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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the process of digestion
  • Detail the steps involved in digestion and absorption
  • Define elimination
  • Explain the role of both the small and large intestines in absorption

Obtaining nutrition and energy from food is a multi-step process. For true animals, the first step is ingestion, the act of taking in food. This is followed by digestion, absorption, and elimination. In the following sections, each of these steps will be discussed in detail.

Ingestion

The large molecules found in intact food cannot pass through the cell membranes. Food needs to be broken into smaller particles so that animals can harness the nutrients and organic molecules. The first step in this process is ingestion    . Ingestion is the process of taking in food through the mouth. In vertebrates, the teeth, saliva, and tongue play important roles in mastication (preparing the food into bolus). While the food is being mechanically broken down, the enzymes in saliva begin to chemically process the food as well. The combined action of these processes modifies the food from large particles to a soft mass that can be swallowed and can travel the length of the esophagus.

Digestion and absorption

Digestion is the mechanical and chemical break down of food into small organic fragments. It is important to break down macromolecules into smaller fragments that are of suitable size for absorption across the digestive epithelium. Large, complex molecules of proteins, polysaccharides, and lipids must be reduced to simpler particles such as simple sugar before they can be absorbed by the digestive epithelial cells. Different organs play specific roles in the digestive process. The animal diet needs carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as vitamins and inorganic components for nutritional balance. How each of these components is digested is discussed in the following sections.

Carbohydrates

The digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth. The salivary enzyme amylase begins the breakdown of food starches into maltose, a disaccharide. As the bolus of food travels through the esophagus to the stomach, no significant digestion of carbohydrates takes place. The esophagus produces no digestive enzymes but does produce mucous for lubrication. The acidic environment in the stomach stops the action of the amylase enzyme.

The next step of carbohydrate digestion takes place in the duodenum. Recall that the chyme from the stomach enters the duodenum and mixes with the digestive secretion from the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Pancreatic juices also contain amylase, which continues the breakdown of starch and glycogen into maltose, a disaccharide. The disaccharides are broken down into monosaccharides by enzymes called maltases , sucrases , and lactases , which are also present in the brush border of the small intestinal wall. Maltase breaks down maltose into glucose. Other disaccharides, such as sucrose and lactose are broken down by sucrase and lactase, respectively. Sucrase breaks down sucrose (or “table sugar”) into glucose and fructose, and lactase breaks down lactose (or “milk sugar”) into glucose and galactose. The monosaccharides (glucose) thus produced are absorbed and then can be used in metabolic pathways to harness energy. The monosaccharides are transported across the intestinal epithelium into the bloodstream to be transported to the different cells in the body. The steps in carbohydrate digestion are summarized in [link] and [link] .

Questions & Answers

what is Biology
Sheku Reply
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Abel
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Ajipha
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William Reply
the study of living things
Joe
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Mirabel Reply
what are hormones
Mirabel
what is meant by th word photosynthesis
MARTHA Reply
it is the process where by chloropherious plant manufacture their food with the presence of sunlight , chlorophyll and water etc.
Kosoe
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stallon Reply
is the study living things
Zhayma
and non living things
Zhayma
what is water circle?
Faith Reply
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Sky Reply
for secondary
stallon
Copulation means coming together of male and female in the present of sexual Intercourse.
LEKAN Reply
what are the adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
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Adusei Reply
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Adusei
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Adusei
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qaisar
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qaisar
please tell me adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
what is a metaborism
Beatrice Reply
this is a specialized part of the cell eg Nucleus
David Reply
what are adaptive features of nervous system
Ridhwan
what are the organelles?
Faith Reply
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mana Reply
reproduction is the process by which living organisms give rise to young ones of their own kind
Miriam
What is evolution
Wengelawit
the production of new forms of life over time as documented in the fossil record.
mana
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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