What is Digestive System by Professor Dave!
Professor Dave again, let’s digest some food. We just completed our understanding of how we take in oxygen from the atmosphere and distribute it around the body, but our cells need more than just oxygen. We need nutrients to sustain our bodily functions, which means we need to eat food. And that food needs to get broken down into tiny components that cells can use for energy production, so how does this work? Let’s look at the digestive system now.
The digestive system can be split up into two parts. The alimentary canal, also known as the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract, is essentially one long continuous tube that starts at your mouth, where food goes in, and winds all the way down the body to finish at the anus, where a number of the food comes back out. Along the way, much of the food is broken down into molecular fragments that can be absorbed through the lining of this tract and into the blood that surrounds.
The rest of the gastrointestinal system is formed from accessory digestive organs just like the teeth, tongue, gallbladder, salivary glands, liver, and pancreas, which aren't a part of the GI tract, but have a considerable role in digestion. All of these components work together to produce sequence of six actions. First, ingestion. This is the essential act of eating, meaning putting food into your mouth.
Next is propulsion. This begins when you swallow the food, and continues with involuntary peristalsis, which is part of the autonomic nervous system. These actions push food along the alimentary canal , down the pharynx, and esophagus, and down into the stomach, eventually continuing through the intestines and out the anus. This happens with the help of an action called segmentation, or successive local constrictions in the GI tract.
How Does it work?
The third is mechanical breakdown, which begins by using teeth and saliva, and continues with further breakdown by digestive juices within the stomach, a really acidic environment thanks to the presence of gastric acid, which contains hydrochloric acid. Next is that the part that's more formally mentioned as digestion.
This is when enzymes go and perform highly directed chemical reactions to interrupt down all the polymers within the food. They break proteins down into individual amino acids, polysaccharides into individual monosaccharides, and so forth, which is categorically different than the earlier mechanical methods of breakdown.
Next, once everything is broken down as much as it can be, absorption will occur, where all of these nutrients pass through the lining of the small and large intestines into blood and lymph on the opposite side. Finally, anything that is not absorbed by the body will be dealt with during defecation, where it is expunged from the body in the form of feces.
All of this is aided by specific chemical stimuli that activate certain reflexes, some of which are mediated by the central nervous system. Let’s start out by taking a closer look at some of the organs of this system. Most of these sits in the abdominopelvic cavity.
The peritoneum is the membrane of this cavity, and it is divided into the visceral peritoneum, covering the surfaces of these organs, and the parietal peritoneum, lining the body wall, with the peritoneal cavity in between, containing serous fluid that lubricates the organs for ease of mobility. Blood is supplied to these organs via the splanchnic circulation. Now let’s get a closer look at the GI tracts a whole, to see the basic structure that surrounds the lumen of the tract.
Must know about Digestive System!
The innermost layer is that the mucosa, or mucosa . This secretes digestive enzymes and hormones into the tract, and also absorbs digested food into the blood. It is made of a single columnar epithelium, followed by a lamina propria made of loose areolar connective tissue, and then the muscularismucosae, made of smooth muscle. Beyond this is the submucosa, which is made of areolar connective tissue, and full of blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, lymphoid follicles, and nerve fibers, and we can see these entering through a mesentery.
Digested food just has to get to this layering order for nutrients to spread all over the body. Surrounding this layer is the muscularis externa,which is the muscular layer that performs segmentation and peristalsis, which help thefood along the tract as we discussed earlier. It is made of an inner circular layer and an outer longitudinal layer. And lastly, we continue to find the serosa.
This is areolar connective tissue covered with a single layer of squamous epithelial cells that form a mesothelium. We should also note the intrinsic nerve plexuses, which are the submucosal nerve plexus in the submucosa and the myenteric nerve plexus in the muscularis externa.
These leave communication right along the alimentary canal and regulate gastrointestinal system activity. Now that we've the fundamentals down regarding the alimentary canal , let’s check out the accessory organs. We already talked a bit about the mouth, or the oral cavity, when discussing the sense of taste, so here we will just highlight the features relevant to digestion. The walls of the mouth are lined with a thick stratified squamous epithelium, and the oral mucosa produces antimicrobial peptides Caledonians, since this region will need a lot of protection from the elements.
What happens in our stomach?
We can also see the hard and soft palate, the uvula, and the palatine tonsils. The tongue is made of skeletal muscle fibers, and is secured to the floor of the mouth by the lingual frenulum. Salivary glands produce saliva which cleans the mouth, moistens and dissolves food, and contains enzymes that begin breaking down certain foods. Teeth also help this process during mastication, or chewing, which grinds food down into smaller pieces. The growth and development of teeth requires its own tutorial, so for now, let’s continue down to the pharynx.
