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Introduction to the Human Digestive System

- Outcomes
After completing this module you will be able to:
Briefly describe the human digestive system. Explain how energy is obtained from food. List the stages involved in the digestion process. List the three main food types. Briefly describe vitamins.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The overall function of the human digestive system is to provide materials to be used by the individual cells of the body
These materials are used by the cells: as energy for life processes. for growth and repair of body tissues.

!lic" on the labels in the graphic to learn about the components of the human digestive system The functions of the mouth# pharyn$ and salivary glands include:
ingestion and chewing of food initiation of swallowing reflex moistening of food partial digestion of food using the amylase enzyme The esophagus provides the pathway for food to reach the stomach. t functions include: movement of food to the stomach by peristaltic waves lubrication

The stomach is a sac li"e organ located between the esophagus and the small intestine

ts functions include: storing! dissolving and mixing food partial digestion of food regulation of emptying of dissolved food into the small intestine

The pancreas is an elongated gland located behind the stomach

t secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine.

The liver is a large organ located in the upper right part of the abdomen
ts functions include: the secretion of bile used by the small intestine in the digestive process! this includes bile salts needed to increase the solubility of fats many other non digestive functions Between meals the gall bladder stores bile which has been secreted by the liver.

The small intestine is a long tube that leads from the stomach to the large intestine
ts functions include: the final stage of digestion absorption of most substances

The functions of the large intestine include:

temporary storage of undigested material absorption of some salt and water mixing and propulsion of contents defecation

The following processes are involved in the human digestive system:

ngestion "ta#ing in$ of foods nitial processing %torage &igestion 'bsorption Elimination of unused materials

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The %nergy !ycle

The human body must obtain all of its energy from external sources.

Solar &adiation
The ultimate source of all energy for living things on Earth is the %un. This energy reaches the Earth in the form of solar radiation.

The energy from solar radiation is stored by plants in the chemical bonds of glucose molecules. The process for doing this is called photosynthesis. ()*T* + light %,-T)E% % + put together

(hotosynthesis ta#es place in the presence of the green substance called chlorophyll. This is the chemical reaction for photosynthesis.

(!O) * (H)O * % +, !(H-)O( * (O)

.arbon &ioxide / 0ater / Energy , EL&% 1lucose / *xygen

.ood !onsumption
The green plants are then utilized as food by various animals. 2ltimately! either the green plants or the animals that ate the green plants are consumed by humans.

Digestion and /etabolic O$idation

Through the processes of digestion! the glucose is released. t is then delivered to the cells of the body by the circulatory system. 0ithin the cells of the body! the energy is released from the glucose by the

chemical process #nown as metabolic oxidation:

!(H-)O( * (O) +, (!O) * (H)O * % 0lucose * O$ygen 1I%2DS !arbon Dio$ide * 3ater * %nergy

'roduction and 4se of AT'

The released energy is then used to produce the compound #nown as 'T( "adenosine triphosphate$.

This metabolic o$idation and the production of AT' occur in the mitochondria
3or this reason! the mitochondria are #nown as the 4powerhouses4 of the cell. 0hen energy is re5uired for carrying on any of the life processes! it is obtained from the 'T(.

AT' +, AD' * '56 * % 1ields AT' + AD' * 'hosphate &adical * %nergy Is formed by

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------' food is any substance utilized by a living thing for energy "or for growth and repair$. There are both plant and animal sources for foods. *ne can eat grains in the form of bread! and one can eat the meat of an animal that ate such grains.

.ood Types
In general# the nutrients in food fall into three categories: "6$ .arbohydrates "starches and sugars$. "7$ Lipids "fats and oils$. "8$ (roteins.

Other nutrients re7uired by the human body include water# minerals and vitamins
9itamins are a group of chemicals that are re5uired in very small 5uantities for the proper functioning of the body. 9itamins are found in varying amounts in different foods. n fact! many processed foods contain artificial vitamin supplements.


