What Is the Relationship between the Digestive System and Circulatory System?

Erik J.J. Goserud

Like many parts of the body, the digestive system and circulatory system are related in a number of integral ways. When most people think of the circulatory system, they picture the heart and lungs acting to pump blood throughout the body. Only few understand the enteric requirement of the circulatory system. The enteric system, or the gut, which contains many digestive organs, requires about 30% of all cardiac output. This large amount of blood, needed for ongoing digestive functions, is the basis for the interrelation of the two systems.

The digestive system breaks down food into vitamins and nutrients for the circulatory system to move them around the body.
The digestive system breaks down food into vitamins and nutrients for the circulatory system to move them around the body.

Understanding the complex dynamics among bodily systems requires a basic understanding of each system independently. Generally speaking, the digestive system breaks down food that is consumed. This system acts to divide the food into necessary components, like vitamins and nutrients, and allows for absorption of these nutrients into the bloodstream. The circulatory system acts to move these necessary nutrients around the body as well as transport unwanted materials away.

The circulatory system.
The circulatory system.

Although the relationship between the digestive system and circulatory system is extensive, there are two primary ways in which these systems rely on each other. The first is the need of the circulatory system for digestion to continue to function. The second is the delivery of nutrients from the digestive system to the body's bloodstream for circulation.

The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.
The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.

Like all organs and systems of the body, blood is constantly needed for performance. The blood itself is not crucial, but the nutrients within this vital fluid are. These nutrients supply the tissues and cells with chemicals they need to continue living. The bottom line is that, without nutrients, there is no life, and without circulation, there are no nutrients.

The digestive system consists of the stomach, colon and jejunum, among other organs.
The digestive system consists of the stomach, colon and jejunum, among other organs.

Although the digestive system needs blood from the circulatory system to work properly, the circulatory system also needs the digestive system. As food breaks down, it moves from the esophagus to the stomach and into the intestines. Eventually, the broken-down foodstuffs reach the vascular small intestines, where absorption occurs. It is in this region where many vital substances move from the food in the intestines into the circulatory system.

Digestion is almost constantly occurring, so in part due to the absorptive properties of the intestines, there remains a high demand for blood flow to the enteric region. This is the physiological reason behind the high percentage of flow to this area. There may be more links between the two systems but, in simple terms, this is how they interact.

The circulatory system moves nutrients broken down by the digestive system.
The circulatory system moves nutrients broken down by the digestive system.

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Discussion Comments

anon354225

No it is not amazing. It's just logic.

candyquilt

@simrin-- I don't know about the artery causing an upset stomach, but yes, there is an artery that goes through the stomach. It's called the celiac artery, it's a major artery that feeds the digestive system with blood. It also branches out through the lower digestive system.

This is a very vital artery for the stomach. I know someone who is suffering from serious health problems because his celiac artery was damaged in a car accident.

SteamLouis

Is it true that there is a main artery that goes through the stomach?

Whenever I'm worried or sad, I get an upset stomach and my friend said that it's because of the artery that runs through the stomach. Is it true?

donasmrs

I can't imagine there being any system in the body that is not related to the circulatory system. Like the article said, the circulatory system is vital for everything to work.

I was listening to Professor on TV the other day and he used a metaphor about the human body that I really like. He said that the body is actually like a river, there is blood and water flowing constantly through us. We maintain life thanks to this constant flow of blood which carries numerous things. It's not just nutrients but also things like antibodies.

It's really amazing and if something were to prevent the circulatory system from reaching a certain part of the body, like the digestive system, things would just fail.

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