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Human Digestive System Diagram is made up of the digestive tract—a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus—and other organs.
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Large food molecules (for example, proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and starches) must be broken down into subunits that are small enough to be absorbed by the lining of the alimentary canal.
In the small intestine, pancreatic amylase does the ‘heavy lifting’ for starch and carbohydrate digestion ([link]). The digestion of protein starts in the stomach, where HCl and pepsin break proteins into smaller polypeptides, which then travel to the small intestine ([link]). The three lipases responsible for lipid digestion are lingual lipase, gastric lipase, and pancreatic lipase.
The mechanical and digestive processes have one goal: to convert food into molecules small enough to be absorbed by the epithelial cells of the intestinal villi. Absorption can occur through five mechanisms: (1) active transport, (2) passive diffusion, (3) facilitated diffusion, (4) co-transport (or secondary active transport), and (5) endocytosis. Because the cell’s plasma membrane is made up of hydrophobic phospholipids, water-soluble nutrients must use transport molecules embedded in the membrane to enter cells. In contrast to the water-soluble nutrients, lipid-soluble nutrients can diffuse through the plasma membrane. Active transport mechanisms, primarily in the duodenum and jejunum, absorb most proteins as their breakdown products, amino acids. The large and hydrophobic long-chain fatty acids and monoacylglycerides are not so easily suspended in the watery intestinal chyme.
The free fatty acids and monoacylglycerides that enter the epithelial cells are reincorporated into triglycerides. The products of nucleic acid digestion—pentose sugars, nitrogenous bases, and phosphate ions—are transported by carriers across the villus epithelium via active transport. The electrolytes absorbed by the small intestine are from both GI secretions and ingested foods. In general, all minerals that enter the intestine are absorbed, whether you need them or not. Iron—The ionic iron needed for the production of hemoglobin is absorbed into mucosal cells via active transport. Bile salts and lecithin can emulsify large lipid globules because they are amphipathic; they have a nonpolar (hydrophobic) region that attaches to the large fat molecules as well as a polar (hydrophilic) region that interacts with the watery chime in the intestine. Intrinsic factor secreted in the stomach binds to the large B12 compound, creating a combination that can bind to mucosal receptors in the ileum. The digestive system is the system of the body that mechanically and chemically breaks down food.
Click here for an animation that provides an overview of the digestive system organs and function. The mouth, pharynx, and superior and middle parts of the esophagus, and anus contain skeletal muscle.
The lower part of the esophagus and the rest of the GI tract contain 2 or 3 layers of smooth muscle. Has a nerve plexus here that controls the frequency and strength of contraction of smooth muscle. Adventitia = areolar connective tissue with dispersed collagen and elastic fibers (retroperitoneal organs, e.g.
Click here for an animation that reviews how enzymes (such as sucrase) can break down foods (such as a disaccharide).
Is the pinching of the intestine into compartments and subsequent mixing of undigested materials with intestinal secretions. The motor neurons mostly control GI tract motility (movement), particularly the frenquency and strength of contraction of the muscularis. The neurons of the NS can function independently, but are subject to regulation by the neurons of the autonomic nervous system. The visceral smooth muscle networks of the GI tract show rhythmic cycles of activity in the absence of neural stimulation. Click here for an animation that reviews the anatomy of the liver, the functions of the liver, and the structure of liver lobules. Net osmosis occurs whenever a concentration gradient is established by active transport of solutes into the mucosal cells.
This material is based upon work supported by the Nursing, Allied Health and Other Health-related Educational Grant Program, a grant program funded with proceeds of the State’s Tobacco Lawsuit Settlement and administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The diagram to the left is of the alimentary canal also known as the digestive tract and also shows other organs of the digestive system like the liver. After being swallowed, the food travels down the Oesophagus or esophagus, this is continually being damaged by the friction of food, so the epithelium is a few cells thick and secretes mucas to lubricate the food's passage.
