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In some cases, a single organ is in charge of a digestive process. For example, ingestion occurs only in the mouth and defecation only in the anus. However, most digestive processes involve the interaction of several organs and occur gradually as food moves through the alimentary canal ( [link] ).

Digestive processes

This image shows the different processes involved in digestion. The image shows how food travels from the mouth through the major organs. Associated textboxes list the different processes such as propulsion, chemical and mechanical digestion and absorption near the organs where they take place.
The digestive processes are ingestion, propulsion, mechanical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption, and defecation.

Some chemical digestion occurs in the mouth. Some absorption can occur in the mouth and stomach, for example, alcohol and aspirin.

Regulatory mechanisms

Neural and endocrine regulatory mechanisms work to maintain the optimal conditions in the lumen needed for digestion and absorption. These regulatory mechanisms, which stimulate digestive activity through mechanical and chemical activity, are controlled both extrinsically and intrinsically.

Neural controls

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). Stimulation of these receptors provokes an appropriate reflex that furthers the process of digestion. This may entail sending a message that activates the glands that secrete digestive juices into the lumen, or it may mean the stimulation of muscles within the alimentary canal, thereby activating peristalsis and segmentation that move food along the intestinal tract.

The walls of the entire alimentary canal are embedded with nerve plexuses that interact with the central nervous system and other nerve plexuses—either within the same digestive organ or in different ones. These interactions prompt several types of reflexes. Extrinsic nerve plexuses orchestrate long reflexes, which involve the central and autonomic nervous systems and work in response to stimuli from outside the digestive system. Short reflexes, on the other hand, are orchestrated by intrinsic nerve plexuses within the alimentary canal wall. These two plexuses and their connections were introduced earlier as the enteric nervous system. Short reflexes regulate activities in one area of the digestive tract and may coordinate local peristaltic movements and stimulate digestive secretions. For example, the sight, smell, and taste of food initiate long reflexes that begin with a sensory neuron delivering a signal to the medulla oblongata. The response to the signal is to stimulate cells in the stomach to begin secreting digestive juices in preparation for incoming food. In contrast, food that distends the stomach initiates short reflexes that cause cells in the stomach wall to increase their secretion of digestive juices.

Hormonal controls

A variety of hormones are involved in the digestive process. The main digestive hormone of the stomach is gastrin, which is secreted in response to the presence of food. Gastrin stimulates the secretion of gastric acid by the parietal cells of the stomach mucosa. Other GI hormones are produced and act upon the gut and its accessory organs. Hormones produced by the duodenum include secretin, which stimulates a watery secretion of bicarbonate by the pancreas; cholecystokinin (CCK), which stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes and bile from the liver and release of bile from the gallbladder; and gastric inhibitory peptide, which inhibits gastric secretion and slows gastric emptying and motility. These GI hormones are secreted by specialized epithelial cells, called endocrinocytes, located in the mucosal epithelium of the stomach and small intestine. These hormones then enter the bloodstream, through which they can reach their target organs.

Chapter review

The digestive system ingests and digests food, absorbs released nutrients, and excretes food components that are indigestible. The six activities involved in this process are ingestion, motility, mechanical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption, and defecation. These processes are regulated by neural and hormonal mechanisms.

Visit this site for an overview of digestion of food in different regions of the digestive tract. Note the route of non-fat nutrients from the small intestine to their release as nutrients to the body.

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Questions & Answers

what is metabolism
fred Reply
Chemical reaction that takes in place in the cell of a living organism that includes anabolism and Catobolism.
Norman
Catabolism*
Norman
metabolic chemical reaction is of two types, anabolism and catabolism. The break down of larger molecules into smaller molecules is called catabolism.
Ahmad
Metabolism is the chemical reaction that includes anabolism and catabolism
Kedha's
Anabolism is the chemical reaction that combines all the smaller quantities to make large
Kedha's
Catabolism is the chemical process that breaks larger quantities into small
Kedha's
what's abdominal police?
Mohamed
hcl
Annette
hydrochloric acid is the stomach police
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its the stomach omentum
Agama
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which component of mucus allows it to maintain local level of hydration
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can the teeth be classify under bones?
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Bony prominents
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what's a nervous system
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study about internal structure, outer structure and their functions
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luke
tr
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what's defense mechanism?
Saintina
psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.
Henry
difference between apocrine sweat glands and merocrine sweat glands
Binkheir Reply
I believe the apocrine sweat gland uses a sac under the hair follicle and the merocrine sweat gland releases directly on to the surface of the skin
Mark
normal blood volume in our body
pankaj Reply
5Litres
Albert
Normal blood volume in adults is 6 litres
Kedha's
4.7 to 5ltr.. normal for adult
Clangbhelle
what are the advantages of the concave shape of red blood cells?
Amy Reply
This structure is VERY flexible. It can allow these cells to get into the most tiny places in our bodies. a VERY good design! The advantage of red blood cells' biconcave shape is that the surface area is increased to allow more haemoglobin to be stored in the cell.
Saafi
They can stack so that they can move to capillaries
Nejat
what is the difference between phagocytosis and Pinosis
fred
action of gluteus medius and minimus
Green Reply
Lateral rotation of the hip joint
Hertzo
Briefly explain location of ecg on a patient
Prince Reply
it is a machine that gives a graphical representation of heart beat
Nani
Briefly explain location of ecg leads on a patient?
Prince
in ecg we use electrical leads over the chest ,ancle and wrist
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what is the anatomical and function difference between paravertebral and prevertebral ganglia ?
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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