Food will move through the oropharynx and laryngopharynx, just like air does when we breathe, but with the larynx covered by the epiglottis, the food will then move into the esophagus. This is a muscular tube that joins the stomach at the cardinal orifice within the abdomen .
The esophagus wall has the basic structure that we described earlier, although at this junction with the stomach, stratified squamous epithelium that is abrasion-resistant will change into simple columnar epithelium, which is ideal for secretion. In the stomach, food enters through the cardia and is converted into a paste called chyme.
We can also see the dome-shaped fundus, the body, and longitudinal folds called rugae. Zooming in, we can see gastric pits, which lead into tubular gastric glands, which is where the gastric juice is produced. This generates a very acidic environment, with a ph between 1.5 and 3.5, that is necessary for pepsin to do its work, the enzyme that digests proteins.
The stomach needs a mucosal barrier to withstand these acidic conditions, so that it is not broken down along with the food, and this is achieved by a lot of mucus sitting on top of tightly joined epithelial cells that are constantly regenerated by stem cells beneath.
Important to know about!
The stomach narrows to form the pyloric part, made of the pyloric antrum and the pyloric canal, which ends at the pyloric sphincter, and then leads to the duodenum. Chyme travels through here into the small intestine. This is where digestion is completed and most of the absorption occurs.
There are three sections, the first of which is the duodenum, followed by the jejunum and the ileum. The duodenum contains the hepatopancreatic ampulla, which is where the bile duct, delivering bile from the liver, and the main pancreatic duct, delivering pancreatic juice from the pancreas, join and merge with the small intestine.
The other two sections are longer and hanging coils, joining the large intestine at the ileocecal valve. The small intestine is perfect for absorption of nutrients. It is very long to begin with, and the circular folds, fingerlike villi, and much tinier microvilli amplify the absorptive surface area even more so. Crypt epithelial cells secrete secretion , which contains mucus and helps with the absorption.
The mucosa of the small intestine is also where we will find Peyer’s patches, the lymphoid nodules we learned about when we looked at the lymphatic system. At this point we should mention three more accessory organs which are associated with the small intestine. These are the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
Performance of liver in Digestive System!
The liver performs many metabolic and regulatory tasks, but in a digestive context, its purpose is to produce bile, which enters at the duodenum. This yellow-green substance breaks down fats for digestion. And the gallbladder is a tiny muscular sac adjoining the liver that serves mainly to store bile. Looking more closely at the liver, we see four primary lobes separated by ligaments.
Zooming in more closely still, we see smaller units called liver lobules. These are hexagonal structures made of liver cells called hepatocytes radiating outward from a central vein, and with a portal triadic each corner. This name refers to the fact that each triconcepts of a bile duct, also as an arteriole and a venule, carrying blood to and from the liver.
Bile is secreted and flows through bile canaliculi, towards the bile ducts in the portal triads, eventually leaving the liver through the common hepatic duct towards the duodenum. Moving on to the pancreas, this is often an outsized gland attached to the duodenum via the most duct , and it produces digestive juice , which contains a good variety of enzymes that help break down food. We can see clusters of acinar cells surrounding ducts, this is where enzyme production takes place.
And lastly, once food has made it all the way through the small intestine, almost all of the water and nutrients have been absorbed, and what remains is more or less indigestible once it enters the massive intestine, which frames the tiny intestine on three sides. This serves to continue absorbing more water from these food residues, and also compact them into fecal matter, which is eliminated from the body through the anus. The large intestine is comprised of three bands of smooth muscle called the tenia coli, sacs called haustra, and tiny fat-filled pouches called epiploic appendages.
It is also split into regional subdivisions, these being the cecum, appendix, colon, rectum, and anal canal. The cecum is the first section when entering from the small intestine. Attached to this is the appendix, which contains lymphoid tissue. The colon is break up into the colon , colon , and colon , for obvious reasons concerning the direction of travel during those segments, as well as the sigmoid colon. This then feeds into the rectum, and finally the anal canal.
So that covers the basics regarding the digestive system, and provides a rough picture of what happens to food from the moment it goes in your mouth, all the way through to the other side. There is plenty more to be said regarding the mechanism of digestion. Each type of biomolecule, whether protein, carbohydrate, fat, or otherwise, will require specific enzymes to be broken down, and these pathways are worth examining in detail. But that will have to wait for a nutrition series in the near future. For now, let’s keep going and wrap things up with a few more systems.