The next place it enters is the stomach this is a temporary store, mixes the contents up and also is the site for a bit of digestion. Enzymes are sensitive to temperature and pH, these must be at an optimum level so they work best. Below is a digram of the human gut wall, on the right are labelled the different layers that exist. The first actual layer is the mucosa, it has a layer of epithelium, made of epithelial cells, which have projections called villi. Below this is a muscle layer, known scientifically as the muscularis externa, it is reponsible for peristalsis which moves food through the digestive tract. In the diagram you should also notice the capillaries, part of the blood network which takes absorbed food away. By the time everything reaches here, the food has been digested into small enough particles that it can pass through the alimentary tract lining and be absorbed into the blood. The food products pass into the blood stream through villi: these are small foldings of the small intestine that cover on its internal surface. The villi on their own increase the surface area, but the cells which make up the surface of the villus have their own small projections called microvilli (see diagram) these further increase the surface area which means that the digestion products can be absorbed more quickly.
The villus has a supply of blood vessels this means substances absorbed can be transported to where they are needed more directly.
Triglycerides are a type of lipid; here you will learn how the body breaks down this molecule. Digestion begins in the duodenum where bile enters from the liver, bile salts make the big blobs of fat into small micelle droplets which massively increases the surface area and makes digestion much easier. Also in the duodenum, pancreatic lipase this breaks the triglyceride into fatty acid and glycerol. These resynthesised lipids make proteins called chylomicrons, these enter the lacteals and travel through the lymphatic system, making it milky.
Glucose, galactose, and fructose are the three monosaccharides that are commonly consumed and are readily absorbed.
After amylases break down starch into smaller fragments, the brush border enzyme ?-dextrinase starts working on ?-dextrin, breaking off one glucose unit at a time. Chemical digestion in the small intestine is continued by pancreatic enzymes, including chymotrypsin and trypsin, each of which act on specific bonds in amino acid sequences. The most common dietary lipids are triglycerides, which are made up of a glycerol molecule bound to three fatty acid chains.
However, because the pancreas is the only consequential source of lipase, virtually all lipid digestion occurs in the small intestine.
Two types of pancreatic nuclease are responsible for their digestion: deoxyribonuclease, which digests DNA, and ribonuclease, which digests RNA. As you will recall from Chapter 3, active transport refers to the movement of a substance across a cell membrane going from an area of lower concentration to an area of higher concentration (up the concentration gradient).


Moreover, substances cannot pass between the epithelial cells of the intestinal mucosa because these cells are bound together by tight junctions. Once inside the cell, they are packaged for transport via the base of the cell and then enter the lacteals of the villi to be transported by lymphatic vessels to the systemic circulation via the thoracic duct.
The small intestine is highly efficient at this, absorbing monosaccharides at an estimated rate of 120 grams per hour. Bile salts not only speed up lipid digestion, they are also essential to the absorption of the end products of lipid digestion.
However, bile salts and lecithin resolve this issue by enclosing them in a micelle, which is a tiny sphere with polar (hydrophilic) ends facing the watery environment and hydrophobic tails turned to the interior, creating a receptive environment for the long-chain fatty acids. The triglycerides are mixed with phospholipids and cholesterol, and surrounded with a protein coat. Since electrolytes dissociate into ions in water, most are absorbed via active transport throughout the entire small intestine. Once inside mucosal cells, ionic iron binds to the protein ferritin, creating iron-ferritin complexes that store iron until needed. When blood levels of ionic calcium drop, parathyroid hormone (PTH) secreted by the parathyroid glands stimulates the release of calcium ions from bone matrices and increases the reabsorption of calcium by the kidneys.
Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are absorbed along with dietary lipids in micelles via simple diffusion. Chemical digestion breaks large food molecules down into their chemical building blocks, which can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the general circulation. You will see an images where related with to the title, entitled Including graphic with tag archive. Chemical digestion, on the other hand, is a complex process that reduces food into its chemical building blocks, which are then absorbed to nourish the cells of the body ([link]). At the same time, the cells of the brush border secrete enzymes such as aminopeptidase and dipeptidase, which further break down peptide chains.
