Inside-Out Anatomy: The Digestive System

Navigation menu

Digestive system
As the esophagus does not have the same protection from acid as the stomach, any failure of this sphincter can lead to heartburn. There are a number of esophageal diseases such as the development of Schatzki rings that can restrict the passageway, causing difficulties in swallowing. The soft palate ends at the uvula. Digestion is helped by the chewing of food carried out by the muscles of mastication , by the teeth , and also by the contractions of peristalsis , and segmentation. Vermilion border Frenulum of lower lip Labial commissure of mouth Philtrum. The New England Journal of Medicine, Gastrin, secretin, and cholecystokinin CCK were the primary discovered gut hormones, and as of nowadays, there are over fifty gut internal secretion genes and a large number of bioactive peptides.

Also of Interest

Your Digestive System

It consists of the mouth , or oral cavity, with its teeth , for grinding the food, and its tongue, which serves to knead food and mix it with saliva ; the throat, or pharynx ; the esophagus ; the stomach ; the small intestine , consisting of the duodenum , the jejunum, and the ileum ; and the large intestine , consisting of the cecum , a closed-end sac connecting with the ileum, the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, and the sigmoid colon , which terminates in the rectum.

Glands contributing digestive juices include the salivary glands , the gastric glands in the stomach lining, the pancreas , and the liver and its adjuncts—the gallbladder and bile ducts. All of these organs and glands contribute to the physical and chemical breaking down of ingested food and to the eventual elimination of nondigestible wastes. Their structures and functions are described step by step in this section.

Little digestion of food actually takes place in the mouth. However, through the process of mastication , or chewing, food is prepared in the mouth for transport through the upper digestive tract into the stomach and small intestine, where the principal digestive processes take place. Chewing is the first mechanical process to which food is subjected. Movements of the lower jaw in chewing are brought about by the muscles of mastication the masseter, the temporal, the medial and lateral pterygoids, and the buccinator.

The sensitivity of the periodontal membrane that surrounds and supports the teeth, rather than the power of the muscles of mastication, determines the force of the bite. Mastication is not essential for adequate digestion. Chewing does aid digestion, however, by reducing food to small particles and mixing it with the saliva secreted by the salivary glands.

The saliva lubricates and moistens dry food, while chewing distributes the saliva throughout the food mass. The movement of the tongue against the hard palate and the cheeks helps to form a rounded mass, or bolus , of food. The lips, two fleshy folds that surround the mouth, are composed externally of skin and internally of mucous membrane , or mucosa.

The mucosa is rich in mucus-secreting glands, which together with saliva ensure adequate lubrication for the purposes of speech and mastication. The cheeks, the sides of the mouth, are continuous with the lips and have a similar structure. A distinct fat pad is found in the subcutaneous tissue the tissue beneath the skin of the cheek; this pad is especially large in infants and is known as the sucking pad.

On the inner surface of each cheek, opposite the second upper molar tooth, is a slight elevation that marks the opening of the parotid duct, leading from the parotid salivary gland , which is located in front of the ear. Just behind this gland are four to five mucus-secreting glands, the ducts of which open opposite the last molar tooth. The roof of the mouth is concave and is formed by the hard and soft palate. The hard palate is formed by the horizontal portions of the two palatine bones and the palatine portions of the maxillae, or upper jaws.

The hard palate is covered by a thick, somewhat pale mucous membrane that is continuous with that of the gums and is bound to the upper jaw and palate bones by firm fibrous tissue. The soft palate is continuous with the hard palate in front.

Posteriorly it is continuous with the mucous membrane covering the floor of the nasal cavity. The soft palate is composed of a strong, thin, fibrous sheet, the palatine aponeurosis, and the glossopalatine and pharyngopalatine muscles. A small projection called the uvula hangs free from the posterior of the soft palate.

The floor of the mouth can be seen only when the tongue is raised. In the midline is a prominent, elevated fold of mucous membrane frenulum linguae that binds each lip to the gums, and on each side of this is a slight fold called a sublingual papilla , from which the ducts of the submandibular salivary glands open.

Running outward and backward from each sublingual papilla is a ridge the plica sublingualis that marks the upper edge of the sublingual under the tongue salivary gland and onto which most of the ducts of that gland open.

The gums consist of mucous membranes connected by thick fibrous tissue to the membrane surrounding the bones of the jaw. The gum membrane rises to form a collar around the base of the crown exposed portion of each tooth.

Rich in blood vessels, the gum tissues receive branches from the alveolar arteries; these vessels, called alveolar because of their relationship to the alveoli dentales, or tooth sockets, also supply the teeth and the spongy bone of the upper and lower jaws, in which the teeth are lodged.

We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article.

Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. William Sircus William T. After some time typically 1—2 hours in humans, 4—6 hours in dogs, 3—4 hours in house cats , [ citation needed ] the resulting thick liquid is called chyme.

