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Anatomy of the Digestive System

Introduction Digestion is the process by which food is broken down into smaller pieces so that the body can use them to build and nourish cells and to provide energy. Digestion involves the mixing of food, its movement through the digestive tract (also known as the alimentary canal), and the chemical breakdown of larger molecules into smaller molecules. Every piece of food we eat has to be broken down into smaller nutrients that the body can absorb, which is why it takes hours to fully digest food. The digestive system is made up of the digestive tract. This consists ofa long tube of organs that runs from the mouth to the anus and includes the esophagus,stomach,small intestine, andlarge intestine, together with the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, which produce important secretions for digestion that drain into the small intestine.The digestive tract in an adult is about 30 feet long

Mouth and Salivary Glands Digestion begins in the mouth, where chemical and mechanical digestion occurs. Saliva or spit, produced by the salivary glands (located under the tongue and near the lower jaw), is released into the mouth. Saliva begins to break down the food, moistening it and making it easier to swallow. A digestive enzyme (called amylase) in the saliva begins to break down the carbohydrates (starches and sugars). One of the most important functions of the mouth is chewing. Chewing allows food to be mashed into a soft mass

that is easier to swallow and digest later. Movements by the tongue and the mouth push the food to the back of the throat for it to be swallowed. A flexible flap called the epiglottis closes over the trachea (windpipe) to ensure that food enters the esophagus and not the windpipe to prevent choking.

Esophagus Once food is swallowed, it enters the esophagus, a muscular tube that is about 10 inches long. The esophagus is located between the throat and the stomach. Muscular wavelike contractions known as peristalsis push the food down through the esophagus to the stomach. A muscular ring (called the cardiac sphincter) at the end of the esophagus allows food to enter the stomach, and, then, it squeezes shut to prevent food and fluid from going back up the esophagus.

Liver The liver is the largest glandular organ of the body. It weighs about 3 lb (1.36 kg). It is reddish brown in color and is divided into four lobes of unequal size and shape. The liver lies on the right side of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm. Blood is carried to the liver via two large vessels called the hepatic artery and the portal vein. The heptic artery carries oxygen-rich blood from the aorta (a major vessel in the heart). The portal vein carries blood containing digested food from the small intestine. These blood vessels subdivide in the liver repeatedly, terminating in very small capillaries. Each capillary leads to a lobule. Liver tissue is composed of thousands of lobules, and each lobule is made up of hepatic cells, the basic metabolic cells of the liver.

The liver has many functions. Some of the functions are: to produce substances that break down fats, convert glucose to glycogen, produce urea (the main substance of urine), make certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), filter harmful

substances from the blood (such as alcohol), storage of vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, D, K and B12) and maintain a proper level or glucose in the blood. The liver is also responsible for producing cholesterol. It produces about 80% of the cholesterol in your body. Stomach The stomach is a Jshaped organ that lies between the esophagus and the small intestine in the upper abdomen. The stomach has 3 main functions: to store the swallowed food and liquid; to mix up the food, liquid, and digestive juices produced by the stomach; and to slowly empty its contents into the small intestine.

Only a few substances, such as water and alcohol, can be absorbed directly from the stomach. Any other food substances must undergo the digestive processes of the stomach. The stomach's strong muscular walls mix and churn the food with acids and enzymes (gastric juice), breaking it into smaller pieces. About 3 quarts of the gastric juice is produced by glands in the stomach every day.

The food is processed into a semi liquid form called chyme. About 4 hours or so after eating a meal, the chyme is slowly released a little at a time through the pyloric

sphincter, a thickened muscular ring between the stomach and the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum.

Small Intestine

Most digestion and absorption of food occurs in the small intestine. The small intestine is a narrow, twisting tube that occupies most of the lower abdomen between the stomach and the beginning of the large intestine. It extends about 20 feet in length. The small intestine consists of 3 parts: the duodenum (the C-shaped part), the jejunum (the coiled midsection), and the ileum (the last section). The small intestine has 2 important functions. First, the digestive process is completed here by enzymes and other substances made by intestinal cells, the pancreas, and the liver. Glands in the intestine walls secrete enzymes that breakdown starches and sugars. The pancreas secretes enzymes into the small intestine that help breakdown carbohydrates ,fats, and proteins.