Pancreatic lipase breaks down each triglyceride into two free fatty acids and a monoglyceride. The nucleotides produced by this digestion are further broken down by two intestinal brush border enzymes (nucleosidase and phosphatase) into pentoses, phosphates, and nitrogenous bases, which can be absorbed through the alimentary canal wall. Each day, the alimentary canal processes up to 10 liters of food, liquids, and GI secretions, yet less than one liter enters the large intestine. In this type of transport, proteins within the cell membrane act as “pumps,” using cellular energy (ATP) to move the substance.
Thus, substances can only enter blood capillaries by passing through the apical surfaces of epithelial cells and into the interstitial fluid.
The absorption of most nutrients through the mucosa of the intestinal villi requires active transport fueled by ATP. All normally digested dietary carbohydrates are absorbed; indigestible fibers are eliminated in the feces.
Short-chain fatty acids are relatively water soluble and can enter the absorptive cells (enterocytes) directly.
During absorption, co-transport mechanisms result in the accumulation of sodium ions inside the cells, whereas anti-port mechanisms reduce the potassium ion concentration inside the cells. When the body has enough iron, most of the stored iron is lost when worn-out epithelial cells slough off.
PTH also upregulates the activation of vitamin D in the kidney, which then facilitates intestinal calcium ion absorption. This is why you are advised to eat some fatty foods when you take fat-soluble vitamin supplements.
Intestinal brush border enzymes and pancreatic enzymes are responsible for the majority of chemical digestion.
With the help of bile salts and lecithin, the dietary fats are emulsified to form micelles, which can carry the fat particles to the surface of the enterocytes. In this section, you will look more closely at the processes of chemical digestion and absorption.
Your bodies do not produce enzymes that can break down most fibrous polysaccharides, such as cellulose. The fatty acids include both short-chain (less than 10 to 12 carbons) and long-chain fatty acids. Almost all ingested food, 80 percent of electrolytes, and 90 percent of water are absorbed in the small intestine.
Passive diffusion refers to the movement of substances from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration, while facilitated diffusion refers to the movement of substances from an area of higher to an area of lower concentration using a carrier protein in the cell membrane.
Water-soluble nutrients enter the capillary blood in the villi and travel to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. The monosaccharides glucose and galactose are transported into the epithelial cells by common protein carriers via secondary active transport (that is, co-transport with sodium ions).
Despite being hydrophobic, the small size of short-chain fatty acids enables them to be absorbed by enterocytes via simple diffusion, and then take the same path as monosaccharides and amino acids into the blood capillary of a villus.
Without micelles, lipids would sit on the surface of chyme and never come in contact with the absorptive surfaces of the epithelial cells.
After being processed by the Golgi apparatus, chylomicrons are released from the cell ([link]). To restore the sodium-potassium gradient across the cell membrane, a sodium-potassium pump requiring ATP pumps sodium out and potassium in. When the body needs iron because, for example, it is lost during acute or chronic bleeding, there is increased uptake of iron from the intestine and accelerated release of iron into the bloodstream. Most water-soluble vitamins (including most B vitamins and vitamin C) also are absorbed by simple diffusion. Water absorption is driven by the concentration gradient of the water: The concentration of water is higher in chyme than it is in epithelial cells.
While indigestible polysaccharides do not provide any nutritional value, they do provide dietary fiber, which helps propel food through the alimentary canal. Although the entire small intestine is involved in the absorption of water and lipids, most absorption of carbohydrates and proteins occurs in the jejunum. Co-transport uses the movement of one molecule through the membrane from higher to lower concentration to power the movement of another from lower to higher.
The monosaccharides leave these cells via facilitated diffusion and enter the capillaries through intercellular clefts. Short chains of two amino acids (dipeptides) or three amino acids (tripeptides) are also transported actively.