8itamins can be considered in two ma9or categories:

water:soluble vitamins fat:soluble vitamins The water:soluble vitamins include vitamin .! B:complex vitamins! and others. There is a daily re5uirement for water:soluble vitamins. This is because they are excreted continuously with the urine. *n the other hand! fat:soluble vitamins can be accumulated in the fat of the body.

3ater soluble : 8itamin ;9itamin B6 "Thiamine )ydrochloride$. 9itamin B6 is present in liver! bananas! lean por#! and whole grain cereals.

3ater soluble : 8itamin ;)

9itamin B7 ";iboflavin$. ;iboflavin is found in mil#! mil# products! leafy green vegetables! fruit! and liver.

3ater soluble : 8itamin ;(

9itamin B< "(yridoxine )ydrochloride$. 9itamin B< is found in whole grain cereals! yeast! mil#! fish! eggs! and liver.

3ater soluble - <icotinic acid and <icotinamide

-icotinic 'cid "-iacin$ and -icotinamide "-iacinamide$. These are present in meat! liver! mil#! peanuts! and whole grain cereals.

3ater soluble : 8itamin ;-)

9itamin B67. 9itamin B67 is found in liver! mil#! eggs! and cheese.

Tab ( 3ater soluble - .olic Acid

3olic 'cid. 3olic acid is found in leafy green vegetables and liver.

3ater soluble - 8itamin !

9itamin . "'scorbic 'cid$. %ources of vitamin . include citrus fruits! tomatoes! bell peppers! papri#a! and all leafy green vegetables.

.at soluble : 8itamin A

9itamin '. 9itamin ' is mainly obtained from yellow:colored vegetables of all sorts "for example! carrots and s5uash.$

.at soluble : 8itamin D

9itamin &. 9itamin & is produced in the s#in by the activity of solar radiation. t is also present in fish liver oils! butter! and egg yol#.

.at soluble : 8itamin =

9itamin =. 9itamin = is important in blood clotting. t is actually produced by microorganisms located in the large intestines. This source of vitamin = may be lost during the administration of antibiotics. 9itamin = also occurs in such foods as alfalfa! spinach! cabbage! and egg yol#.

.at soluble : 8itamin %

9itamin E. The function of vitamin E in humans is not #nown. ;esearch indicates that vitamin E has important functions in various species! but the specific function varies from species to species.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The function of the human digestive system is to provide materials for energy# growth and repair
The following processes are involved in the human digestive system: ngestion nitial processing

%torage &igestion 'bsorption Elimination

In general# food can be divided into three categories:

.arbohydrates Lipids (rotein

Other necessary nutrients include:

0ater 9itamins >inerals

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ingestion# Initial 'rocessing and Storage - Outcomes

After completing this module you will be able to:

Briefly describe ingestion. Explain each stage of the process of swallowing. Briefly describe the structure and functions of the stomach.

0hen an individual needs foods! he experiences a sensation #nown as hunger. The hypothalamus area of the brain controls the degree of hunger or satiation "feeling of being well fed$. To do this! the hypothalamus receives various types of information from throughout the body.

.ood Selection
0hen food is presented! an individual goes through a process of food selection. )e or she has a greater appetite for some foods than others. This process is related both to previous learning and to current! internal chemical re5uirements. Biting Together! the upper and lower incisors "anterior teeth$ create two cutting surfaces li#e a pair of scissors. 's food items are placed in the opening of the oral cavity! bite:size chun#s of food are cut off. These chun#s are usually ?ust the right size for the mouth to handle.

Two =ey .acts about Digestion

n general terms! there are two #ey facts to understand about digestion:

a 3irst! digestion is a chemical process.

Through a process called hydrolysis! food is bro#en down into its constituent parts.

b %econd! this chemical process ta#es place only at wet surfaces of the food. 'age >

&uring the process #nown as mastication "chewing$! the food particles are gradually bro#en down into smaller and smaller pieces.

