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Medicine LibreTexts

21.1: Introduction to the Digestive System

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  • Chapter Learning Objectives:

    After studying this chapter, you will be able to:

    • List and describe the functional anatomy of the organs and accessory organs of the digestive system
    • Discuss how food moves through the digestive tract
    • Discuss the anatomy of the accessory organs of the digestive system, which include liver, pancreas, and gallbladder

    The digestive system is continually at work, yet people seldom appreciate the complex tasks it performs in a choreographed biologic symphony. Consider what happens when you eat an apple. Of course, you enjoy the apple’s taste as you chew it, but in the hours that follow, unless something goes amiss and you get a stomachache, you don’t notice that your digestive system is working. You may be taking a walk or studying or sleeping, having forgotten all about the apple, but your stomach and intestines are busy digesting it and absorbing its vitamins and other nutrients. By the time any waste material is excreted, the body has appropriated all it can use from the apple. In short, whether you pay attention or not, the organs of the digestive system perform their specific functions, allowing you to use the food you eat to keep you going. This chapter examines the structure of these organs, and explores the mechanics of the digestive system processes.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Eating Apples. Eating may be one of the simple pleasures in life, but digesting even one apple requires the coordinated work of many organs. (credit: “Aimanness Photography”/Flickr)

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