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Annilyn Duran

BSN III-Suddarth

The digestive system is the system by which ingested food is acted upon by
physical and chemical means to provide the body with nutrients it can absorb and to excrete
waste products; in mammals the system includes the alimentary canal extending from the
mouth to the anus, and the hormones and enzymes assisting in digestion.

In an adult male human, the GI tract is approximately 5 metres (20 ft) long in a live
subject, or up to 9 metres (30 ft) without the effect of muscle tone, and consists of the upper
and lower GI tracts. The tract may also be divided into foregut, midgut, and hindgut,
reflecting the embryological origin of each segment of the tract.[1]

The GI tract releases hormones as to help regulate the digestion process. These
hormones, including gastrin, secretin, cholecystokinin, and grehlin, are mediated through
either intracrine or autocrine mechanisms, indicating that the cells releasing these
hormones are conserved structures throughout evolution.[2]

Upper gastrointestinal tract

The upper gastrointestinal tract consists of the mouth, mouth cavity, salivary glands,
pharynx, esophagus, diaphragm, stomach, gall bladder, bile duct, liver, and duodenum. The
mouth (or buccal cavity) contains the openings of the salivary glands; the tongue; and the

• Behind the mouth lies the pharynx which prevents food from entering the voice box
and leads to a hollow muscular tube, the esophagus.
• Peristalsis takes place, which is the contraction of muscles to propel the food down
the esophagus which extends through the chest and pierces the diaphragm to reach
the stomach.

Lower gastrointestinal tract

The lower gastrointestinal tract comprises the most of the intestines and the anus.

• Bowel or intestine
o Small intestine, which has three parts:
 Duodenum - Here the digestive juices from pancreas and liver mix
 Jejunum - It is the midsection of the intestine, connecting Duodenum to
 Ileum - It has villi in where all soluble molecules are absorbed into the
o Large intestine, which has three parts:
 Cecum (the vermiform appendix is attached to the cecum).
 Colon (ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and
sigmoid flexure)
 Rectum
• Anus

Component Organs

The main organs of the digestive system are:

• Esophagus
• Stomach
• Small and Large intestines
• Mouth
• Anus
• Appendix

Other organs consist of the:

• Gallbladder
• Liver
• Pancreas

Accessory organs

Accessory organs to the alimentary canal include the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. The
liver secretes bile into the small intestine via the bile duct, employing the gallbladder as a
reservoir. Apart from storing and concentrating bile, the gallbladder has no other specific
function. The pancreas secretes an isosmotic fluid containing bicarbonate, which helps
neutralize the acidic chyme, and several enzymes, including trypsin, chymotrypsin, lipase,
and pancreatic amylase, as well as nucleolytic enzymes (deoxyribonuclease and
ribonuclease), into the small intestine. Both of these secretory organs aid in digestion.

Specialization of organs

Four organs are subject to specialization in the kingdom Animalia:[citation needed]

• The first organ is the tongue, which is only present in the phylum Chordata.
• The second organ is the esophagus. In birds, insects, and other invertebrates, the
crop is an enlargement of the esophagus that is used to store food temporarily.
• The third organ is the stomach. In addition to a glandular stomach (proventriculus),
birds have a muscular "stomach" called the ventriculus or "gizzard". The gizzard is
used to grind up food mechanically.
• The fourth organ is the large intestine. Non-ruminant herbivores, such as rabbits,
have an outpouching of the large intestine called the cecum, which aids in digestion
of plant material such as cellulose.

Transit time

The time taken for food or other ingested objects to transit through the gastrointestinal tract
varies depending on many factors, but roughly, it takes 2.5 to 3 hours after meal for 50% of
stomach contents to empty into the intestines and total emptying of the stomach takes 4 to
5 hours. Subsequently, 50% emptying of the small intestine takes 2.5 to 3 hours. Finally,
transit through the colon takes 30 to 40 hours.[4]

Digestive System

The functions of the digestive system are:

• Ingestion - eating food

• Digestion - breakdown of the food
• Absorption - extraction of nutrients from the food
• Defecation - removal of waste products

The digestive system also builds and replaces cells and tissues that are constantly dying.
Digestive Organs

The digestive system is a group of organs (Buccal cavity (mouth), pharynx, oesophagus,
stomach, liver, gall bladder, jejunum, ileum and colon) that breakdown the chemical
components of food, with digestive juices, into tiny nutrients which can be absorbed to
generate energy for the body.