At the same time# the total surface area of the food increases greatly a This grinding and crushing of the food particles are accomplished by the
posterior teeth! the premolar and molar teeth. 3or this purpose! these teeth have broad! opposing surfaces.

b Together! the tongue and chee#s act to #eep the food particles between the
surfaces of the grinding teeth. This is accomplished as the lower ?aw moves up and down.

Saliva a %ecreting fluids into the oral cavity are such glandular structures as the salivary
glands and the buccal glands. "The buccal glands are serous and mucous glands on the inner surfaces of the chee#s.$ These fluids are collectively #nown as the saliva.

b %aliva serves to wet the surface areas of the food particles produced by
mastication. n addition! saliva also dissolves some of the molecules of the food items.

c Taste buds sample these dissolved molecules and test the 5uality of the food
being eaten. Taste buds are located on the tongue and the bac# of the oral cavity.

d 'nother component of the saliva is mucus.

The mucus tends to hold the food particles together as a bolus. %ince the mucus also ma#es this bolus somewhat slippery! the bolus can slide readily through the initial portion of the digestive tract.

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3hen the food has been ade7uately bro"en down ?increased surface area@# wetted thoroughly# and tested ?tasted@# it is ready to be swallowed a The bolus is moved posteriorly out of the mouth "oral cavity$ into the pharynx
and then down through the esophagus to the stomach.

b The pharynx is common to both the digestive and respiratory systems.

Therefore! as the bolus passes through the pharynx! both the upper and lower air passageways must be protected. *therwise! food particles might enter the passageways.

/ovement out of the oral !avity a Initial /ovement of the ;olus

There are intrinsic muscles in the tongue. Through their action! the tongue arches upward and presses against the hard palate! the roof of the mouth. This initiates the posterior movement of the bolus.

b Action of the Hyoid !omple$

The muscles of the hyoid bone pull the hyoid bone upward and force the tongue upward into the oral cavity. This closes up the front part of the oral cavity and forces the bolus further to the rear.

c Action of the Soft 'alate

's the bolus approaches the pharynx! the soft palate is raised. Thus! the soft palate serves as a trap door to close the upper air passageway. By tensing to resist the pressure from the bolus of food! the soft palate ensures the continued bac#ward movement of the bolus into the pharynx.

/ovement through the 'haryn$

a 'haryngeal !onstrictor /uscles

The wall of the pharynx contains three pharyngeal constrictor muscles. By waveli#e contractions! these muscles force the bolus down into the beginning of the esophagus.

b Action of the %piglottis

's the hyoid bone@s muscles raise the tongue up into the oral cavity! they also raise the larynx. The larynx is raised because it is attached to the inferior margin of the hyoid bone. 's the larynx is raised! its epiglottis automatically turns down over the opening of the larynx. Thus! food is prevented from entering the lower:air passage:way.

/ovement through the esophagus

The esophagus is a tube with muscular walls. t extends from the pharynx above! through the nec# and thorax! to the stomach in the abdomen. 0aveli#e contractions "peristalsis$ move the bolus through the esophagus to the stomach.

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Introduction to the Stomach

The stomach is a sacli#e enlargement of the digestive tract. By way of the esophagus! the stomach receives the food that has been processed in the oral cavity. The stomach@s capacity is great enough to allow the individual to ta#e in enough food material at one time to last for an extended period of time. This allows the individual to engage in activities other than eating.

Introduction to the Stomach

n addition! certain digestive processes are initiated in the stomach. The food is retained in the stomach for varying lengths of time! depending upon the types of food eaten! the condition of the individual! and many other factors.

Adaptations of the Stomach for the Storage .unction

The stomach is adapted as a storage area in several ways. ts wall is 5uite stretchable. The mucosal lining of the stomach is thrown up into longitudinal folds called rugae. These rugae flatten out as the stomach capacity increases.

Adaptations of the Stomach for the Storage .unction

't each end of the stomach! there is a structure to #eep the contents from leaving the stomach.

?-@ 't the point where the esophagus enters the stomach! there is a
4gastroesophageal valve.4 This valve appears to be functional! although it has not been demonstrated anatomically.

