One of the best ways to learn about the digestive organs is to look at the digestive process in the human body. The digestive organs include the stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, and large intestine. The process in which food transforms into valuable nutrients is the result of these organs. Without them, the food would not create the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are essential for the body to properly function.
The digestive process begins when a person smells or sees food. She begins to salivate, making enzymes that will work to break down starch molecules inside the mouth. In addition, mucus is created in the mouth, which helps a person swallow her food. After the food is chewed, the tongue pushes the food to the back of the throat, called the pharynx. The pharynx is attached to the esophagus, the tube that leads to the stomach.
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The stomach is the first of the major digestive organs in the human body. It is a bag-like organ located below and left of the breastplate, protected by the five lowest ribs. It turns the food into a pasty-fluid called chyme, stores the food for passage into the small intestines, and breaks down proteins through the use of gastric juices. It is expandable to hold large amounts of food, but can also shrink when it is empty.
The liver is found on the right side of the body, near the diaphragm. Of all the digestive organs, it is the only one that receives blood from two sources: the heart and the small intestine. The liver performs hundreds of functions in the human body. Through the digestive process, it receives digested food, stores it, and then releases to the body as needed. Basically, it helps the body use the nutrients appropriately.
One of the main digestive functions of the liver is the manufacturing of bile. Bile is key to the digestion of fat. It breaks down large fat globules into smaller ones. The liver contains no digestive enzymes, only bile salts. The bile salts also work to neutralize the gastric juices from the stomach before they enter the small intestine.
Another of the digestive organs is the pancreas. The pancreas is the second largest organ in the body and can be found behind the stomach. It works by sending digestive enzymes into the small intestine. The enzymes break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In addition, the pancreatic juices also contain an enzyme, amylase. It is responsible for breaking down raw starch into sugar.
The small intestine is the most important organ in the digestive process. It is where most of the digestion takes place and is responsible for putting the digested nutrients back into the bloodstream. While the food is in the small intestine, it is transformed chemically by the bile from the gallbladder and enzymes from the pancreas. The carbohydrates are made into sugars, the proteins are made into amino acids, and the fats are changed to glycerol and fatty acids. These products are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
The last of the digestive organs is the large intestine or colon. No digestion takes place in the large intestine; however, it is vital for transporting waste out of the body. Although it does work to reabsorb some nutrients into the bloodstream, its primary focus is to move feces or digestive waste towards the anus.