Food Travels Through The Body Essay

1925 words - 8 pages

The esophagus is an eight-inch tube which connects the pharynx to the stomach. This organ is very muscular. After swallowing, chewed masses of food are carried across the length of the esophagus. A muscular ring called the “lower esophageal sphincter” or “cardiac sphincter” is located at the inferior end of the esophagus. Automatically, this sphincter shuts the end of the esophagus to keep stomach contents from traveling backward. Once food travels through the esophagus, it is ready to be transferred to the stomach.
The stomach is a bag-like organ which is responsible for the temporary storage of ingested food. This J-shaped organ is located on the left side of the abdominal cavity. Multiple longitudinal folds, which are called “rugae,” contract to allow the incredibly elastic stomach to expand when food enters. Astonishingly, the stomach can hold a capacity of 1.5 liters of material. Other than storing food, the stomach also functions to digest food both mechanically and chemically. It is where the majority of gastric glands are located. As it fills with food, gastric glands within the stomach lining secrete digestive juices and acids that are very powerful. Everyday two liters of corrosive gastric juices are produced by the gastric glands. These digestive juices contain enzymes which break down proteins. In The Way We Work, author David Macauley states, “Digestion without enzymes would be like a football game without players—no action and no result” (119). Amino acids, which are present within protein, must be reduced into simple components. Enzymes accomplish this task. Amino acids split when the protein molecule attaches to the correct enzyme. As indicated before, hydrochloric acid in the stomach dissolves food and kills disease-carrying bacteria that enter the body through food and drink. In order for food to be broken down, it must be covered by the highly acidic gastric juice. A thick mucus produced by cells lining the stomach wall prevent gastric juices to digest the stomach itself. Quickly, the stomach replaces cells if any are damaged. Amazingly, the whole stomach lining is renewed every week. The stomach is also responsible for some absorption of substances, such as alcohol, into the bloodstream. Furthermore, muscle contractions in the stomach’s wall help mix food. Partially-digested food turns into a thick liquid that is called “chyme.” A muscular ring, which is called the “pyloric sphincter,” guards the stomach’s exit and relaxes to release chyme into the small intestine. After the stomach is emptied, the contraction of muscles and secretion slows down. The stomach contents are now ready to travel to their next destination—the small intestine.
The small intestine is the most important organ of the digestive system because it is where most digestion and all absorption occurs. By the time food exits this organ, approximately 90% of all nutrients have been extracted. The small intestine is a tube that is four centimeters wide but...

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