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Hyo Park

The digestive process begins with the cephalic phase. This cephalic phase is when hunger and
appetite stimulates the nervous system to releases digestive juices in preparation of food entering the
body. When food enters the mouth mechanical digestion of chewing breaks down the food. The salivary
glands secrete saliva which moistens the food and now begins the process of chemical digestion for
carbohydrates. Salivary amylase from the saliva starts carbohydrate digestion which breaks down starch
into shorter polysaccharides and maltose.
The food has now been chewed and moistened in the mouth and is now called the bolus. The
bolus is swallowed and is propelled to the stomach by peristalsis through the esophagus. Before the food
enters the stomach, the brain sends signals causing gastric juices to be secreted. Gastric juices contain
hydrochloric acid (HCl), pepsin, gastric lipase, and other compounds. As gastrin causes the stomach to
churn the food into chyme, the digestion of fats and proteins begin. No carbohydrates digestion occurs in
the stomach. HCl in the stomach keeps the environment very acidic, which kills a lot of bacteria that may
have entered with the food and also deactivates salivary amylase. HCl starts to denature proteins and
also converts inactive pepsinogen into the active enzyme pepsin. Pepsin breaks down proteins into
smaller polypeptides and single amino acids. Fats are mixed and broken down into smaller droplets in the
stomach. The gastric lipase initiates fat digestion by digesting some triglycerides. The stomach then
stores and periodically releases chyme into the small intestine.
The small intestine is composed of three parts the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum and is where
most digestion and absorption of fats, proteins and carbohydrates occur. As chyme enters the duodenum
from the stomach, the presence of fats and proteins causes CCK to be released. The presence of CCK
signals the gallbladder to contract and release bile into the duodenum. The bile is produced by the liver
from cholesterol, stored in the gallbladder, and reduces the fat into smaller droplets so they are more
accessible to digestive enzymes. At the same time, the pancreas secretes bicarbonate into the
duodenum which neutralizes acidic chyme so that pancreatic enzymes work better and prevents the
duodenum lining from eroding. The pancreas also secretes pancreatic lipase, pancreatic amylase, and
protease into the small intestine.
The release of pancreatic lipase from the pancreas into the small intestine allows for further
breakdown of the smaller fat droplets by breaking the fatty acids away from the glycerol backbone. Lipid
digesting enzymes break dietary cholesterol esters and phospholipids into their components and also
break triglycerides into one monoglyceride and two fatty acids. Short and medium chain fatty acids are
more readily transported in the body so it is important for long fatty acids to be broken down. These
broken down fats are then transported into the mucosal lining of the small intestine with the help of
micelles, which can trap free fatty acids and monoglycerides. Fats are not soluble in water so they can
not freely be transported into the bloodstream. To compensate for this fatty acids are reformed back into
triglycerides and then packaged into lipoproteins called chylomicrons. The chylomicrons are water soluble
and are able to transport the dietary fat through the lymphatic system and finally into the blood.
The dietary fat filled chylomicrons are now either used immediately as energy, made into lipid
containing compounds, or stored in muscle or adipose tissue as triglycerides for later use. Chylomicrons
are able to release fat into cells with help from lipoprotein lipase (LPL). When chylomicrons come into
contact with adipose cells, LPL breaks apart the triglycerides into individual fatty acids. If the body is in
need of energy the fatty acids are transported to the mitochondria for immediate energy use. If the body
does not need energy, the fatty acids are recreated into triglycerides and stored in adipose cells for later
use. For people who exercise a lot, the extra fat will stored in muscles and are easily available for energy
the next time you work out.
The pancreatic amylase released from the pancreas continues the digestion of carbohydrates by
breaking down the remaining starch into maltose in the small intestine. Since carbohydrates needs to be
broken down into monosaccharides in order to be absorbed, additional enzymes in the small intestine
break down disaccharides into monosaccharides. The maltose is broken down into glucose by the
enzyme maltase. The sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose by sucrase and lactose is broken
down into glucose and galactose by lactase. These monosaccharides are absorbed by enterocytes in the
mucosal cells lining the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. Once in the blood stream, the
monosaccharides travel to the liver and fructose and galactose are converted to glucose. If the body
needs energy, glucose is released immediately into the bloodstream and transported to cells. Excess
glucose is stored in the liver or muscles as glycogen. Depending on the needs of the body, liver and
muscles have enzymes that are able to combine glucose molecules into glycogen by using an anabolic
building process and are also able to break down glycogen into glucose by using a catabolic or
destructive process. Glycogen stored in the liver help maintain blood glucose levels and support the
energy needs of our brain, spinal cord, and red blood cells. Glycogen stored in muscles provide energy
during intense exercise and constantly provides energy to muscles. Glycogen is also stored in a very
small portion by glial cells in the brain. Some non digestible carbohydrates such as fiber pass through the
small intestine into the large intestine or colon undigested due to the lack of enzymes. Bacteria can
ferment some of the carbohydrates causing gas and a few short chain fatty acids. The remaining fibers
stay in the colon and are released as feces.
Protease (trypsin, chymotrypsin) released by the pancreas into the small intestine further digests
polypeptides into smaller oligopeptides, tripeptides, dipeptides, and single amino acids. The intestinal wall
produces peptidase which continue to split the remaining polypeptides into smaller amino acids. These
smaller units are transported into enterocytes. In the enterocyte, other peptidases digest everything into
single amino acids for absorption into the bloodstream. Majority of the amino acids are absorbed into the
bloodstream but few remain in the enterocytes and are used to make new cells and enzymes. Proteins
must be broken down into single amino acids as absorption of whole proteins can cause severe allergic
reactions. Amino acids in the bloodstream are transported via the portal vein into the liver. Depending on
what the body needs, the amino acids in the liver can be used for energy, transported to other cells,
converted to fat or glucose, or used to build new proteins.