The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps to make fat molecules (which otherwise are not soluble in water) soluble, so they can be absorbed by the body. Second, the small intestine absorbs the nutrients from the digestive process. The inner wall of the small intestine is covered by millions of tiny fingerlike projections called villi. The villi are covered with even tinier projections called microvilli. The combination of villi and microvilli increase the surface area of the small intestine greatly, allowing absorption of nutrients to occur. Undigested material travels next to the large intestine.

Large Intestine The large intestine forms an upside down U over the coiled small intestine. It beginsat the lower righthand side of the body and ends on the lower left-hand side. The large intestine is about 5-6 feet long. It has 3 parts: the cecum, the colon, and the rectum. The cecum is a pouch at the beginning of the large intestine. This area allows food to pass from the small intestine to the large intestine. The colon is where fluids and salts are absorbed and extends from the cecum to the

rectum. The last part of the large intestine is the rectum, which is where feces (waste material)is stored before leaving the body through the anus.

The main job of the large intestine is to remove water and salts (electrolytes) from the undigested material and to form solid waste that can be excreted. Bacteria in the large intestine help to break down the undigested materials. The remaining contents of the large intestine are moved toward the rectum, where feces are stored until they leave the body through the anus as a bowel movement.

Anatomy of the Human Circulatory System


The circulatory system is responsible for the transport of water and dissolved materials throughout the body, including oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and waste. The circulatory system transports oxygen from the lungs and nutrients from the digestive tract to every cell in the body, allowing for the continuation of cell metabolism. The circulatory system also transports the waste products of cell metabolism to the lungs and kidneys where they can be expelled from the body. Without this important function toxic substances would quickly build up in the body.

The human heart is a specialized, four-chambered muscle that maintains the blood flow in the circulatory system. It lies immediately behind the sternum, or breastbone, and between the lungs. The apex, or bottom of the heart, is tilted to the left side. At rest, the heart pumps about 59 cc (2 oz) of blood per beat and 5 l (5 qt) per minute. During exercise it pumps 120-220 cc (4-7.3 oz) of blood per beat and 20-30 l (21-32 qt) per minute. The adult human heart is about the size of a fist and weighs about 250-350 gm (9 oz). The human heart begins beating early in fetal life and continues regular beating throughout the life span of the individual. If the heart stops beating for more than 3 or 4 minutes permanent brain damage may occur. Blood flow to the heart muscle itself also depends on the continued beating of the heart and if this flow is stopped for more than a few minutes, as in a heart attack, the heart muscle may be damaged to such a great extent that it may be irreversibly stopped. The heart is made up of two muscle masses. One of these forms the two atria (the upper chambers) of the heart, and the other forms the two ventricles (the lower chambers). Both atria contract or relax at the same time, as do both ventricles. An electrical impulse called an action potential is generated at regular intervals in a specialized region of the right atrium called the sinoauricular (or sinoatrial, or SA) node. Since the two atria form a single muscular unit, the action potential will spread over the atria. A fraction of a second later, having been triggered by the action potential, the atrial muscle contracts. The ventricles form a single muscle mass separate from the atria. When the atrial action potential reaches the juncture of the atria and the ventricles, the atrioventricular or AV node (another specialized region for conduction) conducts the impulse. After a slight delay, the impulse is passed by way of yet another bundle of muscle fibers (the Bundle of His and the Purkinje system.) Contraction of the ventricle quickly follows the onset of its action potential. From this pattern it can be seen that both atria will contract simultaneously and that both ventricles will contract simultaneously, with a brief delay between the contraction of the two parts of the heart. The electrical stimulus that leads to contraction of the heart muscle thus originates in the heart itself, in the sinoatrial node (SA node), which is also known as the heart's pacemaker. This node, which lies just in front of the opening of the superior vena cava, measures no more than a few millimeters. It consists of heart cells that emit regular impulses. Because of this spontaneous discharge of the sinoatrial node, the heart muscle is automated. A completely isolated heart can contract on its own as long as its metabolic processes remain intact. The rate at which the cells of the SA node discharge is externally influenced through the autonomic nervous system, which sends nerve branches to the heart. Through their stimulatory and inhibitory influences they determine the resultant heart rate. In adults at rest this is between 60 and 74 beats a minute. In infants and young children it may be