?)@ 't the other end of the stomach is the well:developed pyloric valve. Adaptations of the Stomach for Additional .ood 'rocessing 0astric 0lands
The mucosal lining of the stomach contains a number of gastric glands. These gastric glands produce gastric digestive ?uices for initiating digestion! particularly of proteins. %ome of the gastric glands also produce hydrochloric acid. Thus! chyme! the mixture produced by the stomach! is 5uite acid.

Adaptations of the Stomach for Additional .ood 'rocessing Additional /usculature

' third inner! obli5ue layer of muscle has been added to the stomach wall. 0ith the three layers of muscles! the contents of the stomach are thoroughly mixed.

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The initial brea#down of food ta#es place in the oral cavity! where food is chewed! and some of it is dissolved in saliva.

Swallowing can be divided into three phases as follows:

movement of food out of the oral cavity movement of food through the pharynx movement of food through the esophagus The epiglottis is a thin flap of cartilage which folds over the entrance to the larynx during swallowing thus preventing food from entering the trachea. The stomach provides temporary storage for food and it initiates certain digestive processes! for example it begins the brea#down of proteins.

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Digestion# Absorption and %limination

- Outcomes
'fter completing this module you will be able to: Briefly describe how food is digested in the human body. Explain how nutrients are absorbed into the human body. Briefly describe how waste materials are eliminated from the human body.

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Introduction to Digestion

&igestion involves the brea#down of foodstuffs into their basic constituents. The small intestines are the primary area of the body for digestion of foodstuffs. The end:products "molecules or particles$ of digestion are small enough to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestines. These end:products are then distributed throughout the body by the body@s circulatory systems.

Digestion as a !hemical 'rocess

&igestion is the chemical process. n general! chemical processes are expected to occur at a rate proportional to the temperature. )owever! in the human body! the temperature is not high enough for the chemical process of digestion to produce a sufficient 5uantity of the materials needed. Therefore! digestive enzymes are present to maintain the appropriate rates of reaction.

Digestive %nAymes
&igestive enzymes are catalysts. ' catalyst is a substance that improves the rate of a reaction without being consumed itself. The molecule upon which an enzyme acts is called a substrate. Because of digestive enzymes! digestion proceeds at a pace fast enough to provide the materials needed by the body.

.oodstuff %nd'roduct !arbohydrate Sugars 2ipid 'roteins Acids

%nAyme Amylases 2ipases 'roteases

!lass Simple .atty Acids Amino

Table of foodstuffs! enzyme classes! and end:products of digestion.

Digestion in the /outh and Stomach

The digestive process begins in the oral cavity.

The saliva contains enzymes which initiate the digestion of complex carbohydrates. n the stomach! the gastric glands produce enzymes that initiate the digestion of proteins.

Digestion in the Small Intestine

The ma?ority of digestion in humans ta#es place in the small intestines. The small intestines are located in the central part of the abdomen! immediately beneath the abdominal wall. n healthy individuals! a flap called the greater omentum is draped over the small intestines "between them and the anterior abdominal wall$. The greater omentum has a great deal of fat for insulation. t is richly supplied with blood vessels for heat. %ome might compare the greater omentum to an 4electric blan#et4 for the small intestines.

Digestive %nAymes in the Small Intestine

n the small intestines! there are digestive enzymes for all three classes of foodstuffs : carbohydrates! lipids! and proteins. Enzymes for completing the digestion of these three classes are found in the fluids produced by the pancreas and glands in the mucosa of the small intestines. >oreover! there is a fluid called bile that is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder for release into the small intestines. Bile helps in the digestion of lipids.

Time and 2ength

The length of the small intestines appears to be ?ust right. The time it ta#es for material to travel from beginning to end is ?ust about right for the completion of digestion. The presence or absence of certain enzymes is genetically determined. Therefore! some individuals may have difficulty digesting certain foods.

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The end:products of digestion are absorbed primarily through the walls of the small intestines.