The Buccal Cavity

Food enters the mouth and is chewed by the teeth, turned over and mixed with saliva by the
tongue. The sensations of smell and taste from the food sets up reflexes which stimulate the
salivary glands.

The Salivary glands

These glands increase their

output of secretions through
three pairs of ducts into the oral
cavity, and begin the process of

Saliva lubricates the food

enabling it to be swallowed and
contains the enzyme ptyalin
which serves to begin to break
down starch.

The Pharynx

Situated at the back of the nose

and oral cavity receives the
softened food mass or bolus by
the tongue pushing it against the
palate which initiates the
swallowing action.

At the same time a small flap

called the epiglottis moves over
the trachea to prevent any food
particles getting into the

From the pharynx onwards the

alimentary canal is a simple tube
starting with the salivary glands.

The Oesophagus

The oesophagus travels through the neck and thorax, behind the trachea and in front of the
aorta. The food is moved by rhythmical muscular contractions known as peristalsis (wave-
like motions) caused by contractions in longitudinal and circular bands of muscle.
Antiperistalsis, where the contractions travel upwards, is the reflex action of vomiting and is
usually aided by the contraction of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm.

The Stomach

The stomach lies below the diaphragm and to the left of the liver. It is the widest part of the
alimentary canal and acts as a reservoir for the food where it may remain for between 2 and
6 hours. Here the food is churned over and mixed with various hormones, enzymes including
pepsinogen which begins the digestion of protein, hydrochloric acid, and other chemicals; all
of which are also secreted further down the digestive tract.

The stomach has an average capacity of 1 litre, varies in shape, and is capable of
considerable distension. When expanding this sends stimuli to the hypothalamus which is
the part of the brain and nervous system controlling hunger and the desire to eat.

The wall of the stomach is impermeable to most substances, although does absorb some
water, electrolytes, certain drugs, and alcohol. At regular intervals a circular muscle at the
lower end of the stomach, the pylorus opens allowing small amounts of food, now known as
chyme to enter the small intestine.

Small Intestine

The small intestine measures about 7m in an average adult and consists of the duodenum,
jejunum, and ileum. Both the bile and pancreatic ducts open into the duodenum together.
The small intestine, because of its structure, provides a vast lining through which further
absorption takes place. There is a large lymph and blood supply to this area, ready to
transport nutrients to the rest of the body. Digestion in the small intestine relies on its own
secretions plus those from the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder.

The Pancreas

The Pancreas is connected to the duodenum via two ducts and has two main functions:

1. To produce enzymes to aid the process of digestion

2. To release insulin directly into the blood stream for the purpose of controlling blood
sugar levels

Enzymes suspended in the very alkaline pancreatic juices include amylase for breaking
down starch into sugar, and lipase which, when activated by bile salts, helps to break down
fat. The hormone insulin is produced by specialised cells, the islets of Langerhans, and plays
an important role in controlling the level of sugar in the blood and how much is allowed to
pass to the cells.

The Liver

The liver, which acts as a large reservoir and filter for blood, occupies the upper right portion
of abdomen and has several important functions:

1. Secretion of bile to the gall bladder

2. Carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism
3. The storage of glycogen ready for conversion into glucose when energy is required.
4. Storage of vitamins
5. Phagocytosis - ingestion of worn out red and white blood cells, and some bacteria

The Gall Bladder

The gall bladder stores and concentrates bile which emulsifies fats making them easier to
break down by the pancreatic juices.

The Large Intestine

The large intestine averages about 1.5m long and comprises the caecum, appendix, colon,
and rectum. After food is passed into the caecum a reflex action in response to the pressure
causes the contraction of the ileo-colic valve preventing any food returning to the ileum.
Here most of the water is absorbed, much of which was not ingested, but secreted by
digestive glands further up the digestive tract. The colon is divided into the ascending,
transverse and descending colons, before reaching the anal canal where the indigestible
foods are expelled from the body.

Effect of exercise on the digestive system

Most exercise has a positive effect on the digestive system helping to quell appetite and
increase metabolism. Some endurance events sometimes cause competitors to have an
upset stomach and diarrhoea.