We are truly in the “guts” of our trip south in the body, describing location and function of these various digestive organs.
As I write this series, I get jaw-dropping realizations with each additional step down our digestive tract. I am on an internal river in a boat watching an incredibly busy factory with all hands working at their specialized jobs converting your dinner into energy for you.
It was smooth sailing until we floated into the stomach. We nearly capsized from the storm in there as it squeezed and beat up the solid foods and chemically digested proteins and fats and absorbed alcohols and aspirins. Food was mixed with digestive juices, and hydrochloric acid. It was suddenly a tumult we were flipped around several times as the stomach did its job by beating the food into a softened ball that is sent downstream.
We barely squeezed through a big valve that relieved us of a terrible acid bath and we popped us into the duodenum. It was smoother but very close. We are about to cruise into the Jejunum or the upper part of the small intestine, but first I have told you about our digestive ports all around with each participating in breaking the food down even further. Here are four that we will cover next, in this order: spleen, pancreas, liver, and gall bladder.
Limitation: The reader must understand that these vital organs do much much more in digestion and other chemical feats that are not mentioned here.
The spleen is similar in structure to a large lymph node and acts as a blood filter. The spleen is underneath the left part of the diaphragm and ranges between 2 and 5 inches long. It is underneath the ninth, tenth, and eleventh ribs. And is in direct contact with the pancreas and the back wall of the stomach.
The spleen is the largest lymphoid organ in the body’s lymph system* breaks down both red and white blood cells that are spent and is sometimes known as the ‘graveyard of red blood cells’.. Another product is iron, which is used in the formation of new blood cells in the bone marrow. The full range of its important functions is not yet understood.*( The lymphatic system is a sub-part of the circulatory system that consists of a complex network of vessels, tissues, and organs.
Liver and gallbladder
The liver is the second largest organ (believe it or not the skin is the largest) and is an accessory digestive gland that plays a big role in the body’s metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within a living organism to maintain life) within the body.
What it does
The range of the liver’s function is beyond this paper’s ability to define, but it has many functions important to digestion. The liver can detoxify various metabolites; (the byproduct of metabolism such as waste), it creates proteins and produces biochemicals needed for digestion. It produces vital glucose and breaks down carbohydrates. It also maintains protein metabolism and manufactures cholesterol. The liver is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen and below the diaphragm to the right of the stomach and it overlies the gall bladder. It is indeed a superorgan.
What is the pancreas?
Our pancreas plays a big role in digestion. It is located just behind your stomach. It’s about the size of your hand. During digestion, your pancreas makes pancreatic juices called enzymes. These enzymes break down sugars, fats, and starches. Your pancreas also helps your digestive system by making hormones. These are chemical messengers that travel through your blood. Pancreatic hormones help regulate your blood sugar
The pancreas plays a dual role in your bodily functions:
- Endocrine system. The pancreas secretes blood sugar-regulating hormones: insulin and glucagon.
- Exocrine system. The pancreas also secretes enzymes into your digestive tract to break down foods that empties into the duodenum. Each day, your pancreas makes about 8 ounces of digestive juice filled with enzymes.
Many groups of cells produce hormones inside your pancreas. Unlike enzymes that are released into your digestive system, hormones are released into your blood and carry messages to other parts of your digestive system.
The pancreas performs both exocrine and endocrine functions. Because it is an exocrine gland, it secretes chemicals that reduce stomach acidity. It also secretes digestive enzymes, which are responsible for protein breakdown. Blood sugar levels are controlled by the hormone insulin and glucagon, both of which are secreted by the pancreas.
Here is where it gets really juicy and interesting
Before we launch into the duodenum and the Jejunum, here are Bile and Gallbladder and their function.
Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Stored and concentrated in the gallbladder, its main function is to convert fats in food into fatty acids, which are absorbed in the gut. Below are the important functions of bile. Bile is essential for the complete digestion of fats and, to some extent, of proteins and carbohydrates. Bile is stored in the gallbladder for release when food is discharged into the duodenum and also after a few hours.
Gallbladder The gallbladder sits just beneath the liver, with the gallbladder body resting in a small depression. It is a small organ where the bile produced by the liver is stored, before being released into the small intestine. Bile flows from the liver through the bile ducts and into the gall bladder for storage.
Continue our journey south
We have just now been shot into the duodenum which wraps around the pancreas in a cozy hug. It is only around ____ long and goes right into the J. Now here is where the real action starts taking place. This is where the majority of the food for dinner is being digested and passed for a short visit in the duodenum before it really gets serious.
Moving on down the river
We are now embarking from a dock on the border of the duodenum and the jejunum, the next section of the small intestine and there we will see lots of amazing action, actually where most of the human digestion takes place. Stay tuned.
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