Too big to pass through the basement membranes of blood capillaries, chylomicrons instead enter the large pores of lacteals. Since women experience significant iron loss during menstruation, they have around four times as many iron transport proteins in their intestinal epithelial cells as do men. The fats are then reassembled into triglycerides and mixed with other lipids and proteins into chylomicrons that can pass into lacteals. Finally, endocytosis is a transportation process in which the cell membrane engulfs material.
The monosaccharide fructose (which is in fruit) is absorbed and transported by facilitated diffusion alone. However, after they enter the absorptive epithelial cells, they are broken down into their amino acids before leaving the cell and entering the capillary blood via diffusion. Intrinsic factor secreted in the stomach binds to vitamin B12, preventing its digestion and creating a complex that binds to mucosal receptors in the terminal ileum, where it is taken up by endocytosis.
Other absorbed monomers travel from blood capillaries in the villus to the hepatic portal vein and then to the liver.
Toddlers’ crying may also indicate that they are hungry, lonely, warm, cold, uncomfortable or in need of a diaper change. By the time chyme passes from the ileum into the large intestine, it is essentially indigestible food residue (mainly plant fibers like cellulose), some water, and millions of bacteria ([link]). The monosaccharides combine with the transport proteins immediately after the disaccharides are broken down.


The chylomicrons are transported in the lymphatic vessels and empty through the thoracic duct into the subclavian vein of the circulatory system.
Once in the bloodstream, the enzyme lipoprotein lipase breaks down the triglycerides of the chylomicrons into free fatty acids and glycerol. Many toddlers go through periods of crying for no apparent reason, as they simply get used to the world. These breakdown products then pass through capillary walls to be used for energy by cells or stored in adipose tissue as fat. Liver cells combine the remaining chylomicron remnants with proteins, forming lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in the blood. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the chest, becomes irritated. Some things that irritate the diaphragm are eating too quickly or too much, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. The gas acts like a cork, impeding or halting the flow of gastric juices and causing pressure to be built up. Reflux can be very painful, as many adults also know firsthand.  Often, it comes as a burning feeling  in the chest or stomach, which may wake children at night while they are in a horizontal position.
Potatoes, corn, wheat and most other starches are broken down mostly in the large intestine, where they usually produce plenty of gas. In contrast, fats and proteins cause little gas (though certain proteins may intensify gas odor).  Foods that are commonly known to produce gas can have the same effect in children as they do in adults. Cutting down on foods that cause gas may make a big difference, though the amount of gas caused by certain foods may vary from person to person. Gas-producing foods may not need to be eliminated entirely, unless one has food intolerance (or food sensitivity). This may reduce the amount of natural sugars in the beans after the cooling process and help prevent gas and bloating.2. Snack Foods – Read the labels of sugar-free candies and gums to ensure that they don’t contain sorbitol. Nuts and seeds (like sunflower and poppy seeds) are often a good source of soluble fiber and thus may be problematic in producing gas.6. As the development occurs, children may have a difficult time processing foods new to their systems. Food intolerance is often confused with food allergy because they can have similar symptoms. Another important food sensitivity-reducing strategy involves stress-management skills, such as mindful breathing and visualization.  Our intestines contain millions of nerve cells that can be impacted, both positively and negatively, by our emotions. Food sensitivities can be aggravated by stress.  School and family worries are leading sources of stress among children. If you suspect a sensitivity, it is helpful to keep a journal for your child that can be shared with a physician or health care provider.OvereatingEating smaller, more frequent meals, reduces the effects of your body’s gastrocolic reflex on your digestive system. When we eat large or fatty meals, the effects of this reflex are heightened, and thus could contribute to digestive upset regardless of what specific foods were eaten. If kids are very active, particularly outdoors and in hot weather, they may need double those amounts.  Dr.
Fiber plays a vital part in aiding digestion, promoting regularity and relieving constipation. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and forms a gel-like texture in the intestine.   It is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts by bacteria in the digestive tract. Just as many adults experience intestinal disturbances in stressful situations, so are children affected by their environments. Sensitive children often experience more severe gas, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or night.
