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All the parts of the digestive system form a coiled tube.

This tube is called the alimentary canal

or digestive tract. The food we eat passes through this tube during the process of digestion so that
it can be changed into simpler substances that can be used by all our body cells. The parts of the
digestive system differ in their structure and function.
The mouth is the first part of the digestive tract. The tongue and the teeth are found in the mouth.
The inside of the mouth is lubricated with saliva that comes from the salivary glands. The
strongest muscles are found in each side of the mouth. They help move the lower jaw and give it
a biting force.
There are four types of teeth in the mouth. The incisors are used in cutting food. The canines are
used for grasping, piercing and tearing. The premolars and molars are used for crushing and
grinding. Aside from tasting food, the tongue is used for moving the food as the saliva softens it.
We have three pairs of salivary glands. Saliva from these glands lubricates the food and makes it
soft. Saliva also contains an enzyme that breaks down starch.

From the mouth, food goes down the esophagus through the pharynx or throat. The esophagus is
a muscular tube that can open and close at the pharynx. It can also open and close to the
stomach. The walls of the esophagus consist of smooth muscles. The wavelike movement of
these muscles, called peristalsis, pushes the food down to the stomach.

1The stomach is a hollow muscular organ shaped like a bag. Its upper end is connected to the
esophagus while the lower end is connected to the small intestine. The upper and lower ends of
the stomach have smooth circular muscles called sphincter muscles. When the upper end muscle
relaxes, the stomach opens and food gets in. When the lower end muscles relaxes, partially
digested food moves out of the stomach. The sphincter muscles keep the food in the stomach.
The stomach is flexible and can expand when you eat. It can hold from 1 to 3 liters of food. The
stomach acts as a storage bag of food. If the stomach could not store food, you would have to eat
every twenty minutes or so instead of just three times a day. The stomach contains three layers of
smooth muscles which also produce peristaltic movements to continue breaking down the food.

The intestines are found below the stomach and liver. They form the major part of the digestive
tract. The small intestine is about 2.5 centimeter in diameter and 6 meters long. Its wall are made
of smooth muscles. The inner lining of the small intestines is folded into tiny fingerlike
projections called villi (singular, villus). Each villus contains blood vessels. The work of the
small intestines is to digest food, which can then be absorbed by the blood. The villi act much
like the same as the folded towels. Because the wall of the intestine is folded into millions of
villi, the surface area through which nutrients pass to the bloodstream is greatly increased. If the
villi on the inner lining of the small intestine are flattened out, they would cover about 4500
square meters.
The large intestine is about 5 centimeters in diameter and about 1.8 meters long. Its main part if
the colon. At the end of the colon is the rectum which opens to the anus. The work of the large
intestine is to absorb water from the undigested food, hold the undigested food for a while and
then excrete it as feces.
Accessory Parts of the Digestive System and their functions

The liver, pancreas and gall bladder are not part of the alimentary canal but they have important
functions in the digestive process. They are called accessory parts of the digestive system.
The liver lies under the diaphragm and near the stomach. It is the largest organ inside the body
and one of the most important. Among the functions of the liver that are related to digestion are
the following.
1. It produces bile, a substance that helps in the digestion of fats.
2. It stores glycogen, vitamins and some minerals, such as iron and copper, which are released
when needed by the body.
Gall bladder
The gall bladder is a small muscular sac that is attached beneath the liver. Bile produced by the
liver passes through a small tube and is stored in the gall bladder. From the gall bladder, bile is
released to the small intestine digestion.
The pancreas is an organ that lies behind the stomach. Its function related to digestion is to
produce pancreatic juice. Pancreatic juice helps in neutralizing or weakening the acid in food
inside the stomach before it moves onto the small intestine. Pancreatic juice also contains

different enzymes that are needed to further break down starch, proteins and fats in the small
Digestive enzymes are enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller
building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body. Digestive enzymes are found
in the digestive tracts of animals (including humans) and in the traps ofcarnivorous plants, where
they aid in the digestion of food, as well as inside cells, especially in their lysosomes, where they
function to maintain cellular survival. Digestive enzymes are diverse and are found in
the saliva secreted by the salivary glands, in the stomach secreted by cells lining the stomach, in
the pancreatic juice secreted by pancreatic exocrine cells, and in the intestinal (small and large)
secretions, or as part of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
Digestive enzymes are classified based on their target substrates:
proteases and peptidases split proteins into small peptides and amino acids.
lipases split fat into three fatty acids and a glycerol molecule.
carbohydrases split carbohydrates such as starch and sugars into simple sugars such as glucose.
nucleases split nucleic acids into nucleotides.
In the human digestive system, the main sites of digestion are the oral cavity, the stomach, and
the small intestine. Digestive enzymes are secreted by different exocrine glands including:
Salivary glands
Secretory cells in the stomach
Secretory cells in the pancreas
Secretory glands in the small intestine