Where Does Food Go After We Eat?

What did you eat for breakfast today? And what happened to the food? Every bite goes on a long journey through your digestive system. So, where exactly does food go after you eat? Your amazing anatomy has a series of tunnels with a super long name – the gastrointestinal tract.


The gastrointestinal (ga·strow·uhn·teh·stuh·nuhl) tract!

What is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract?

human gastrointestinal tract - where food goes after you eat

“Gastro” is the scientific name for “stomach”, and “intestinal” refers to the “intestines.”

Because the gastrointestinal tract has so many syllables, you can call it the GI tract for short.

You can even call it the digestive tract. With all of these nicknames, you can pick and choose your favorite!

Let’s journey through the human gastrointestinal tract and find out where food goes after you eat.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract anatomy diagram

Before going on a trip, looking at a map is a good idea so you don’t get lost!

The adventure starts at your face and goes all the way to your butt.

Here are the destinations – also known as organs – that food goes to after you eat:

  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small intestines
  • Large intestines
  • Anus
Where does food go after you eat? Through digestive tract - labeled anatomy diagram.

FUN FACT: Most of these organs are made of smooth muscle.

How does your mouth digest food?

Child about to eat watermelon, wondering where does food go after we eat?

The mouth is the biggest hole in your face and the first part of the gastrointestinal tract!

You take big bites, tiny nibbles, and medium-sized chomps of food with your mouth. As you chew, your teeth tear the food into smaller shreds.

Have you noticed that the inside of your mouth feels watery when you are hungry and eating? That’s because your mouth makes spit.

Spit is a liquid with important chemicals that break down food. It also makes food slippery and easier to swallow.

DID YOU KNOW? Saliva is the scientific word for spit.

What is the esophagus?

It’s time to ride down the first tunnel slide – the esophagus! Wheee!

The esophagus is a long tunnel in the middle of your neck and chest. This straight section of your gastrointestinal tract carries food from the back of your throat to the stomach.

The key word here is “carries” because the food you eat doesn’t slip or drop straight down the esophagus.

The esophagus has muscular walls that squeeze and push food through the esophagus tunnel. Squeeze, push, squeeze, push. Down, down, down. After a few seconds, food will make its way to the stomach.

What happens in your stomach?

human stomach anatomy

Mix, mash, churn!

Food has arrived at the stretchiest part of your gastrointestinal tract, the stomach. While you eat, your stomach gets bigger as it fills up with food.

The stomach muscles push food up, down, and around the stomach like a blender for the next few hours. It also makes an acidic juice that transforms solid food pieces into a liquid paste.

When your stomach finishes its job, it gradually releases pasty bits of food into the small intestines. Then, the stomach goes back to its regular, smaller size.

Here’s a peek at the stomach in action!

What are the small intestines?

Hold on tight because food just got to the twistiest part of the gastrointestinal tract!

small intestines - gastrointestinal tract anatomy

The extremely long, small intestines are folded to fit in your belly. But if you could stretch out the small intestines, this long tunnel would measure around 22 feet (7 meters) long! That’s about as long as 22 spaghetti noodles laid out end-to-end.

Speaking of spaghetti, the intestines look like a pile of cooked noodles!

The partially digested food is pushed through the small intestines for the next few hours. This is where your body absorbs all those good nutrients, like vitamins and minerals.

What are the large intestines?

So much has happened already, but there’s still more work! Some of the food you eat can’t get digested.

Human gastrointestinal tract - large intestines anatomy - the last place food goes after you eat

Leftover food is like garbage to the body. Whatever the body can’t digest becomes waste that gradually travels through the large intestines.

Up, across, and down toward your bottom.

Over the next 1 to 2 days, as undigested food travels through the large intestines, water gets absorbed from the leftovers, while waste gradually turns to poop.

FUN FACT: The large intestines are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Even though the large intestines are shorter than the small intestines, they get their name for being thicker.

What is the anus part of your anatomy?

Whew! The food you eat finally makes it to the finish line!

The destination at the very end of your gastrointestinal tract is called the anus.

Through this hole, waste from the intestines can leave your body out of your bottom and into a toilet or a diaper.

Goodbye, poop! The journey is finally over.

end of the digestive tract

How does your gastrointestinal tract digest the food you eat?

How do chunks of food get smaller in your digestive tract? Learn more about your gastrointestinal tract anatomy!

Digestive system experiment from Human Body Learning Lab anatomy book for kids

You can see how the stomach digests food with a simple Tube-to-Tummy Experiment from the Human Body Learning Lab book.

Human Body Learning Lab is filled with kid-friendly science facts, memorable experiments, diverse realistic images, and practical health tips.

Learn more about how your body handles the food you eat

Where does pee go after you drink and eat?

As you may have noticed, the gastrointestinal tract helps you poop, not pee. So, where does pee come from? Discover the truth from these articles!

Human Body Learning has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on information from peer-reviewed research studies, academic institutions, and medical associations.

Published on August 14, 2022. Updated on January 23, 2024 by Betty Choi, MD

Published on August 14, 2022. Updated on January 23, 2024 by Betty Choi, MD

Dr. Betty Choi pediatrician

Betty Choi, MD

Dr. Betty Choi is a Harvard-trained pediatrician who makes learning fun and doable. She created the kids’ anatomy book Human Body Learning Lab, which Science Magazine recommended as a “notable standout in the genre.”