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The Science of Digestion

What is Digestion?

Organisms need nutrients in order to survive and thrive. The act of absorbing food and delivering it to the individual cells in a useable form is the basis for digestion.

What is Digestion?
In single celled organisms the primary mode of food absorption is pinocytosis. Food is absorbed into the cell and then broken down to be used to produce energy. In multi celled organisms the process is much more complex individual cells are specialized and unable to absorb food in the same fashion as single celled organisms. Instead they use a specialized digestive system that breaks down food and relies on the circulatory system to deliver useful substances to individual cells to be absorbed.

The digestive system


There are several processes and anatomical structures involved in digestion. In order to fully understand digestion we must first examine these processes The pathway by which food travels the digestive tract The mechanical movement of this food through this tract The chemical digestion of food The rolls of the digestive organs digestive tract, liver, pancreas and gall bladder

The Human Digestive System

Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Tube System


This digestive model functions on what can be simplified as a large tube arrangement.

This Tube system is separated by a series of sphincters which are essentially openings controlled by muscles through the system.

The Tube System


There are four main sphincter muscles along the alimentary canal that aid in digestion: The cardiac sphincter, between the esophagus and the stomach, opens at the approach of food, which is then swept into the stomach by rhythmic peristaltic waves The pyloric sphincter controls the opening from the stomach into the duodenum. It is usually closed, opening only for a moment when a peristaltic wave passes over it. Two anal sphincters, internal and external, control the anus, allowing the evacuation of feces.

The Tube System


This system functions on the idea of compartmentalization, where different compartments are capable of specific functions allowing concentration gradients of biological substances for digestion.

For Example The concentration of HCl in the Stomach

which if allowed to flow through the system would ultimately break down much of the bodies tissues.

Compartmentalization allows the concentration of these fluids in one compartment and the neutralization of them in another in order to efficiently process ingested foods.

Structure & Function of the Human Digestive Tract

Reproduced from McGraw-Hill Ryerson Biology 11 1st edition 2001

Food enters the body through the mouth. Here it is shredded by the teeth and mixed with salivary amylase and lingual lipase to commence starch and fat digestion.

The Mouth

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Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Esophagus
Food passes from the mouth to the stomach via the esophagus which is about 24 cm long. The esophagus is lined with longitudinal and circular muscles along its length which is lubricated with Mucin, secreted by tubular glands found in the back of the throat. These muscles work to push the food into the stomach after swallowing.

The Stomach
The stomach is a muscle lined sack that contains glands that secrete gastric juices that aid in the physical and chemical breakdown of food.

The stomach contains an oblique layer of muscles that work to physically break down food into a thick liquid known as chyme

Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Small Intestine

Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Small Intestine


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Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Small Intestine


Vili in the small intestine have a fine layer of microvili designed to further increase the surface area, and thus the rate of nutrient absorption. Intestinal glands are found between the vili which are designed to secrete intestinal juices keeping the intestinal environment ideal for absorption by the body.

Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

The Large Intestine


The Large intestine transports undigested food and water and dissolved minerals are absorbed aided by intestinal bacteria. The bacterias by products are vitamin B-12 and K along with various amino acids, which are all beneficial and absorbed by the body. The remaining digested food, also known as feces passes into the rectum and is passed through the anus.
Reproduced with permission from http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/health/nursing/sonic/scenarios/scenario1GITlecture.htm March 28th 2005

Food Movement - Peristalsis


Food is not simply pushed through the digestive system, instead the various forms of food are moved through muscle contraction. This muscle contraction in tubular compartments is called peristalsis and describes a contraction wave type movement. Peristalsis is not only used to mechanically move food forward but also to churn and mix digestive juices into the chyme.

The Living Model

Image Source: http://www.sdmesa.sdccd.net/~bbrothers/Pages/Digestive_Flat_model.htm March 28, 2005

The Living Model


Stomach Gallbladder Liver Diaphragm Small Intestine Pancreas

Image retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/15401/learn_idiagram_dig.html March 28, 2005

The Science of Digestion


Senior Biology Appleby College C. Watt V1. 2005-03-29