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Ingestion is the process of takin in nutrients. Food enters the gastrointestinal tract
through the mouth, food is broken down into smaller pieces by the process of digestion. Teeth
mechanically break down the foods into smaller pieces and the saliva breaks down the food into
smaller pieces chemically. The first digestive enzyme is also contained in the saliva. It is called
ptyalin or amylase. This enzyme starts the digestion of starches in foods, Ptyalin helps convert
starch to a sugar called maltose.

After mechanical and chemical digestion the bolus of food is then swallowed and
transported to the esophagus, a long, tube-like tract of hollow organs that use downward
muscular contractions, or peristalsis, to transport the bolus of food to the stomach. The food
passes from the esophagus into the stomach through an opening called the cardiac orifice. As
soon as food enters the stomach, a hormone called gastrin is released into the bloodstream.
This hormone is carried to the gastric glands in the stomach which causes them to secrete
digestive enzymes. These gastric enzymes help in the chemical digestion of the food, while the
rhythmic contractions of the stomach contribute to the mechanical process of digestion. These
enzymes are: pepsin, which aids in the hydrolysis of proteins and lipase, which aids in the
hydrolysis of fats. As the digested food particles are transported to the small intestine, the
digestive juices of the liver and pancreas are mixed with the food. The pancreas releases
enzymes that digest fat, carbohydrate and protein particles in the food, while the liver produces
bile, which is stored between meals in the gallbladder and released through bile ducts at

The small intestine consists of about 9 feet of inch tubing coiled in the abdomen. This
tubing leads from the stomach to the large intestine. It is in the small intestine that most of the
digestion and absorption of food occurs. Food passes into the small intestine from the stomach
by entering the duodenum. The duodenum is the smallest segment of the intestine, being only 8
inches long. Food travels through the small intestine by weak contracting waves of motion that
propel the food toward the large intestine. The other two segments of the small intestine are the
jejunum, which is 3 feet long and connects the duodenum to the ileum, the final 3 feet of the
small intestine. The small intestine interior has many folds. Along the surfaces of these folds are
tiny finger-like projections called villi. The villi play an important role in the absorption of food
from the small intestine. Through the center of each villi is one or more fine white vessels called

lacteals. The lacteals are part of the lymphatic system. Their principal function is probably the
absorption of fat. As food passes through the small intestine, it is taken up, or absorbed, by
structures in the wall of the intestines, especially the villi, and is then secreted into the lacteals.
Some of the digested food is absorbed by the numerous blood vessels that line the villi. This
digested food directly enters the bloodstream. As digestion progresses in the small intestine,
portions of food are moving in large quantities into the capillaries of the intestinal villi. Blood
from the intestines containing these products of digestion is collected in the portal vein, which is
connected to the liver. The liver removes the excess glucose from the blood and stores it as
glycogen, to be used later in normalizing the blood-sugar level and for supplying energy. The
small intestine joins the colon in the region of the right groin. At this juncture is the ileo-cecal
valve whose purpose is to control the speed of passage of substances from the small intestine
and to prevent any wastes from returning to it from the large intestine. The ileo-cecal valve
opens into the colon into a pouch known as the cecum, the first receptacle for waste residue. At
the tip of the cecum is the appendix.

From the cecum, the large intestine ascends on the right side to the middle of the
abdomen, then crosses to the left side and descends again. These three sections are called the
ascending, transverse and descending colons. One of the chief functions of the colon is the
reabsorption of much of the water used in the digestive process. Undigested food is called solid
waste feces, and this is stored in the rectum until it leaves the body through the process of