that react with the food we have eaten. This is called chemical digestion.
The three sections of the gut: from the mouth to the stomach; from the stomach to the small intestine and from the small intestine to the large intestine, each have a different role. Each has a sphincter which is a valve or a ‘door’ of muscle which opens briefly to allow
food to exit when it is ready to move onto the next section.
As food moves between the three sections, its consistency changes. By the time it reaches the small intestine, it is liquid and nutrients are ready for absorption into the blood stream. Once in the blood, they are transported to the liver for distribution through the body, providing the energy we need to survive and thrive. Whatever remains passes into the
large intestine where water is absorbed and poo is formed.
The gut is extraordinarily robust and adaptable but many things can go wrong and cause problems. Some of these are minor and will be fixed naturally in time; others by a change in diet but some require medicines and even surgery.
Internal pain, exhaustion, changes in diet and unpredictable bowel habits can affect quality of life and need to be recognised. It is important that everyone involved in the care of your child understands their condition to be able to support them effectively and empathetically.
Gut Feeling is an easy to read, illustrated guide especially designed for parents whose children have significant digestive conditions. The booklet describes some of the challenges parents face, the impact these may have on day to day life and ways to help deal with them.
The illustrations and fun facts to share with a child will foster a family's understanding of the gut and will engage a child more positively with what is happening inside them.