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Digestive system
Latin systema digestorium
MeSH D004063
Anatomical terminology

Digestion is the breakdown of large insoluble food compounds into small water-soluble components so that they can be absorbed into the blood plasma. In certain organisms, these smaller substances are absorbed through the small intestine into the blood stream. Digestion is a form of catabolism that is often divided into two processes based on how food is broken down: mechanical and chemical digestion. The term mechanical digestion refers to the physical breakdown of large pieces of food into smaller pieces which can subsequently be accessed by digestive enzymes. Mechanical digestion takes place in the mouth through mastication and in the small intestine through segmentation contractions. In chemical digestion, enzymes break down food into the small compounds that the body can use.


In the human digestive system, food enters the mouth and mechanical digestion of the food starts by the action of mastication (chewing), a form of mechanical digestion, and the wetting contact of saliva. Saliva, a liquid secreted by the salivary glands, contains salivary amylase, an enzyme which starts the digestion of starch in the food. [1] The saliva also contains mucus, which lubricates the food; the electrolyte hydrogencarbonate ( HCO3 ), which provides the ideal conditions of pH for amylase to work; and other electrolytes ( Na+ , K+ , Cl ). [2] About 30% of starch is hydrolyzed into disaccharide in the oral cavity (mouth). After undergoing mastication and starch digestion, the food will be in the form of a small, round slurry mass called a bolus. It will then travel down the esophagus and into the stomach by the action of peristalsis. Gastric juice in the stomach starts protein digestion. Gastric juice mainly contains hydrochloric acid and pepsin. In infants and toddlers, gastric juice also contains rennin to digest milk proteins. As the first two chemicals may damage the stomach wall, mucus and bicarbonates are secreted by the stomach. They provide a slimy layer that acts as a shield against the damaging effects of chemicals like concentrated hydrochloric acid while also aiding lubrication. [3] Hydrochloric acid provides acidic pH for pepsin. At the same time protein digestion is occurring, mechanical mixing occurs by peristalsis, which is waves of muscular contractions that move along the stomach wall. This allows the mass of food to further mix with the digestive enzymes. Pepsin breaks down proteins into peptides or proteoses, which is further broken down into dipeptides and amino acids by enzymes in the small intestine. Studies suggest that increasing the number of chews per bite increases relevant gut hormones and may decrease self-reported hunger and food intake. [4]

When the pyloric sphincter valve opens, partially digested food (chyme) enters the duodenum where it mixes with digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile juice from the liver and then passes through the small intestine, in which digestion continues. When the chyme is fully digested, it is absorbed into the blood. 95% of nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestine. Water and minerals are reabsorbed back into the blood in the colon (large intestine) where the pH is slightly acidic (about 5.6 ~ 6.9). Some vitamins, such as biotin and vitamin K (K2MK7) produced by bacteria in the colon are also absorbed into the blood in the colon. Absorption of water, simple sugar and alcohol also takes place in stomach. Waste material (feces) is eliminated from the rectum during defecation. [5]

Digestive system

Digestive systems take many forms. There is a fundamental distinction between internal and external digestion. External digestion developed earlier in evolutionary history, and most fungi still rely on it. [6] In this process, enzymes are secreted into the environment surrounding the organism, where they break down an organic material, and some of the products diffuse back to the organism. Animals have a tube (gastrointestinal tract) in which internal digestion occurs, which is more efficient because more of the broken down products can be captured, and the internal chemical environment can be more efficiently controlled. [7]

Some organisms, including nearly all spiders, secrete biotoxins and digestive chemicals (e.g., enzymes) into the extracellular environment prior to ingestion of the consequent "soup". In others, once potential nutrients or food is inside the organism, digestion can be conducted to a vesicle or a sac-like structure, through a tube, or through several specialized organs aimed at making the absorption of nutrients more efficient.

Schematic drawing of bacterial conjugation. 1- Donor cell produces pilus. 2- Pilus attaches to recipient cell, bringing the two cells together. 3- The mobile plasmid is nicked and a single strand of DNA is transferred to the recipient cell. 4- Both cells recircularize their plasmids, synthesize second strands, and reproduce pili; both cells are now viable donors. Conjugation.svg
Schematic drawing of bacterial conjugation. 1- Donor cell produces pilus. 2- Pilus attaches to recipient cell, bringing the two cells together. 3- The mobile plasmid is nicked and a single strand of DNA is transferred to the recipient cell. 4- Both cells recircularize their plasmids, synthesize second strands, and reproduce pili; both cells are now viable donors.

Secretion systems

Bacteria use several systems to obtain nutrients from other organisms in the environments.

Channel transport system

In a channel transport system, several proteins form a contiguous channel traversing the inner and outer membranes of the bacteria. It is a simple system, which consists of only three protein subunits: the ABC protein, membrane fusion protein (MFP), and outer membrane protein.[ specify ] This secretion system transports various chemical species, from ions, drugs, to proteins of various sizes (20–900 kDa). The chemical species secreted vary in size from the small Escherichia coli peptide colicin V, (10 kDa) to the Pseudomonas fluorescens cell adhesion protein LapA of 900 kDa. [8]

Molecular syringe

A type III secretion system means that a molecular syringe is used through which a bacterium (e.g. certain types of Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia) can inject nutrients into protist cells. One such mechanism was first discovered in Y. pestis and showed that toxins could be injected directly from the bacterial cytoplasm into the cytoplasm of its host's cells rather than be secreted into the extracellular medium. [9]

Conjugation machinery

The conjugation machinery of some bacteria (and archaeal flagella) is capable of transporting both DNA and proteins. It was discovered in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which uses this system to introduce the Ti plasmid and proteins into the host, which develops the crown gall (tumor). [10] The VirB complex of Agrobacterium tumefaciens is the prototypic system. [11]

In the nitrogen-fixing Rhizobia , conjugative elements naturally engage in inter-kingdom conjugation. Such elements as the Agrobacterium Ti or Ri plasmids contain elements that can transfer to plant cells. Transferred genes enter the plant cell nucleus and effectively transform the plant cells into factories for the production of opines, which the bacteria use as carbon and energy sources. Infected plant cells form crown gall or root tumors. The Ti and Ri plasmids are thus endosymbionts of the bacteria, which are in turn endosymbionts (or parasites) of the infected plant.

The Ti and Ri plasmids are themselves conjugative. Ti and Ri transfer between bacteria uses an independent system (the tra, or transfer, operon) from that for inter-kingdom transfer (the vir, or virulence, operon). Such transfer creates virulent strains from previously avirulent Agrobacteria.

Release of outer membrane vesicles

In addition to the use of the multiprotein complexes listed above, gram-negative bacteria possess another method for release of material: the formation of outer membrane vesicles. [12] [13] Portions of the outer membrane pinch off, forming spherical structures made of a lipid bilayer enclosing periplasmic materials. Vesicles from a number of bacterial species have been found to contain virulence factors, some have immunomodulatory effects, and some can directly adhere to and intoxicate host cells. While release of vesicles has been demonstrated as a general response to stress conditions, the process of loading cargo proteins seems to be selective. [14]

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) leaf Venus Flytrap showing trigger hairs.jpg
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) leaf

Gastrovascular cavity

The gastrovascular cavity functions as a stomach in both digestion and the distribution of nutrients to all parts of the body. Extracellular digestion takes place within this central cavity, which is lined with the gastrodermis, the internal layer of epithelium. This cavity has only one opening to the outside that functions as both a mouth and an anus: waste and undigested matter is excreted through the mouth/anus, which can be described as an incomplete gut.

In a plant such as the Venus flytrap that can make its own food through photosynthesis, it does not eat and digest its prey for the traditional objectives of harvesting energy and carbon, but mines prey primarily for essential nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus in particular) that are in short supply in its boggy, acidic habitat. [15]

Trophozoites of Entamoeba histolytica with ingested erythrocytes Trophozoites of Entamoeba histolytica with ingested erythrocytes.JPG
Trophozoites of Entamoeba histolytica with ingested erythrocytes


A phagosome is a vacuole formed around a particle absorbed by phagocytosis. The vacuole is formed by the fusion of the cell membrane around the particle. A phagosome is a cellular compartment in which pathogenic microorganisms can be killed and digested. Phagosomes fuse with lysosomes in their maturation process, forming phagolysosomes. In humans, Entamoeba histolytica can phagocytose red blood cells. [16]

Specialised organs and behaviours

To aid in the digestion of their food, animals evolved organs such as beaks, tongues, radulae, teeth, crops, gizzards, and others.

Ara hybrid - Catalina Macaw.jpg
A Catalina Macaw's seed-shearing beak
Squid beak measuring.jpg
Squid beak with ruler for size comparison


Birds have bony beaks that are specialised according to the bird's ecological niche. For example, macaws primarily eat seeds, nuts, and fruit, using their beaks to open even the toughest seed. First they scratch a thin line with the sharp point of the beak, then they shear the seed open with the sides of the beak.

The mouth of the squid is equipped with a sharp horny beak mainly made of cross-linked proteins. It is used to kill and tear prey into manageable pieces. The beak is very robust, but does not contain any minerals, unlike the teeth and jaws of many other organisms, including marine species. [17] The beak is the only indigestible part of the squid.


The tongue is skeletal muscle on the floor of the mouth of most vertebrates, that manipulates food for chewing (mastication) and swallowing (deglutition). It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva. The underside of the tongue is covered with a smooth mucous membrane. The tongue also has a touch sense for locating and positioning food particles that require further chewing. The tongue is used to roll food particles into a bolus before being transported down the esophagus through peristalsis.

The sublingual region underneath the front of the tongue is a location where the oral mucosa is very thin, and underlain by a plexus of veins. This is an ideal location for introducing certain medications to the body. The sublingual route takes advantage of the highly vascular quality of the oral cavity, and allows for the speedy application of medication into the cardiovascular system, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract.


Teeth (singular tooth) are small whitish structures found in the jaws (or mouths) of many vertebrates that are used to tear, scrape, milk and chew food. Teeth are not made of bone, but rather of tissues of varying density and hardness, such as enamel, dentine and cementum. Human teeth have a blood and nerve supply which enables proprioception. This is the ability of sensation when chewing, for example if we were to bite into something too hard for our teeth, such as a chipped plate mixed in food, our teeth send a message to our brain and we realise that it cannot be chewed, so we stop trying.

The shapes, sizes and numbers of types of animals' teeth are related to their diets. For example, herbivores have a number of molars which are used to grind plant matter, which is difficult to digest. Carnivores have canine teeth which are used to kill and tear meat.


A crop, or croup, is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion. In some birds it is an expanded, muscular pouch near the gullet or throat. In adult doves and pigeons, the crop can produce crop milk to feed newly hatched birds. [18]

Certain insects may have a crop or enlarged esophagus.

Rough illustration of a ruminant digestive system Abomasum-en.svg
Rough illustration of a ruminant digestive system


Herbivores have evolved cecums (or an abomasum in the case of ruminants). Ruminants have a fore-stomach with four chambers. These are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. In the first two chambers, the rumen and the reticulum, the food is mixed with saliva and separates into layers of solid and liquid material. Solids clump together to form the cud (or bolus). The cud is then regurgitated, chewed slowly to completely mix it with saliva and to break down the particle size.

Fibre, especially cellulose and hemi-cellulose, is primarily broken down into the volatile fatty acids, acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid in these chambers (the reticulo-rumen) by microbes: (bacteria, protozoa, and fungi). In the omasum, water and many of the inorganic mineral elements are absorbed into the blood stream.

The abomasum is the fourth and final stomach compartment in ruminants. It is a close equivalent of a monogastric stomach (e.g., those in humans or pigs), and digesta is processed here in much the same way. It serves primarily as a site for acid hydrolysis of microbial and dietary protein, preparing these protein sources for further digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Digesta is finally moved into the small intestine, where the digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Microbes produced in the reticulo-rumen are also digested in the small intestine.

A flesh fly "blowing a bubble", possibly to concentrate its food by evaporating water Flesh fly concentrating food.jpg
A flesh fly "blowing a bubble", possibly to concentrate its food by evaporating water

Specialised behaviours

Regurgitation has been mentioned above under abomasum and crop, referring to crop milk, a secretion from the lining of the crop of pigeons and doves with which the parents feed their young by regurgitation. [19]

Many sharks have the ability to turn their stomachs inside out and evert it out of their mouths in order to get rid of unwanted contents (perhaps developed as a way to reduce exposure to toxins).

Other animals, such as rabbits and rodents, practise coprophagia behaviours – eating specialised faeces in order to re-digest food, especially in the case of roughage. Capybara, rabbits, hamsters and other related species do not have a complex digestive system as do, for example, ruminants. Instead they extract more nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft faecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten.

Young elephants, pandas, koalas, and hippos eat the faeces of their mother, probably to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation. When they are born, their intestines do not contain these bacteria (they are completely sterile). Without them, they would be unable to get any nutritional value from many plant components.

In earthworms

An earthworm's digestive system consists of a mouth, pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard, and intestine. The mouth is surrounded by strong lips, which act like a hand to grab pieces of dead grass, leaves, and weeds, with bits of soil to help chew. The lips break the food down into smaller pieces. In the pharynx, the food is lubricated by mucus secretions for easier passage. The esophagus adds calcium carbonate to neutralize the acids formed by food matter decay. Temporary storage occurs in the crop where food and calcium carbonate are mixed. The powerful muscles of the gizzard churn and mix the mass of food and dirt. When the churning is complete, the glands in the walls of the gizzard add enzymes to the thick paste, which helps chemically breakdown the organic matter. By peristalsis, the mixture is sent to the intestine where friendly bacteria continue chemical breakdown. This releases carbohydrates, protein, fat, and various vitamins and minerals for absorption into the body.

Overview of vertebrate digestion

In most vertebrates, digestion is a multistage process in the digestive system, starting from ingestion of raw materials, most often other organisms. Ingestion usually involves some type of mechanical and chemical processing. Digestion is separated into four steps:

  1. Ingestion: placing food into the mouth (entry of food in the digestive system),
  2. Mechanical and chemical breakdown: mastication and the mixing of the resulting bolus with water, acids, bile and enzymes in the stomach and intestine to break down complex chemical species into simple structures,
  3. Absorption: of nutrients from the digestive system to the circulatory and lymphatic capillaries through osmosis, active transport, and diffusion, and
  4. Egestion (Excretion): Removal of undigested materials from the digestive tract through defecation.

Underlying the process is muscle movement throughout the system through swallowing and peristalsis. Each step in digestion requires energy, and thus imposes an "overhead charge" on the energy made available from absorbed substances. Differences in that overhead cost are important influences on lifestyle, behavior, and even physical structures. Examples may be seen in humans, who differ considerably from other hominids (lack of hair, smaller jaws and musculature, different dentition, length of intestines, cooking, etc.).

The major part of digestion takes place in the small intestine. The large intestine primarily serves as a site for fermentation of indigestible matter by gut bacteria and for resorption of water from digests before excretion.

In mammals, preparation for digestion begins with the cephalic phase in which saliva is produced in the mouth and digestive enzymes are produced in the stomach. Mechanical and chemical digestion begin in the mouth where food is chewed, and mixed with saliva to begin enzymatic processing of starches. The stomach continues to break food down mechanically and chemically through churning and mixing with both acids and enzymes. Absorption occurs in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and the process finishes with defecation. [5]

Human digestion process

Upper and lower human gastrointestinal tract Digestive system diagram edit.svgpharynxoral cavity
Upper and lower human gastrointestinal tract

The human gastrointestinal tract is around 9 metres (30 feet) long. Food digestion physiology varies between individuals and upon other factors such as the characteristics of the food and size of the meal, and the process of digestion normally takes between 24 and 72 hours. [20]

Digestion begins in the mouth with the secretion of saliva and its digestive enzymes. Food is formed into a bolus by the mechanical mastication and swallowed into the esophagus from where it enters the stomach through the action of peristalsis. Gastric juice contains hydrochloric acid and pepsin which would damage the walls of the stomach and mucus and bicarbonates are secreted for protection.[ clarification needed ] In the stomach further release of enzymes break down the food further and this is combined with the churning action of the stomach. Mainly proteins are digested in stomach. The partially digested food enters the duodenum as a thick semi-liquid chyme. In the small intestine, the larger part of digestion takes place and this is helped by the secretions of bile, pancreatic juice and intestinal juice. The intestinal walls are lined with villi, and their epithelial cells are covered with numerous microvilli to improve the absorption of nutrients by increasing the surface area of the intestine. Bile helps in emulsification of fats and also activates lipases.

In the large intestine, the passage of food is slower to enable fermentation by the gut flora to take place. Here, water is absorbed and waste material stored as feces to be removed by defecation via the anal canal and anus.

Neural and biochemical control mechanisms

Different phases of digestion take place including: the cephalic phase, gastric phase, and intestinal phase.

The cephalic phase occurs at the sight, thought and smell of food, which stimulate the cerebral cortex. Taste and smell stimuli are sent to the hypothalamus and medulla oblongata. After this it is routed through the vagus nerve and release of acetylcholine. Gastric secretion at this phase rises to 40% of maximum rate. Acidity in the stomach is not buffered by food at this point and thus acts to inhibit parietal (secretes acid) and G cell (secretes gastrin) activity via D cell secretion of somatostatin.

The gastric phase takes 3 to 4 hours. It is stimulated by distension of the stomach, presence of food in stomach and decrease in pH. Distention activates long and myenteric reflexes. This activates the release of acetylcholine, which stimulates the release of more gastric juices. As protein enters the stomach, it binds to hydrogen ions, which raises the pH of the stomach. Inhibition of gastrin and gastric acid secretion is lifted. This triggers G cells to release gastrin, which in turn stimulates parietal cells to secrete gastric acid. Gastric acid is about 0.5% hydrochloric acid, which lowers the pH to the desired pH of 1–3. Acid release is also triggered by acetylcholine and histamine.

The intestinal phase has two parts, the excitatory and the inhibitory. Partially digested food fills the duodenum. This triggers intestinal gastrin to be released. Enterogastric reflex inhibits vagal nuclei, activating sympathetic fibers causing the pyloric sphincter to tighten to prevent more food from entering, and inhibits local reflexes.

Breakdown into nutrients

Protein digestion

Protein digestion occurs in the stomach and duodenum in which 3 main enzymes, pepsin secreted by the stomach and trypsin and chymotrypsin secreted by the pancreas, break down food proteins into polypeptides that are then broken down by various exopeptidases and dipeptidases into amino acids. The digestive enzymes however are mostly secreted as their inactive precursors, the zymogens. For example, trypsin is secreted by pancreas in the form of trypsinogen, which is activated in the duodenum by enterokinase to form trypsin. Trypsin then cleaves proteins to smaller polypeptides.

Fat digestion

Digestion of some fats can begin in the mouth where lingual lipase breaks down some short chain lipids into diglycerides. However fats are mainly digested in the small intestine. [21] The presence of fat in the small intestine produces hormones that stimulate the release of pancreatic lipase from the pancreas and bile from the liver which helps in the emulsification of fats for absorption of fatty acids. [21] Complete digestion of one molecule of fat (a triglyceride) results a mixture of fatty acids, mono- and di-glycerides, but no glycerol. [21]

Carbohydrate digestion

In humans, dietary starches are composed of glucose units arranged in long chains called amylose, a polysaccharide. During digestion, bonds between glucose molecules are broken by salivary and pancreatic amylase, resulting in progressively smaller chains of glucose. This results in simple sugars glucose and maltose (2 glucose molecules) that can be absorbed by the small intestine.

Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down the disaccharide lactose to its component parts, glucose and galactose. Glucose and galactose can be absorbed by the small intestine. Approximately 65 percent of the adult population produce only small amounts of lactase and are unable to eat unfermented milk-based foods. This is commonly known as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance varies widely by genetic heritage; more than 90 percent of peoples of east Asian descent are lactose intolerant, in contrast to about 5 percent of people of northern European descent. [22]

Sucrase is an enzyme that breaks down the disaccharide sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, cane sugar, or beet sugar. Sucrose digestion yields the sugars fructose and glucose which are readily absorbed by the small intestine.

DNA and RNA digestion

DNA and RNA are broken down into mononucleotides by the nucleases deoxyribonuclease and ribonuclease (DNase and RNase) from the pancreas.

Non-destructive digestion

Some nutrients are complex molecules (for example vitamin B12) which would be destroyed if they were broken down into their functional groups. To digest vitamin B12 non-destructively, haptocorrin in saliva strongly binds and protects the B12 molecules from stomach acid as they enter the stomach and are cleaved from their protein complexes. [23]

After the B12-haptocorrin complexes pass from the stomach via the pylorus to the duodenum, pancreatic proteases cleave haptocorrin from the B12 molecules which rebind to intrinsic factor (IF). These B12-IF complexes travel to the ileum portion of the small intestine where cubilin receptors enable assimilation and circulation of B12-IF complexes in the blood. [24]

Digestive hormones

Action of the major digestive hormones Digestive hormones.jpg
Action of the major digestive hormones

There are at least five hormones that aid and regulate the digestive system in mammals. There are variations across the vertebrates, as for instance in birds. Arrangements are complex and additional details are regularly discovered. Connections to metabolic control (largely the glucose-insulin system) have been uncovered.

Significance of pH

Digestion is a complex process controlled by several factors. pH plays a crucial role in a normally functioning digestive tract. In the mouth, pharynx and esophagus, pH is typically about 6.8, very weakly acidic. Saliva controls pH in this region of the digestive tract. Salivary amylase is contained in saliva and starts the breakdown of carbohydrates into monosaccharides. Most digestive enzymes are sensitive to pH and will denature in a high or low pH environment.

The stomach's high acidity inhibits the breakdown of carbohydrates within it. This acidity confers two benefits: it denatures proteins for further digestion in the small intestines, and provides non-specific immunity, damaging or eliminating various pathogens. [25]

In the small intestines, the duodenum provides critical pH balancing to activate digestive enzymes. The liver secretes bile into the duodenum to neutralize the acidic conditions from the stomach, and the pancreatic duct empties into the duodenum, adding bicarbonate to neutralize the acidic chyme, thus creating a neutral environment. The mucosal tissue of the small intestines is alkaline with a pH of about 8.5.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stomach</span> Digestive organ

The stomach is a muscular, hollow organ in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and many other animals, including several invertebrates. The stomach has a dilated structure and functions as a vital organ in the digestive system. The stomach is involved in the gastric phase of digestion, following chewing. It performs a chemical breakdown by means of enzymes and hydrochloric acid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gastrointestinal tract</span> Organ system within humans and other animals

The gastrointestinal tract is the tract or passageway of the digestive system that leads from the mouth to the anus. The GI tract contains all the major organs of the digestive system, in humans and other animals, including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Food taken in through the mouth is digested to extract nutrients and absorb energy, and the waste expelled at the anus as faeces. Gastrointestinal is an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the stomach and intestines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duodenum</span> First section of the small intestine

The duodenum is the first section of the small intestine in most higher vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, and birds. In mammals it may be the principal site for iron absorption. The duodenum precedes the jejunum and ileum and is the shortest part of the small intestine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Small intestine</span> Organ in the gastrointestinal tract

The small intestine or small bowel is an organ in the gastrointestinal tract where most of the absorption of nutrients from food takes place. It lies between the stomach and large intestine, and receives bile and pancreatic juice through the pancreatic duct to aid in digestion. The small intestine is about 5.5 metres long and folds many times to fit in the abdomen. Although it is longer than the large intestine, it is called the small intestine because it is narrower in diameter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saliva</span> Bodily fluid secreted by salivary glands

Saliva is an extracellular fluid produced and secreted by salivary glands in the mouth. In humans, saliva is around 99% water, plus electrolytes, mucus, white blood cells, epithelial cells, enzymes, antimicrobial agents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ruminant</span> Hoofed herbivorous grazing or browsing mammals

Ruminants are herbivorous grazing or browsing artiodactyls belonging to the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions. The process, which takes place in the front part of the digestive system and therefore is called foregut fermentation, typically requires the fermented ingesta to be regurgitated and chewed again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called rumination. The word "ruminant" comes from the Latin ruminare, which means "to chew over again".

Chyme or chymus is the semi-fluid mass of partly digested food that is expelled by a person's or another animal's stomach, through the pyloric valve, into the duodenum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exoenzyme</span> Exoenzyme

An exoenzyme, or extracellular enzyme, is an enzyme that is secreted by a cell and functions outside that cell. Exoenzymes are produced by both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and have been shown to be a crucial component of many biological processes. Most often these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of larger macromolecules. The breakdown of these larger macromolecules is critical for allowing their constituents to pass through the cell membrane and enter into the cell. For humans and other complex organisms, this process is best characterized by the digestive system which breaks down solid food via exoenzymes. The small molecules, generated by the exoenzyme activity, enter into cells and are utilized for various cellular functions. Bacteria and fungi also produce exoenzymes to digest nutrients in their environment, and these organisms can be used to conduct laboratory assays to identify the presence and function of such exoenzymes. Some pathogenic species also use exoenzymes as virulence factors to assist in the spread of these disease-causing microorganisms. In addition to the integral roles in biological systems, different classes of microbial exoenzymes have been used by humans since pre-historic times for such diverse purposes as food production, biofuels, textile production and in the paper industry. Another important role that microbial exoenzymes serve is in the natural ecology and bioremediation of terrestrial and marine environments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gastric acid</span> Digestive fluid formed in the stomach

Gastric acid, gastric juice, or stomach acid is a digestive fluid formed within the stomach lining. With a pH between 1 and 3, gastric acid plays a key role in digestion of proteins by activating digestive enzymes, which together break down the long chains of amino acids of proteins. Gastric acid is regulated in feedback systems to increase production when needed, such as after a meal. Other cells in the stomach produce bicarbonate, a base, to buffer the fluid, ensuring a regulated pH. These cells also produce mucus – a viscous barrier to prevent gastric acid from damaging the stomach. The pancreas further produces large amounts of bicarbonate and secretes bicarbonate through the pancreatic duct to the duodenum to neutralize gastric acid passing into the digestive tract.

Cud is a portion of food that returns from a ruminant's stomach to the mouth to be chewed for the second time. More precisely, it is a bolus of semi-degraded food regurgitated from the reticulorumen of a ruminant. Cud is produced during the physical digestive process of rumination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digestive enzyme</span> Class of enzymes

Digestive enzymes are a group of enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption into the cells of the body. Digestive enzymes are found in the digestive tracts of animals and in the tracts of carnivorous plants, where they aid in the digestion of food, as well as inside cells, especially in their lysosomes, where they function to maintain cellular survival. Digestive enzymes of diverse specificities are found in the saliva secreted by the salivary glands, in the secretions of cells lining the stomach, in the pancreatic juice secreted by pancreatic exocrine cells, and in the secretions of cells lining the small and large intestines.

Assimilation is the process of absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other chemicals from food as part of the nutrition of an organism. In humans, this is always done with a chemical breakdown and physical breakdown. Chemical alteration of substances in the bloodstream by the liver or cellular secretions. Although a few similar compounds can be absorbed in digestion bio assimilation, the bioavailability of many compounds is dictated by this second process since both the liver and cellular secretions can be very specific in their metabolic action. This second process is where the absorbed food reaches the cells via the liver.

Extracellular phototropic digestion is a process in which saprobionts feed by secreting enzymes through the cell membrane onto the food. The enzymes catalyze the digestion of the food ie diffusion, transport, osmotrophy or phagocytosis. Since digestion occurs outside the cell, it is said to be extracellular. It takes place either in the lumen of the digestive system, in a gastric cavity or other digestive organ, or completely outside the body. During extracellular digestion, food is broken down outside the cell either mechanically or with acid by special molecules called enzymes. Then the newly broken down nutrients can be absorbed by the cells nearby. Humans use extracellular digestion when they eat. Their teeth grind the food up, enzymes and acid in the stomach liquefy it, and additional enzymes in the small intestine break the food down into parts their cells can use. Extracellular digestion is a form of digestion found in all saprobiontic annelids, crustaceans, arthropods, lichens and chordates, including vertebrates.

Pancreatic juice is a liquid secreted by the pancreas, which contains a number of digestive enzymes, including trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, elastase, carboxypeptidase, pancreatic lipase, nucleases and amylase. The pancreas is located in the visceral region, and is a major part of the digestive system required for proper digestion and subsequent assimilation of macronutrient substances required for living.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gastric glands</span> Glands in lining of the human stomach

The gastric glands are glands in the lining of the stomach that play an essential role in the process of digestion. All of the glands have mucus-secreting foveolar cells. Mucus lines the entire stomach, and protects the stomach lining from the effects of hydrochloric acid released from other cells in the glands.

Gastrointestinal physiology is the branch of human physiology that addresses the physical function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The function of the GI tract is to process ingested food by mechanical and chemical means, extract nutrients and excrete waste products. The GI tract is composed of the alimentary canal, that runs from the mouth to the anus, as well as the associated glands, chemicals, hormones, and enzymes that assist in digestion. The major processes that occur in the GI tract are: motility, secretion, regulation, digestion and circulation. The proper function and coordination of these processes are vital for maintaining good health by providing for the effective digestion and uptake of nutrients.

The proventriculus is part of the digestive system of birds. An analogous organ exists in invertebrates and insects.

The nervous system, and endocrine system collaborate in the digestive system to control gastric secretions, and motility associated with the movement of food throughout the gastrointestinal tract, including peristalsis, and segmentation contractions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human digestive system</span> Digestive system in humans

The human digestive system consists of the gastrointestinal tract plus the accessory organs of digestion. Digestion involves the breakdown of food into smaller and smaller components, until they can be absorbed and assimilated into the body. The process of digestion has three stages: the cephalic phase, the gastric phase, and the intestinal phase.

Heterocrine glands are the glands which function as both exocrine gland and endocrine gland. These glands exhibit a unique and diverse secretory function encompassing the release of proteins and non-proteinaceous compounds, endocrine and exocrine secretions into both the bloodstream and ducts respectively, thereby bridging the realms of internal and external communication within the body. This duality allows them to serve crucial roles in regulating various physiological processes and maintaining homeostasis. These include the gonads, pancreas and salivary glands.


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