Surface Area
The amount of absorption is proportional to the surface area of the walls which contact the contents.

Two anatomical specialiAations serve to increase this surface area:

"6$ There are permanent circular folds "plicae circulares$ in the mucosal lining of the small intestines. "7$ The entire inner surface of the mucosa is covered with villi. 9illi are minute! fingerli#e processes that extend into the lumen "cavity$ of the small intestines.

The simple sugars and amino acids are absorbed into the blood capillaries. >ost of the fatty acids and glycerol are absorbed into the lymphatic capillaries.

Hepatic 8enous 'ortal System

'll of the blood capillaries in the absorptive areas of the digestive tract ?oin to form the hepatic portal venous system. ' venous portal system is a system that begins in capillaries! which ?oin to form veins! which in turn end in another group of capillaries. The hepatic portal vein carries the blood from the absorptive areas of the digestive system to the liver.

The 2iver
n the liver! a number of actions are performed on the blood. Excess materials are removed and stored. 3or example! some glucose is stored as glycogen. Toxic materials are degraded! microorganisms are removed! and so forth. The 4treated4 blood is then routed from the liver to the heart and then throughout the body.

4tiliAation of the 2ipids

The lipid materials! such as fatty acids and glycerol! are carried to the venous system beyond the liver. Lipid materials are a high:energy item. They are stored as fat throughout the body so that they will be available when needed for energy. Body fat also serves as insulation in the subcutaneous tissues. t gives buoyancy to the body in water. .holesterol is a very important substance in the body. t participates in the functioning of the liver and in other activities of the body. )owever! there are certain medical conditions in which physicians prescribe a low: cholesterol andAor low:fat diet.

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4ndigested .ood /aterials <ondigestible .ood /aterial

' number of substances within food materials cannot be digested by the human digestive system. *ne important material in this group is called cellulose. .ellulose is a complex carbohydrate found in plants. .ellulose is commonly referred to as 4bul#4 or 4fiber.4

Other 4ndigested .ood /aterials

0hen individuals consume great 5uantities of foods! a portion of it will not be digested.

'assage Out of the Small Intestines

This undigested material will pass out of the small intestines with the non: digestible materials. The resulting fluid mass enters the large intestines through the ileocecal valve.

2arge Intestines !onsolidation of !ontents

n the large intestines! this fluid mass is gradually consolidated into a semisolid mass called feces. The ma?or function of the large intestines then is salvage. 0ater is the primary salvage item. n addition to water! some previously unabsorbed end products of digestion can be absorbed here. 't the same time certain excretions from the body can be deposited in the fecal mass.

's the contents increase in solidity! mucus is added to facilitate their movement through the large intestines. "(reviously! we have seen the addition of mucus to the bolus in the mouth to facilitate movement.$ This mucus is produced by unicellular glands in the mucosal lining of the large intestines. "Because of their microscopic appearance! these unicellular glands are called goblet cells.$

>any microorganisms are found within the lumen or cavity of the large intestines. .ertain microorganisms are responsible for the production of vitamin =. &epending on the type of food present! some species of microorganisms produce various gases "flatulence$. *n occasion! pathogenic organisms may be present and cause problems for the individual.

Storage of .eces
Toward the lower end of the large intestines! the contents "feces$ have become relatively consolidated. This consolidated mass is retained "stored$ mainly in the rectum and the lower portion of the sigmoid colon.

't the appropriate time! the feces is passed out of the body "defecation$.

The feces passes through the anal canal and anus. This is accomplished by the relaxation of the anal sphincter muscles.

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The small intestine is the primary area of the body for the digestion of foodstuffs. Enzymes are used to speed up the process of digestion. >ost of the end products of digestion are absorbed from the small intestine into the hepatic portal venous system. Blood coming from the hepatic portal venous system is 4treated4 by the liver before being sent to the heart for circulation. 0ater and any previously unabsorbed digestive end products are absorbed from the large intestine into the blood. 0aste materials from the digestive process are eliminated from the large intestine! through the anus! in the form of feces.

