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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss six fundamental activities of the digestive system, giving an example of each
  • Compare and contrast the neural and hormonal controls involved in digestion

The digestive system uses mechanical and chemical activities to break food down into absorbable substances during its journey through the digestive system. [link] provides an overview of the basic functions of the digestive organs.

Visit this site for an overview of digestion of food in different regions of the digestive tract. Note the route of non-fat nutrients from the small intestine to their release as nutrients to the body.

Functions of the Digestive Organs
Organ Major functions Other functions
Mouth
  • Ingests food
  • Chews and mixes food
  • Begins chemical breakdown of carbohydrates
  • Moves food into the pharynx
  • Begins breakdown of lipids via lingual lipase
  • Moistens and dissolves food, allowing you to taste it
  • Cleans and lubricates the teeth and oral cavity
  • Has some antimicrobial activity
Pharynx
  • Propels food from the oral cavity to the esophagus
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Esophagus
  • Propels food to the stomach
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Stomach
  • Mixes and churns food with gastric juices to form chyme
  • Begins chemical breakdown of proteins
  • Releases food into the duodenum as chyme
  • Absorbs some fat-soluble substances (for example, alcohol, aspirin)
  • Possesses antimicrobial functions
  • Stimulates protein-digesting enzymes
  • Secretes intrinsic factor required for vitamin B 12 absorption in small intestine
Small intestine
  • Mixes chyme with digestive juices
  • Propels food at a rate slow enough for digestion and absorption
  • Absorbs breakdown products of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, along with vitamins, minerals, and water
  • Performs physical digestion via segmentation
  • Provides optimal medium for enzymatic activity
Accessory organs
  • Liver: produces bile salts, which emulsify lipids, aiding their digestion and absorption
  • Gallbladder: stores, concentrates, and releases bile
  • Pancreas: produces digestive enzymes and bicarbonate
  • Bicarbonate-rich pancreatic juices help neutralize acidic chyme and provide optimal environment for enzymatic activity
Large intestine
  • Further breaks down food residues
  • Absorbs most residual water, electrolytes, and vitamins produced by enteric bacteria
  • Propels feces toward rectum
  • Eliminates feces
  • Food residue is concentrated and temporarily stored prior to defecation
  • Mucus eases passage of feces through colon

Digestive processes

The processes of digestion include six activities: ingestion, propulsion, mechanical or physical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption, and defecation.

The first of these processes, ingestion    , refers to the entry of food into the alimentary canal through the mouth. There, the food is chewed and mixed with saliva, which contains enzymes that begin breaking down the carbohydrates in the food plus some lipid digestion via lingual lipase. Chewing increases the surface area of the food and allows an appropriately sized bolus to be produced.

Food leaves the mouth when the tongue and pharyngeal muscles propel it into the esophagus. This act of swallowing, the last voluntary act until defecation, is an example of propulsion    , which refers to the movement of food through the digestive tract. It includes both the voluntary process of swallowing and the involuntary process of peristalsis. Peristalsis consists of sequential, alternating waves of contraction and relaxation of alimentary wall smooth muscles, which act to propel food along ( [link] ). These waves also play a role in mixing food with digestive juices. Peristalsis is so powerful that foods and liquids you swallow enter your stomach even if you are standing on your head.

Questions & Answers

the inflammation of spinal cord is called
Francis Reply
TM partial transver myelitis
Ayan
Transverse myelitis
Amit
transverse mylitis
Gopi
T M means transeverse myelitis
Ayan
what is anatomy
Bruce Reply
is the study of human structure or various parts of the body
Adoma
What is the chordae tendineae and where is located? Where is the Aorta located?
Sovilace Reply
What is the meaning of aponuerosis
Veronica Reply
a sheet of pearly white fibrous tissue that takes the place of a tendon in flat muscles having a wide area of attachment.
Hassan
example of epitheliam tissue
Nirob Reply
what is systemic anatomy
Friday Reply
it's a study of organ structure
Amarachi
definition of anatomy and physiology
Kapil Reply
in anatomy we study about structure of human body........ in physiology we study about function
Zahid
Explain the anatomy
Junaid
structure of heart
Anusha
explain biology
saviour
biology is the science of life. biologists study the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution of living organisms.
Kadence
how is albino affected
Ujam Reply
what are the important stuff in the papillary layer
Ujam
Melanie's is responsible for the change in the color of the skin
Ujam
what happened when they are badly severed
Ujam
what happened when they are badly severed
Ujam
Examples of glial cells?
Nesh Reply
glial cell s help in the attractive foces of motion in the cellular network
Ujam
What is glial cell?
Esther
what is gland
Nirob
a gland is a group of cells or group of similar cells that secretes substances
Veronica
what is homeostasis
Laura Reply
homeostasis- The ability to maintain relatively stable internal conditions even though the outside world changes continuously. i,e, maintaining normal values in your body such as Adequate blood levels,blood pressure, heart activity and blood pressure.
Williams
thank you
Laura
Give atleast three reasons to study anatomy and physiology
George Reply
It helps to know about the body structure properly and administer proper care for the patient
Opeyemi
what's augmentin
Aphet Reply
augmentin is a type of combination antibiotic.
wintana
Can you explain to Heart anatomy in details please?
Handren Reply
definition of anatomy and physiology
Sardar Reply
Anatomy is the study structure of the body while physiology is the study of function of the body
Ayan
What is a dorsal cavity?
John Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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