6 Digestive System Facts That Might Surprise You

In simple terms, digestion means to break down food into something small enough for the body to absorb and use. In the human body, lots of organs work on digestion. Together, the whole team is called the digestive system. Keep reading to see any of these digestive system facts will surprise you!

digestive tract anatomy facts for kids

All about the digestive system for kids

After you take a bite of food, it goes into your digestive system and comes out as poop. Sometimes, stinky gas comes out, too! These facts are pretty gross and amazing, but your digestive system is more than a poop factory. In addition to transforming food into poop, the human digestive system turns food into fuel for your body.

Organs in the digestive system

Before we learn more facts about the digestive system, let’s meet the organs that are part of it.

Your digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and anus.

Other parts of the digestive system, like the liver, pancreas, and gall bladder, act like assistants in breaking down food.

Fun digestive system facts for kids

1. Your digestive system is longer than your body

How tall are you? Four, five, or six feet tall?

Well, if you stretched out your entire digestive tract, it would be waaayyy taller than you!

In the average adult, the digestive tract measures about 30 feet (9 meters) long! That’s about as long as 2 cars parked end-to-end.

fun digestive system fact for kids: the digestive system is 30 feet long

The longest organ is the small intestines, which measures about 20 feet (6 meters) long in an adult. That’s taller than a giraffe!

2. It’s more like the tortoise than the hare

For most kids and adults, food takes around 2 or 3 days to travel through your digestive system.

Food starts off by moving quickly. It only takes a few seconds for food to get from your mouth to your stomach. But after that, things slow down a lot.

For the next 4 hours, food gets churned by your stomach. So that meal you ate at breakfast is leaving your stomach just in time for your lunch!

Then it takes another 5 hours or so to move through your intestines. Finally, digested food makes its way to the large intestines where leftover waste becomes poop. This last part of the journey is the longest and lasts for 1 to 2 days.

3. Some digestive organs never touch food

liver gallbladder pancreas - digestion organs that never touch food

Starting from your head and ending in your butt, food travels through the long digestive tract. But there are 3 organs that help the digestion process without ever touching your food: the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Even though food does not pass through these organs, they are helpful neighbors.

  • Your liver makes bile, cleans up your blood, and stores sugar to give your body energy.
  • Your gallbladder stores bile, a green liquid that breaks down fat.
  • Your pancreas releases enzymes that help break down fat, protein, and carbohydrates in your small intestine.

4. Your stomach can stretch like a balloon

rugae inside your stomach anatomy

When your stomach is empty, it’s about the size of your first.

After you swallow food, it travels down your esophagus to your stomach. To make room for the food you just ate, your stomach expands like a balloon. Then, your stomach muscles act like a blender to mix all the food together while your stomach acid breaks it down into smaller bits.

As the food travels to the next destination – the small intestines – your stomach shrinks back down to its regular size. The whole process repeats at your next snack or meal!

How big can the stomach stretch out? It depends on your age and how much you eat. In the average adult, the stomach can hold about 4 cups (1 liter) of food. Even though stomachs can stretch out more than this, it’s important to listen your body and take a break from eating when you feel full.

5. Trillions of bacteria live in your gut

This is one of the most surprising digestive facts! But it’s true: your intestines are the home for trillions of bacteria.

Don’t worry though! Most of the time, bacteria in the gut are your friends. They help you digest the food you ate.

But remember to wash your hands! Handwashing is a useful way to keep bad bacteria out of your body.

6. Your large intestines is shorter than your small intestines

fun digestive system facts for kids: the large intestine is shorter than the small intestine; labeled intestines anatomy diagram

Compared to the super long small intestines, the large intestines are much shorter at 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Their names might be confusing, but it has to do with how wide these tubes are, not how long.

The small intestines are only 1 inch wide, while large intestines are about 3 inches wide.

Have fun learning digestive system facts

Which digestive system facts was most surprising to you? Which facts were most interesting? Now you can impress your friends with all of these fun digestive system facts!

More digestion facts for kids

Human Body Learning Lab Book banner Image
Human Body Learning Lab is the best anatomy book for kids! Have fun learning science facts and health tips with cool hands-on projects and diverse, realistic images!

Updated on May 2, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on May 2, 2023

by Betty Choi, MD