Abstract Gastroduodenal physiology is traditionally understood in terms of motor-secretory functions and their electrical, neural and hormonal controls. In contrast, the fluid-mechanical functions that retain and disperse particles, expose substrate to enzymes, or replenish the epithelial boundary with nutrients are little studied. Current ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging allows to visualize processes critical to digestion like mixing, dilution, swelling, dispersion and elution. Methodological advances in fluid mechanics allow to numerically analyse the forces promoting digestion. Pressure and flow fields, the shear stresses dispersing particles or the effectiveness of bolus mixing can be computed using information on boundary movements and on the luminal contents. These technological advances promise many additional insights into the mechanical processes that promote digestion and absorption.