Friday, 6 January 2017

Digestion in man

Digestion in man

Digestion is the breakdown of complex food substance into simpler food substance which can be absorbed into the blood stream for body use.

Digestion is separated into four steps

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

Compartments of digestive system


The process of digestion begins in the mouth. Within the mouth lie the teeth, tongue and jaws. Through a chewing motion, the food is mechanically broken down between the teeth by action of chewing (mastication) and mixed with saliva, which aids in chemical digestion.
Stimulation of saliva is a reflex stimulated by sight, taste, smell and thought of food, saliva is produced in the salivary glands and brought into the mouth. It contains salivary amylase, an enzyme that breaks starch into maltose, a great deal of water and mucus for lubrication of food and aiding easy swallowing.
Once the digestion in the mouth is completed, the first phase of swallowing is initiated. This stage is voluntary and is characterized by contraction of the muscles of the floor of the mouth and that propel the food bolus into the


Pharynx (act of swallowing)
The role of the pharynx is to facilitate the passage of the food bolus into the esophagus. The pharynx is designed to direct the food bolus in this direction. It is here where the second phase of swallowing takes place. After the moistened food bolus is moved to the back of the mouth by the tongue, an involuntary swallowing reflex is triggered which prevents food from entering the respiratory tract. The tongue closes off the mouth, the soft palate blocks the nose, and the larynx rises such that the epiglottis closes off the trachea. Food then moves from the pharynx into the esophagus.


Once in the esophagus, the muscles of peristalsis begin propelling the food bolus through the esophagus into the stomach by process of peristalsis.

Digestion in stomach

In the stomach there is only digestion of proteins. This is so because the conditions in the stomach are favorable for protein digestion. Once in the stomach the food is acted upon by gastric juice secreted by gastric glands situated in the thick stomach wall.

Gastric juice contains two enzymes and an acid,
1) Pepsin 2) Rennin 3) HCL
Pepsin breaks down proteins into short polypeptides.
Pepsin is secreted in an inactive form pepsinogen. This is activated by hydrochloric acid. This is a safe guard because if it was stored in an active form it would destroy the stomach wall which is also a protein. Once secreted the active form of the enzyme is prevented from attacking the tissues by the mucus lining the stomach wall. In its absence the hydrochloric acid attacks and destroys the gastric walls resulting in gastric ulcers.
Rennin coagulates the soluble milk protein Caseinogen to insoluble curd casein which is then acted upon by pepsin and broken down to polypeptides.

Hydrochloric acid has the following functions;

Activates the inactive form of  pepsinogen to pepsin
It provides an acidic medium for the action of pepsin.
It kills bacteria and so stops the food from going bad.
It stops the actions of ptyalin by making the medium more acidic their by ensuring only protein digestion in the stomach.

Digestion of starch therefore does not occur in the stomach because.
The enzyme (salivary amylase) necessary is not present.
The low PH (acidic) stops the action of salivary amylase.

The secretion of gastric juice is a reflex stimulated by,
Site of food
Smell of food
Taste of food
Thought of food

While the enzymes are working, rhythmical contractions of the stomach pound the food into a semi fluid state called CHYME. The chyme is released in small quantities by the pyloric sphincter, a ring of muscles.


 Duodenum is the first part of the small intestine and is the main seat of digestion in the gut
The agents of digestion come from three sources namely.
1) The liver
2) The pancreas
3) Wall of the small intestine (duodenum and ileum).The liver produces bile which is stored in the gall bladder. It then flows down through the bile duct into the duodenum.
Bile is a green liquid, and a mixture of substances not all of which are involved in the digestion. The digestion components are inorganic components of sodium.

These salts emulsify lipids by lowering their surface tension causing them to break up into numerous droplets their by increasing their surface area for enzyme action.
 The secretion of bile is controlled by a hormone CHOLECYSTOKININ, while its production in the liver is controlled by the hormone Secretin.
Bile is also rich in sodium bicarbonate, which neutralizes the acid from the stomach. The PH of the small intestines is therefore alkaline, which favors the action of the various enzymes.
The hormone secretin also stimulates the pancreas to release pancreatic juice rich in hydrogen carbonate ions into the duodenum via the pancreatic duct.
Pancreatic juice contains three enzymes.
Trypsin is secreted in an inactive form trypsinogen. This is converted into trypsin by the action of the enzyme enterokinase Secreted from the wall of duodenum.
Trypsin breaks down proteins and peptides to amino acids
 Pancreatic lipase breaks down lipids into fatty acids and glycerol.
Pancreatic amylase breaks down starch that was not digested in the mouth into maltose


Food moves from the duodenum to the ileum and along it by peristalsis. Presence of food in the ileum stimulates the secretion of the intestinal juice also called succus entericus. The collective function of these enzymes is to complete the digestion of the various compounds. At the end of their activity, the food is a milky fluid called Chyle ready for absorption.
The table showing the action of some intestinal enzymes


Glucose and fructose


Amino acids

Fatty acids and glycerol

Glucose + galactose

  The wall of the ileum also secretes an enzyme enterokinase which activates trypsinogen.
The components of chyle are.
Amino acids
Fatty acids and glycerals.


This is the process by which the end products of digestion enter into the blood stream.
Water and soluble substances with relatively small molecules like simple sugars, common salt and alcohol are partly absorbed through the stomach wall. All the products of digestion are absorbed in the ileum. The ileum is therefore the main organ of absorption.


The great length of the small intestines provides a large surface area for absorption of digested food (it is approximately 6m long).
The inner surface of the ileum is folded and this provides a large surface area for absorption.
The inner surface is lined with tinny finger like structures called the villi which are in constant motion. The villi greatly increase the surface area over which absorption occurs and well supplied with blood and lymph capillaries.
The lining of the ileum have a thin epithelium therefore digested food can easily diffuse through to the blood stream.
The ileum has a rich supply of food capillaries and lacteals for easy transport of absorbed food substances.