between 100 and 120 beats a minute. Tension, exertion, or fever may cause the rate of the heart to vary between 55 and 200 beats a minute. The Heart Sounds The closure of the heart valves and the contraction of the heart muscle produce sounds that can be heard through the thoracic wall by the unaided ear, although they can be heard better when amplified by a stethoscope. The sounds of the heart may be represented as lubb-dubb-pause-lubb-dubb-pause. The lubb sound indicates the closing of the valves between the atria and ventricles and the contracting ventricles; the dubb sound indicates the closing of the semilunar valves. In addition, there may also be cardiac murmurs, especially when the valves are abnormal. Some heart murmurs, however, may also occur in healthy persons, mainly during rapid or pronounced cardiac action. The study of heart sounds and murmurs furnishes valuable information to physicians regarding the condition of the heart muscle and valves. Coronary Circulation The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. These vessels originate from the aorta immediately after the aortic valve and branch out through the heart muscle. The coronary veins transport the deoxygenated blood from the heart muscle to the right atrium. The heart's energy supply is almost completely dependent on these coronary vessels. When the coronary vessels become blocked, as in arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, blood flow to the cardiac muscle is compromised. This is when the common "bypass surgery" is performed where the coronary arteries are "bypassed" by replacing them with, for example, a vein from the leg. A "double bypass" is when two coronary arteries are bypassed. A "triple bypass" is when three are bypassed, etc. The Heartbeat The heart muscle pumps the blood through the body by means of rhythmical contractions (systole) and relaxations or dilations (diastole). The heart's left and right halves work almost synchronously. When the ventricles contract (systole), the valves between the atria and the ventricles close as the result of increasing pressure, and the valves to the pulmonary artery and the aorta open. When the ventricles become flaccid during diastole, and the pressure decreases, the reverse process takes place. The Pulmonary Circulation From the right atrium the blood passes to the right ventricle through the tricuspid valve, which consists of three flaps (or cusps) of tissue. The tricuspid valve remains open during diastole, or ventricular filling. When the ventricle contracts, the valve closes, sealing the opening and preventing backflow into the right atrium. Five cords attached to small muscles, called papillary muscles, on the ventricles' inner surface prevent the valves' flaps from being forced backward.

From the right ventricle blood is pumped through the pulmonary or semilunar valve, which has three half-moon-shaped flaps, into the pulmonary artery. This valve prevents backflow from the artery into the right ventricle. From the pulmonary artery blood is pumped to the lungs where it releases carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen.

The Systemic Circulation From the lungs, the blood is returned to the heart through pulmonary veins, two from each lung. From the pulmonary veins the blood enters the left atrium and then passes through the mitral valve to the left ventricle. As the ventricles contract, the mitral valve prevents backflow of blood into the left atrium, and blood is driven through the aortic valve into the aorta, the major artery that supplies blood to the entire body. The aortic valve, like the pulmonary valve, has a semilunar shape. The aorta has many branches, which carry the blood to various parts of the body. Each of these branches in turn has branches, and these branches divide, and so on until there are literally millions of small blood vessels. The smallest of these on the arterial side of the circulation are called arterioles. They contain a great deal of smooth muscle, and because of their ability to constrict or dilate, they play a major role in regulating blood flow through the tissues. The major artery that supplies blood to the body is the aorta. The blood passing through the arterioles passes through a bed of minute vessels called capillaries, which are a single cell thick. These capillaries are so small that the red blood cells must line up single file to pass through. The exchange of nutrients and

waste products takes place between the capillary blood and the tissue fluids. The arterialized blood that enters the capillaries thus becomes venous blood as it passes through them. The capillaries empty the venous blood into collecting tubes called venules, and these in turn empty into small veins, which empty into larger veins, and so on until finally all the blood returns to the heart through two large veins, the superior and inferior vena cavae. These terminate in the right atrium, and the systemic circulation is complete. A one-way flow of blood in this system is maintained by valves located, not only in the heart, but in the veins as well. Some veins also have semilunar valves and the pressure of contracting muscles against the veins works with the action of these valves to increase the venous return to the heart. This is the reason that exercise is so important for the circulation. The Lymphatic System An often overlooked part of the circulatory system is the lymphatic system. As blood passes through the capillaries, some of the fluid diffuses into the surrounding tissues. One function of the lymphatic system is to collect and recycle this fluid (called lymph). Lymph passes from capillaries to lymph vessels and flows through lymph nodes that are located along the course of these vessels. Cells of the lymph nodes phagocytize, or ingest, impurities such as bacteria, old red blood cells, and toxic and cellular waste. Finally, lymph flows into the thoracic duct, a large vessel that runs parallel to the spinal column, or into the right lymphatic duct, both of which transport the lymph back into veins of the shoulder areas where is mixes with blood and is returned to the heart. All lymph vessels contain one-way valves, like the veins, to prevent backflow. The tissues of the lymphatic system include the spleen. The spleen serves as a reservoir for blood, releasing additional blood into the circulatory system as needed. It is also involved with destruction of old cells and other substances by phagocytosis. The lymphatic system is also responsible for collecting nutrients that the digestive system has extracted from our foods, and is a very important part of the immune system. We will cover the lymphatic system in detail in the lesson on the immune system.