When the pyloric sphincter valve opens, chyme enters the duodenum where it mixes with digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile juice from the liver and then passes through the small intestine , in which digestion continues. When the chyme is fully digested, it is absorbed into the blood. Water and minerals are reabsorbed back into the blood in the colon large intestine where the pH is slightly acidic about 5. Some vitamins, such as biotin and vitamin K K 2 MK7 produced by bacteria in the colon are also absorbed into the blood in the colon.

Waste material is eliminated from the rectum during defecation. Digestive systems take many forms. There is a fundamental distinction between internal and external digestion. External digestion developed earlier in evolutionary history, and most fungi still rely on it. Animals have a tube gastrointestinal tract in which internal digestion occurs, which is more efficient because more of the broken down products can be captured, and the internal chemical environment can be more efficiently controlled.

Some organisms, including nearly all spiders , simply secrete biotoxins and digestive chemicals e. In others, once potential nutrients or food is inside the organism , digestion can be conducted to a vesicle or a sac-like structure, through a tube, or through several specialized organs aimed at making the absorption of nutrients more efficient. Bacteria use several systems to obtain nutrients from other organisms in the environments. In a channel transupport system, several proteins form a contiguous channel traversing the inner and outer membranes of the bacteria.

It is a simple system, which consists of only three protein subunits: This secretion system transports various molecules, from ions, drugs, to proteins of various sizes 20 — kDa. The molecules secreted vary in size from the small Escherichia coli peptide colicin V, 10 kDa to the Pseudomonas fluorescens cell adhesion protein LapA of kDa.

A type III secretion system means that a molecular syringe is used through which a bacterium e. One such mechanism was first discovered in Y. The conjugation machinery of some bacteria and archaeal flagella is capable of transporting both DNA and proteins. It was discovered in Agrobacterium tumefaciens , which uses this system to introduce the Ti plasmid and proteins into the host, which develops the crown gall tumor.

The nitrogen fixing Rhizobia are an interesting case, wherein conjugative elements naturally engage in inter- kingdom conjugation. Such elements as the Agrobacterium Ti or Ri plasmids contain elements that can transfer to plant cells.

Transferred genes enter the plant cell nucleus and effectively transform the plant cells into factories for the production of opines , which the bacteria use as carbon and energy sources. Infected plant cells form crown gall or root tumors. The Ti and Ri plasmids are thus endosymbionts of the bacteria, which are in turn endosymbionts or parasites of the infected plant.

The Ti and Ri plasmids are themselves conjugative. Ti and Ri transfer between bacteria uses an independent system the tra , or transfer, operon from that for inter-kingdom transfer the vir , or virulence , operon. Such transfer creates virulent strains from previously avirulent Agrobacteria. In addition to the use of the multiprotein complexes listed above, Gram-negative bacteria possess another method for release of material: Vesicles from a number of bacterial species have been found to contain virulence factors, some have immunomodulatory effects, and some can directly adhere to and intoxicate host cells.

While release of vesicles has been demonstrated as a general response to stress conditions, the process of loading cargo proteins seems to be selective. The gastrovascular cavity functions as a stomach in both digestion and the distribution of nutrients to all parts of the body. Extracellular digestion takes place within this central cavity, which is lined with the gastrodermis, the internal layer of epithelium.

This cavity has only one opening to the outside that functions as both a mouth and an anus: In a plant such as the Venus Flytrap that can make its own food through photosynthesis, it does not eat and digest its prey for the traditional objectives of harvesting energy and carbon, but mines prey primarily for essential nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus in particular that are in short supply in its boggy, acidic habitat. A phagosome is a vacuole formed around a particle absorbed by phagocytosis.

The vacuole is formed by the fusion of the cell membrane around the particle. A phagosome is a cellular compartment in which pathogenic microorganisms can be killed and digested. Phagosomes fuse with lysosomes in their maturation process, forming phagolysosomes.

In humans, Entamoeba histolytica can phagocytose red blood cells. To aid in the digestion of their food animals evolved organs such as beaks, tongues , teeth, a crop, gizzard, and others.

Birds have bony beaks that are specialised according to the bird's ecological niche. For example, macaws primarily eat seeds, nuts, and fruit, using their impressive beaks to open even the toughest seed. First they scratch a thin line with the sharp point of the beak, then they shear the seed open with the sides of the beak.

The mouth of the squid is equipped with a sharp horny beak mainly made of cross-linked proteins. It is used to kill and tear prey into manageable pieces. The beak is very robust, but does not contain any minerals, unlike the teeth and jaws of many other organisms, including marine species.

The tongue is skeletal muscle on the floor of the mouth that manipulates food for chewing mastication and swallowing deglutition. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva. The underside of the tongue is covered with a smooth mucous membrane. The tongue also has a touch sense for locating and positioning food particles that require further chewing.

The tongue is utilized to roll food particles into a bolus before being transported down the esophagus through peristalsis. The sublingual region underneath the front of the tongue is a location where the oral mucosa is very thin, and underlain by a plexus of veins. This is an ideal location for introducing certain medications to the body.

