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Digestion II 

By February 6, 2023No Comments

Working our way down the Digestive Tract

Digestion begins as your dinner passes the lips, and from that point down through the digestive tract it goes through a process that extracts every molecule of value from it. Then it expels what is left as waste. Even that has value as a potent fertilizer.

Purpose of this series

To repeat the purpose of this series, I want to describe what changes your dinner experiences as it is processed and assimilated during its entire journey. You will learn what your body does with food that it likes, what is beneficial to its purpose to survive, and what it rejects as harmful and even toxic. It can be made healthy and strong with the right nutrition and made sick and die from the wrong food. Saddle up, we are diving into this living mobile miracle.

Here is the anatomy of the whole enchilada of the digestive tract, from lips to lips

The gastrointestinal tract, also called the digestive tract or alimentary canal, pathway by which food enters the body and solid wastes are expelled. The gastrointestinal tract includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. See, there are lips on both ends of this long garden hose-like affair. Every part of this structure has a purpose.

The human digestive system consists of the gastrointestinal tract plus the accessory organs of digestion (the tongue, salivary glands, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder)  Digestion involves the breakdown of food into smaller and smaller components, until they can be absorbed and assimilated into the body.  The mouth is the first part of the upper gastrointestinal tract and is equipped with several structures that begin the first processes of digestion.


Processes of Digestion

The process of digestion has three stages:  the cephalic phase, the gastric phase, and the intestinal phase.


Cephalic Phase

The first stage, the cephalic phase of digestion, begins when the gastric glands respond to the sight and smell of food and begin secreting. In other words, your mouth starts watering.  This stage includes the mechanical breakdown of food by chewing, and the chemical breakdown by digestive enzymes, taking place in the mouth. Saliva contains the digestive enzymes secreted by the salivary glands on the tongue. Chewing, in which the food is mixed with saliva, begins the mechanical process of digestion. This produces a bolus it is called which is swallowed down the esophagus to enter the stomach.

The mouth and its anatomy

The oral cavity, or mouth, is the point of entry of food into the digestive system. The cheeks, tongue, and palate frame the mouth, which is also called the oral cavity. The arched shape of the roof of your mouth is called the palate. If you run your tongue along the roof of your mouth, the front part is the hard palate, and at the back, the roof becomes fleshier. This part of the palate, known as the soft palate. A dangling bit of tissue drops down from the center of the posterior edge of the soft palate. It is called the Uvula.

The Uvula and Tonsils have a purpose

The uvula serves an important purpose. When you swallow, the soft palate and uvula move upward, helping to keep foods and liquid from entering the nasal cavity. On each side of the uvula, there are two folds of muscle that extend downward from the soft palate. Between these two arches are the palatine tonsils, clusters of lymphoid tissue that protect the pharynx. The lingual tonsils are located at the base of the tongue. These glands make antibodies that help fight infection.

Digestion takes place in stages, and this was the first stage

If you were standing by watching the action from the inside of your mouth, you may have thought that was pretty rough on that carrot or biscuit, It had to be ground up and softened to pass it on down below. And the enzymes have already sucked out some of the nutrients right there in your mouth and moved them to where they will help some function of your body.

Food moistener and more

Just about every section of the mouth has glands that secrete a liquid that plays a role in softening food.

Saliva moistens and softens food, and along with the chewing action of the teeth, transforms the food into a smooth bolus. The bolus is further helped by the lubrication provided by the saliva in its passage from the mouth into the esophagus. Also of importance is the presence in the saliva of the digestive enzymes amylase and lipase.

Amylase starts to work on the starch in carbohydrates, breaking it down into the simple sugars of maltose and dextrose that can be further broken down in the small intestine. Saliva in the mouth can account for 30% of this initial starch digestion. Lipase starts to work on breaking down fats. Lipase is further produced in the pancreas where it is released to continue this digestion of fats.

As well as its role in supplying digestive enzymes, saliva has a cleansing action for the teeth and mouth. It also has an immunological role in supplying antibodies to the system, such as immunoglobulin A. (Data summarized from Health Beat.)


I didn’t mention taste because what something tastes like has little to do with digestion, but it does have to do with the ability to detect if something is dangerous or unhealthy. It seems we now instinctively know that. If it tastes or smells bad it can’t be good for you.


Moving on down south

Next will be where the food goes next, and what happens then. Stay with me and we slide own down to where it really gets interesting.


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