The Blood The blood transports life-supporting food and oxygen to every cell of the body and removes their waste products. It also helps to maintain body temperature, transports hormones, and fights infections. The brain cells in particular are very dependent on a constant supply of oxygen. If the circulation to the brain is stopped, death shortly follows. Blood has two main constituents. The cells, or corpuscles, comprise about 45 percent, and the liquid portion, or plasma, in which the cells are suspended comprises 55 percent. The blood cells comprise three main types: red blood cells, or erythrocytes; white blood cells, or leukocytes, which in turn are of many different types; and platelets, or thrombocytes. Each type of cell has its own individual functions in the body. The plasma is a complex colorless solution, about 90 percent water, that carries different ions and molecules including proteins, enzymes, hormones, nutrients, waste materials such as urea, and fibrinogen, the protein that aids in clotting. Red Blood Cells The red blood cells are tiny, round, biconcave disks, averaging about 7.5 microns (0.003 in) in diameter. A normal-sized man has about 5 l (5.3 qt) of blood in his body, containing more than 25 trillion red cells. Because the normal life span of red cells in the circulation is only about 120 days, more than 200 billion cells are normally destroyed each day by the spleen and must be replaced. Red blood cells, as well as most white cells and platelets, are made by the bone marrow. The main function of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and to transport carbon dioxide, one of the chief waste products, it to the lungs for release from the body. The substance in the red blood cells that is largely responsible for their ability to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide is hemoglobin, the material that gives the cells their red color. It is a protein complex comprising many linked amino acids, and occupies almost the entire volume of a red blood cell. Essential to its structure and function is the mineral iron. White Blood Cells The leukocytes, or white blood cells, are of three types; granulocytes, lymphocytes, and monocytes. All are involved in defending the body against foreign organisms. There are three types of granulocytes: neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils, with neutrophils the most abundant. Neutrophils seek out bacteria and phagocytize, or engulf, them.

The lymphocytes' chief function is to migrate into the connective tissue and build antibodies against bacteria and viruses. Leukocytes are almost colorless, considerably larger than red cells, have a nucleus, and are much less numerous; only one or two exist for every 1,000 red cells. The number increases in the presence of infection. Monocytes, representing only 4 to 8 percent of white cells, attack organisms not destroyed by granulocytes and leukocytes. The granulocytes, accounting for about 70 percent of all white blood cells, are formed in the bone marrow. The lymphocytes on the other hand are produced primarily by the lymphoid tissues of the bodythe spleen and lymph nodes. They are usually smaller than the granulocytes. Monocytes are believed to originate from lymphocytes. Just as the oxygen-carrying function of red cells is necessary for our survival, so are normal numbers of leukocytes, which protect us against infection. Platelets Platelets, or thrombocytes, are much smaller than the red blood cells. They are round or biconcave disks and are normally about 30 to 40 times more numerous than the white blood cells. The platelets' primary function is to stop bleeding. When tissue is damaged, the platelets aggregate in clumps to obstruct blood flow. Plasma The plasma is more than 90 percent water and contains a large number of substances, many essential to life. Its major solute is a mixture of proteins. The most abundant plasma protein is albumin. The globulins are even larger protein molecules than albumin and are of many chemical structures and functions. The antibodies, produced by lymphocytes, are globulins and are carried throughout the body, where many of them fight bacteria and viruses. An important function of plasma is to transport nutrients to the tissues. Glucose, for example, absorbed from the intestines, constitutes a major source of body energy. Some of the plasma proteins and fats, or lipids, are also used by the tissues for cell growth and energy. Minerals essential to body function, although present only in trace amounts, are other important elements of the plasma. The calcium ion, for example, is essential to the building of bone, as is phosphorus. Calcium is also essential to the clotting of blood. Copper is another necessary component of the plasma.