The sublingual route takes advantage of the highly vascular quality of the oral cavity, and allows for the speedy application of medication into the cardiovascular system, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. Teeth singular tooth are small whitish structures found in the jaws or mouths of many vertebrates that are used to tear, scrape, milk and chew food. Teeth are not made of bone, but rather of tissues of varying density and hardness, such as enamel, dentine and cementum.

Human teeth have a blood and nerve supply which enables proprioception. This is the ability of sensation when chewing, for example if we were to bite into something too hard for our teeth, such as a chipped plate mixed in food, our teeth send a message to our brain and we realise that it cannot be chewed, so we stop trying. The shapes, sizes and numbers of types of animals' teeth are related to their diets. For example, herbivores have a number of molars which are used to grind plant matter, which is difficult to digest.

Carnivores have canine teeth which are used to kill and tear meat. A crop , or croup, is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion.

In some birds it is an expanded, muscular pouch near the gullet or throat. In adult doves and pigeons, the crop can produce crop milk to feed newly hatched birds. Certain insects may have a crop or enlarged esophagus.

Herbivores have evolved cecums or an abomasum in the case of ruminants. Ruminants have a fore-stomach with four chambers.

These are the rumen , reticulum , omasum , and abomasum. In the first two chambers, the rumen and the reticulum, the food is mixed with saliva and separates into layers of solid and liquid material.

Solids clump together to form the cud or bolus. The cud is then regurgitated, chewed slowly to completely mix it with saliva and to break down the particle size. Fibre, especially cellulose and hemi-cellulose , is primarily broken down into the volatile fatty acids , acetic acid , propionic acid and butyric acid in these chambers the reticulo-rumen by microbes: In the omasum, water and many of the inorganic mineral elements are absorbed into the blood stream.

The abomasum is the fourth and final stomach compartment in ruminants. It is a close equivalent of a monogastric stomach e. It serves primarily as a site for acid hydrolysis of microbial and dietary protein, preparing these protein sources for further digestion and absorption in the small intestine.

Digesta is finally moved into the small intestine, where the digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Microbes produced in the reticulo-rumen are also digested in the small intestine.

Regurgitation has been mentioned above under abomasum and crop, referring to crop milk, a secretion from the lining of the crop of pigeons and doves with which the parents feed their young by regurgitation. Many sharks have the ability to turn their stomachs inside out and evert it out of their mouths in order to get rid of unwanted contents perhaps developed as a way to reduce exposure to toxins.

Other animals, such as rabbits and rodents , practise coprophagia behaviours — eating specialised faeces in order to re-digest food, especially in the case of roughage.

Capybara, rabbits, hamsters and other related species do not have a complex digestive system as do, for example, ruminants.

Instead they extract more nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft faecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten. Young elephants, pandas, koalas, and hippos eat the faeces of their mother, probably to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation. When they are born, their intestines do not contain these bacteria they are completely sterile.

Without them, they would be unable to get any nutritional value from many plant components. An earthworm 's digestive system consists of a mouth , pharynx , esophagus , crop , gizzard , and intestine. The mouth is surrounded by strong lips, which act like a hand to grab pieces of dead grass, leaves, and weeds, with bits of soil to help chew. The lips break the food down into smaller pieces. In the pharynx, the food is lubricated by mucus secretions for easier passage.

The esophagus adds calcium carbonate to neutralize the acids formed by food matter decay. Temporary storage occurs in the crop where food and calcium carbonate are mixed.

The powerful muscles of the gizzard churn and mix the mass of food and dirt. When the churning is complete, the glands in the walls of the gizzard add enzymes to the thick paste, which helps chemically breakdown the organic matter. By peristalsis , the mixture is sent to the intestine where friendly bacteria continue chemical breakdown.

This releases carbohydrates, protein, fat, and various vitamins and minerals for absorption into the body. In most vertebrates , digestion is a multistage process in the digestive system, starting from ingestion of raw materials, most often other organisms.

Ingestion usually involves some type of mechanical and chemical processing. Digestion is separated into four steps:. Underlying the process is muscle movement throughout the system through swallowing and peristalsis. Each step in digestion requires energy, and thus imposes an "overhead charge" on the energy made available from absorbed substances.

Differences in that overhead cost are important influences on lifestyle, behavior, and even physical structures. Examples may be seen in humans, who differ considerably from other hominids lack of hair, smaller jaws and musculature, different dentition, length of intestines, cooking, etc. The major part of digestion takes place in the small intestine. The large intestine primarily serves as a site for fermentation of indigestible matter by gut bacteria and for resorption of water from digests before excretion.

In mammals , preparation for digestion begins with the cephalic phase in which saliva is produced in the mouth and digestive enzymes are produced in the stomach. Mechanical and chemical digestion begin in the mouth where food is chewed , and mixed with saliva to begin enzymatic processing of starches.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding