Fun facts about the digestive system
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Who Performs It
There are many components of the digestive system from saliva and chewing food through to the stomach and intestines. Read on to find out how the digestive system works, why we get that grumbling sound in the pit of our stomachs and many other interesting facts. The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food we eat into smaller components so that nutrients can be easily absorbed by the body and the waste discarded.
There are two types of digestion. Mechanical digestion is the physical breakdown of large pieces of food into smaller pieces through, chewing mastication.
While chemical digestion uses enzymes to break down this food mass further into small molecules which the body can separate and use. Saliva in our mouths plays a key role in initial digestion by moistening the food to help with the mechanical chewing and swallowing process. Saliva also contains an enzyme which starts the chemical digestion of starchy foods.
Bolus is the name of the small round slurry mass produced for swallowing as a result of chewing and starch digestion. The pharynx, at the back of the throat, has a flap of tissue called the epiglottis that closes during swallowing to prevent food going down the trachea windpipe.
Once swallowed, bolus food travels down through the esophagus to the stomach, taking about 7 seconds to get there. Muscles in the esophagus tighten and relax to create a wave-like process called peristalsis which pushes food down the small tube, which is why your food never falls back out if you happen to be eating and swallowing upside down!
Enzymes called proteases break down proteins within the stomach and small intestine. While in saliva, amylases break down carbohydrates and lipases break down fats.
The adult stomach has a very small volume when empty but can expand to hold up to 1. The inner wall of the stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to help kill bacteria and, along with proteases enzymes, aids in the digestion of food.
To protect itself from the corrosive acid, the stomach lining must create a thick coating of mucus. Stomach rumblings borborygmi are caused by wave-like muscular contractions peristalsis at the walls of the stomach and small intestine.
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