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'fter completing this module you will be able to: Briefly describe the protection mechanisms of the digestive system. Explain how the mammary gland provides protection from infection! for a baby! during breast feeding.

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!ontinuity with Surrounding %nvironment

The human digestive system is essentially a continuous tube! which is open at both ends. Therefore! the lumen "cavity$ connects directly with the surrounding environment. 'long with the ingested food! almost anything can pass through the mouth into the digestive system. The digestive tract is open to the surrounding environment also at the other end! the anus.

The &eticuloendothelial System

%ince a variety of toxic materials andAor microorganisms may be included with ingested foods! special protective mechanisms are associated with the human digestive system. %uch protective mechanisms are said to belong to the reticuloendothelial system. This term refers to the association of such mechanisms with a particular layer of epithelial cells.

2ymphoid Tissues
The lymphoid tissues are a primary component of the reticuloendothelial system. The lymphocyte is an important type of white blood cell that is also found in the interspaces of lymphoid "or lymphatic$ tissues. Lymphocytes signal other types of white blood cells to phagocytize "engulf$ foreign materials found within the body. The lymphoid tissues are particularly important in individuals from birth until about 6B years of age. The mass of lymphoid tissue found in the body of a 67:year:old is about twice the mass found in a full:grown adult. Between < and 6B years of age! the immune system of the blood becomes the primary protector of the body from disease.

Tonsils are aggregates of lymphoid tissue found at the beginning of the pharynx. There are three pairs of tonsils. Together! they form a ring of lymphoid tissue at the beginning of the pharynx. This ring! called 0aldeyer@s ring! completely surrounds the entrance to the pharynx

from both the mouth "digestive entrance$ and the nose and nasal chambers "respiratory entrance$. n the upper recess of the pharynx is the pair of pharyngeal tonsils "commonly #nown as the adenoids$. *n either side! below the soft palate! are the palatine tonsils. These are the tonsils that one sees most fre5uently in small children. The lingual tonsils are on the bac# of the root of the tongue.

BTonsilsC of the Small Intestines

Lymphoid aggregates of varying size are found in the walls of the small intestines. n the ileum portion! in particular! these aggregates are large enough to be easily observed and are called (eyer@s patches. These might be considered 4tonsils4 of the small intestines.

BTonsilsC of the 2arge Intestine

't the beginning of the large intestine! at the inferior end of the cecum! is a structure #nown as the vermiform appendix. %ince the vermiform appendix is actually a collection of lymphoid tissue! it should be considered the 4tonsil4 of the large intestine.

=upfferDs !ells
's we have seen! blood from the absorptive areas of the gut tract is collected and delivered to the liver by the hepatic venous portal system. 's this blood passes through the sinusoids "channels$ of the liver! it is acted upon by cells called =upffer@s cells. These cells line the sinusoids. %ince =upffer@s cells remove harmful substances from the blood! they are considered to be part of the reticuloendothelial system.

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The /ammary 0land

0hen the newborn baby is nursed by its mother! the initial secretion of the mammary glands is called colostrum. The >ammary 1land 'lthough this colostrum lac#s nutrients! it is loaded with antibodies. These antibodies provide the infant with its primary protection for the first < months of life. ;eflux 'fter a few days! the mammary gland produces the natural food for the human infant. 's the infant suc#les at the mother@s breast! there is a certain amount of reflux "bac#ward flow$ into the mil# ducts of the mammary gland. %hould the infant develop an upper respiratory infection! the organisms causing the infection will be included in this reflux. 1enerally by the next time the infant suc#les! the mammary gland will have produced the appropriate antibodies. These antibodies are delivered to the infant for its protection.

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The reticuloendothelial system provides protection in the digestive system. t encompasses lymphoid tissue in the tonsils! small and large intestine! and the =upffer cells in the liver. 'fter the birth of a baby! colostrum! the initial secretion from the mammary glands! is filled with antibodies. The mammary glands respond to infection! in reflux from the feeding baby! by producing the appropriate antibodies.

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