Mucus plays a hugely important role in digestion, in addition to helping establish the overall health of other areas of your body.
In this article we’ll focus just on how mucus helps in mechanical digestion, and why you need to make sure that your body has a suitable amount.
Why does it help?
The first question to answer regarding mucus and its role in digestion is why mucus is a helpful substance. Mucus, though it doesn’t look like it, helps destroy bacteria and viruses, in addition to trapping particles, preventing water loss, lubricating the movement of materials through your body, and protects all the surfaces it touches from damage.
You have mucus in your mouth, in the form of saliva, and even in your eyes. The viscosity of the mucus depends on where it’s located in your body. In your nose, for examples, it’s thicker in order to fight against the potential viruses, dirt, and other irritants which can easily enter the nose. With your digestive tract, however, mucus is a bit different.
How does mucus help digestion?
Your stomach is lined by a protective layer of mucus, which is responsible for creating the enzymes that help your body digest proteins. Additionally, the mucus lining your stomach helps prevent your stomach lining from the negative effects of excessive exposure to acid or pepsin.
Now, as for your digestive tract specifically – mucus helps there as well. Since mucus works to lubricate items in your body for easy movement from one area of the body to another, it’s important to have enough in your intestinal tract.
The intestines can easily be perforated or otherwise harmed by sharp objects you’ve eaten that haven’t been completely ground down yet (potato chips, crackers, etc.). Mucus coats these objects so they flow through your intestines at a much more productive rate, ensuring that your body is able to process the food you eat as efficiently as possible.
Mucus from beginning to end:
Now that you can see how mucus is important in many different aspects of your health, let’s look at the process it plays from beginning to end in your digestive system.
First, the saliva in your mouth (a form of mucus) breaks down your food, fights bacteria in your mouth, and removes plaque from your teeth. Then the mucus lining your throat lubricates the food as it enters your stomach.
There, the protective mucus membrane on the lining of your stomach protects it from acid exposure. Once it’s done in your stomach, the food moves to your intestines where it’s once again coated in mucus to move freely through your entire digestive tract.
It may not be outwardly apparent, but without mucus it’s easy to see that our bodies wouldn’t function as well as they could.