The Digestive System
The Digestive System Process
Let’s follow the path of a delicious ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce and pickles as it is eaten and digested! Start at the beginning and discuss the anatomical parts as well as the biochemical roles that contribute to this sandwich being turned into chemical energy. Be sure to include mechanical and chemical mechanisms, along with how they are metabolized in the body!
What happens if one part does not function? For example, what happens to digestion if the person is missing many teeth but can’t afford dentures or perhaps has a digestive disorder?
- What stress factors may cause issues in the digestive tract for some people?
- How can a regular exercise program aid in the development of a healthy digestive tract?
- How might digestion and metabolism be different over the life span?
What is the Digestive System?
The digestive system is a complex system responsible for breaking down food into nutrients that can be absorbed and used by the body. The process of digestion begins in the mouth, where food is mechanically broken down by chewing and mixed with saliva, which contains enzymes that begin to break down carbohydrates.
The food then travels down the esophagus and enters the stomach, where it is further broken down by stomach acid and enzymes. The stomach churns the food into a liquid called chyme, which is then slowly released into the small intestine.
In the small intestine, nutrients from the chyme are absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the intestine. The small intestine is also where most of the digestion takes place, with enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver and gallbladder aiding in the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
The remaining waste products then move into the large intestine, where water is absorbed and the waste is formed into feces. The feces are then eliminated from the body through the rectum and anus.
Overall, the digestive system is crucial for the body’s ability to extract the nutrients it needs from food, and for the elimination of waste products.
What happens when the digestive system is impaired?
- Acid reflux: A condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing heartburn, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing.
- Ulcers: Open sores in the lining of the stomach or small intestine, which can cause pain and bleeding.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and can cause abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): A group of disorders that cause inflammation in the digestive tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Celiac disease: An autoimmune disorder where the body reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, causing damage to the small intestine and leading to malabsorption of nutrients.
- Gallstones: Hard deposits that form in the gallbladder, which can cause pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
These conditions can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and may require medical intervention, such as medication, dietary changes, or surgery, to manage symptoms and prevent complications. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience persistent digestive symptoms or have concerns about your digestive health.
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