Homeopathic medicines are manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) similar to over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals. However, unlike pharmaceuticals, homeopathic medicines are usually made from natural ingredients, many having a safety track record as old as 200 years or more, and are documented in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS).Because such minute doses of medicinal substances are involved, homeopathic medicines are extremely safe, carrying little risk of side effects, and are non-addictive. Because of their inherent safety, they are frequently used for treatment of self-diagnosable conditions.
Medical research has discovered that activated charcoal is so effective both chemically and physically because of its electrical charge and the thousands of microscopic tunnels created by the process used to make it.  Studies have shown how effective it is at reducing even intestinal gas. The activated charcoal is in no way absorbed, metabolized or digested by the body.  In fact, it is one of the finest natural adsorbent agents known. Simethicone is essentially a synthetic chemical foaming agent that joins gas bubbles in the stomach on the theory that gas can be more easily burped away. However, if the larger clusters of bubbles are not burped up quickly enough, they pass into the lower digestive tract.
Simethicone admittedly has no effect on intestinal gas, which as many adults know, can cause the most intense pain. Since simethicone works by joining gas bubbles, it must be where the gas is, in order to work. As a result, simethicone is not an “as needed” medicine, but rather one that must be given in regular doses with every meal.
If gas has been created other than by eating or drinking, simethicone will have no effect after the gassiness appears.
Simethicone will work only on gas near the top of the stomach and has no effect on intestinal gas. Several studies show that it works no better than a placebo.Over-the-counter antacids are also available for children over 2 years of age, but like simethicone, can be considered another band-aid approach. Unfortunately, sodium bicarbonate is absorbed into the bloodstream and can have unwanted side effects.
According to some doctors, antacids can cause an imbalance in babies’ electrolytes which can lead to serious problems. Even for adults, it should not be used for more than 2 weeks or for recurring conditions.ProbioticsProbiotic Supplementation for InfantsProper digestion, absorption, elimination and immune response all depend on a healthy balance of bacterial flora in the bowels. Probiotics contain the friendly bacteria that live in the intestinal tract and have been shown to improve digestion and decrease gas and bloating. Lactobacillus acidophilus provides the bowel with friendly intestinal flora, which eases digestion. Not only are the bacteria that are causing the infection targeted for a concentrated attack – other friendly, benign bacteria, which help digestion by converting food to nutrients and energy, also come into harm’s way. The result can be extremely unpleasant for the patient, and the more powerful the antibiotic, the more prolonged and severe its effects can be on the gastric tract.Many physicians have long been aware of this and will often recommend that their patients start taking a readily available probiotic, such as lactobaccillus acidophilus, lactobacillus reuteri and bifidobacterium infantis.
This helps restore intestinal flora and bring the stomach’s natural balance of bacteria and enzymes back to normal as quickly as possible.  Administering probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, has been shown to replenish the good bacteria needed for digestion and immunity. Certainly there has been a movement within the health food industry to emphasize the positive qualities of products such as yogurts containing additional probiotic cultures. Probiotics seem effective in helping promote the build-up of benevolent gut flora to a level where the right balance is achieved. Too much sugar in one’s diet can lead to candida (a type of yeast) overgrowth and other pathogens. A few drops of liquid lactase added to milk before drinking it or chewing lactase tablets just before eating products containing lactose  helps in digesting them. Also, lactose-reduced milk and other products are available at many grocery stores and health food stores.ExerciseEngaging in moderate exercise activities such as walking, jogging, dance and yoga have been shown to dispel gas and decrease bloating. Try simple deep breathing exercises to calm the body and reduce the body’s response to stress.Visualization is another simple, quick, and easy relaxation technique. Department of Pediatrics, University of MichiganTherapeutic use of simethicone in gastroenterology; Dr. SteuerwaldEffect of a simethicone-containing tablet on colonic gas elimination in breath; Dr.




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