Digestion: Duration, process, and tips

Segmentation, which occurs mainly in the small intestine, consists of localized contractions of circular muscle of the muscularis layer of the alimentary canal. These contractions isolate small sections of the intestine, moving their contents back and forth while continuously subdividing, breaking up, and mixing the contents. By moving food back and forth in the intestinal lumen, segmentation mixes food with digestive juices and facilitates absorption. Digestion begins with ingestion, where the food is taken in the mouth.

Generally the alimentary canal has layers of muscle that run lengthwise and around it and is lined with mucous membranes. Glands that produce important digestive juices are found in different locations of the canal. The nutrients from the food, after digestion, are absorbed through the wall of the alimentary canal into the circulatory system for transport to the liver or other parts of the body.

Specialised organs and behaviours

Two bile ducts emerge from the right lobe and one of these originates from the gall bladder and the second provides a direct connection from the liver to the small intestine. A system of ducts connects the right and left lobes.

It stimulates the stomach to produce pepsin, an enzyme that digests protein, and it also stimulates the liver to produce bile. Gastrin causes the stomach to produce an acid for dissolving and digesting some foods. It is also necessary for the normal growth of the lining of the stomach, small intestine, and colon.

The process of peristalsis begins in the esophagus when a bolus of food is swallowed. The strong wave-like motions of the smooth muscle in the esophagus carry the food to the stomach, where it is churned into a liquid mixture called chyme. The final step in digestion is the elimination of undigested food content and waste products.

The goblet cells secrete mucous. Permanent folds in the mucous membrane called the “valves of kerkring” are located at the proximal end (closest to the front) of the duodenum. The glands form the greater part of the thickness of the organ. Simple single glands group to form lobules each of which converges into a common cavity near the surface. The cavities converge to form a common duct that leads to the surface through the apex of a small papilla (see figure below).

The large, hollow organs of the digestive system contain muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement of organ walls can propel food and liquid and can mix the contents within each organ. Segmentation. Segmentation occurs only in the small intestine as short segments of intestine contract like hands squeezing a toothpaste tube. Segmentation helps to increase the absorption of nutrients by mixing food and increasing its contact with the walls of the intestine.

The walls of the alimentary canal contain a variety of sensors that help regulate digestive functions. These include mechanoreceptors, chemoreceptors, and osmoreceptors, which are capable of detecting mechanical, chemical, and osmotic stimuli, respectively. For example, these receptors can sense when the presence of food has caused the stomach to expand, whether food particles have been sufficiently broken down, how much liquid is present, and the type of nutrients in the food (lipids, carbohydrates, and/or proteins).

Also, some nutrient-dense foods have higher GIs than less nutritious food. (For instance, oatmeal has a higher GI than chocolate because the fat content of chocolate is higher.) Lastly, meats and fats do not have a GI since they do not contain carbohydrates. A typical American Thanksgiving meal contains many foods that are dense in carbohydrates, with the majority of those being simple sugars and starches. These types of carbohydrate foods are rapidly digested and absorbed.

Emulsification is important for the digestion of lipids because lipases can only efficiently act on the lipids when they are broken into small aggregates. Lipases break down the lipids into fatty acids and glycerides. These molecules can pass through the plasma membrane of the cell, entering the epithelial cells of the intestinal lining. The bile salts surround long-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, forming tiny spheres called micelles.

A large part of protein digestion takes place in the stomach. The enzyme pepsin plays an important role in the digestion of proteins by breaking down the intact protein to peptides, which are short chains of four to nine amino acids.

In contrast, food that distends the stomach initiates short reflexes that cause cells in the stomach wall to increase their secretion of digestive juices. Food leaves the mouth when the tongue and pharyngeal muscles propel it into the esophagus. This act of swallowing, the last voluntary act until defecation, is an example of propulsion, which refers to the movement of food through the digestive tract. It includes both the voluntary process of swallowing and the involuntary process of peristalsis. Peristalsis consists of sequential, alternating waves of contraction and relaxation of alimentary wall smooth muscles, which act to propel food along (Figure 1).

Teeth. The teeth are 32 small, hard organs found along the anterior and lateral edges of the mouth. Each tooth.

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