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Human Digestive System

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Human Digestive System

Human Digestive System

Single-celled organisms can directly take in nutrients from their outside environment. Multi-cellular animals, with most of their cells removed from contact directly with the outside environment, have developed specialized structures for obtaining and breaking down their food.

The human digestive system is a complex series of organs and glands that processes food. It is a coiled, muscular tube (6-9 meters long when fully extended) extending from the mouth to the anus. Inside this tube is a lining called the mucosa. In the mouth, stomach, and small intestine, the mucosa contains tiny glands that produce juices to help digest food. This tube also includes the pharynx, esophagus, large intestine, and anus.

The digestive system is responsible for converting the food we eat into energy for our bodies to use. In order to use the food we eat, our body has to break the food down into smaller molecules that it can process; it also has to excrete waste. In other words, the food we eat consists of large lumps of material. We must bite off small pieces and chew them up into even smaller ones before swallowing them.

There are two types of digestion: Mechanical and chemical. The teeth carry out mechanical digestion. There are 4 types of teeth:

Incisors: 8 front teeth 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom. Shaped for biting and cutting.

Canines 4 teeth located on either side of the incisors. 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. Shaped for tearing food.

Pre molars: 8 located behind cuspids. 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom. Shaped for crushing food.

Molars: 8 - Double rooted teeth with bumpy chewing surfaces. 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom. Shaped for grinding food.

The Process of Digestion:

The process starts at the mouth. Food is partly broken down by the process of chewing and by the chemical action of salivary enzymes (these enzymes are produced by the salivary glands and break down starch into smaller molecules). The tongue helps to push the food down to the throat to the food.

The pushed food goes into the esophagus. The Esophagus connects the throat above with the stomach below. At the junction of the esophagus and stomach, there is a ring like valve closing the passage between the two organs. However, as the food approaches the closed ring, the surrounding muscles relax and allow the food to pass. We can also swallow the food upside down because the muscles around the esophagus are strong enough to push the food up to our stomach.

The food then enters the stomach, a sack that receives the food from the esophagus. The stomach is located just below the heart. It has three mechanical tasks to do. First, the stomach stores the swallowed food and liquid. This requires the muscle of the upper part of the stomach to relax and accept large volumes of swallowed material. The second job is to mix up the food, liquid, and digestive juice (acids and enzymes - that help to break the food down into a thick liquid or paste called chyme) produced by the stomach. The lower part of the stomach mixes these materials by its muscle action. The third task of the stomach is to empty its contents slowly into the small intestine. Food usually remains in the stomach for about two hours.

After leaving the stomach the food enters the small intestine. The small intestine is a 20 to 25 foot tube that is coiled up in the abdomen. The center of the small intestine is right behind our belly button. The most important part of digestion takes place in the small intestine. As the thick liquid food paste travels through your small intestine the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are absorbed by millions of tiny finger-like objects called villi and sent

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