Digesting Your Diet:
The Anatomy and Physiology

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The digestive system is a vast network of organs that work together to process the food that we consume.Each organ has its own particular function.

It is truly marvelous to learn how the digestive organs function in tandem. They are able to sort good food from bad, and extract nutrients for the body.

Read on to learn all about the digestive system.

Purpose

The digestive system primarily exists to break down food for the body. It does this in a way so that minute cells are capable of using the nutrients for energy. The digestive process also involves modifying and transforming food into other substances. This is done through a series of physical and also chemical changes.

Mouth

The jaws, teeth and tongue are the main parts of the mouth that process food. At this stage, food is broken down roughly through chewing or biting. Saliva helps further in softening the food. Special enzymes in the saliva help to further dissolve some foods. Taste buds help by alerting the brain to any foods that might be bad.

Swallowing

Once the mouth breaks down the food, the chewed mass transfers into the throat. First it needs to move past the respiratory tract. During this point, food is swallowed in such a way that it does not travel into the windpipe. Saliva helps to further lubricate the pharynx while the respiratory passages are momentarily blocked automatically.

Esophagus

The esophagus is the section that connects the stomach and throat. It shares the main features of the main digestive tract. This includes the mucosa, a mucous membrane and the submucosa, a connective tissue that lies under the mucosa. In the esophagus, we also find the muscularis externa, a muscle layer, and a layer of serous membrane.

Stomach

The stomach lies in the upper left side of the abdomen. It is coated with mucus as a protective measure. When food passes into the stomach, acidic juices are released to break down the food through chemical reactions. The resulting liquefied substance is known as chyme.

Duodenum

The duodenum is found at the beginning of the small intestine. It lies around the top of the pancreas. Here, portions of chyme are further degraded by chemicals and enzymes from both the duodenum and the pancreas. Bile (an alkaline substance) is added to neutralize the highly acidic chyme. Small Intestine

The small intestine is a soft, compacted tube that actually measures several feet long. Apart from the duodenum, it is also comprised of the jejunum and the ileum. On its surface are thousands of villi, long projections that help with absorption. As digested food is passed along through, nutrients are absorbed and distributed to the rest of the body.

Large Intestine

Undigested food that may carry bacteria is passed through to the large intestine. Here, extra water in the food is absorbed, so that the remaining mass is left somewhat drier. This mass is now known as feces. The feces are then moved towards the colon to be expelled through the anus.

Glands

There are several glands that help throughout the digestive system. The first are the salivary glands. Our mouths contain three pairs. Salivary glands are triggered by smell, tastes, images, and even thoughts of food. They form the first step in processing food for the digestive system.

The next glands are the edocrine and exocrine glands, contained in the pancreas. They create enzymes that regulate blood sugars and neutralize acidity levels.

The liver plays an important role in producing bile salts that help the body to digest fats more easily. This organ also has many other important functions such as synthesizing protein and detoxifying substances. All of these glands are vital to the digestive system as well as for maintaining a normal, healthy life. In some cases, certain glands become diseased or weak and they can malfunction.

For example, in the gallbladder, small hard objects known as gallstones can form and block certain ducts. In some instances, if the pancreas is negatively affected, the patient can still live on but may have to take medical supplements or have surgery.

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