Gastrointestinal Tract (GI Tract): How It Works?

In today’s micro-lecture, Australian Paramedical College Hon. Snr. Lecturer Sam Willis talks about the gastrointestinal tract and how paramedics must have a sound understanding of processes and principles of anatomy, of physiology in both health and illness.

Today we’re going to talk about the gastrointestinal tract. Now, paramedics must have a sound understanding of processes and principles of anatomy, of physiology in both health and illness. You will be studying the digestive system, as well as many other body systems throughout the units of study within the program. But today, we’re going to talk about the GI tract. Now, the GI tract, or the gastrointestinal tract, is the tube that goes from the mouth and finishes at the anus.

As you can see here, in this image, you can see the mouth and the opening to the esophagus which then goes into the stomach through the other internal organs, into the large intestines, small intestines and out through the anus. Now, the gastrointestinal tract is really, really important to human survival. At each step of the GI tract, there is some type of process or cluster of cells which make up organs which help your food to be digested so that it can sustain life. As you can imagine, ill health will become commonplace if you don’t have a healthy GI system.

Now by healthy, we mean a system whereby there’s plenty of circulation going into it, and it has the nutrients that it needs to undertake its job. If we were going to take the GI tract from the beginning, think about the mouth. Think about all the different organs that are occurring in the mouth. You have the teeth, you have the tongue, you have taste buds. You have salivary glands. All of these are designed to help you to enjoy the food, and to chew the food to be able to extract the nutrients from the food. Once you’ve chewed the food using your teeth, and the tongue, there’s also a chemical breakdown of that food, from the salivary glands. So, the teeth and the tongue and the chewing using a jaw, are mechanical breakdown of the food, then the chemical breakdown comes from the salivary glands.

The good is then pushed down into the esophagus, and it goes into the stomach. Now, in the stomach, the food is further broken down by mechanical and chemical processes. Mechanical is through the smashing of the food, using the different layers of the muscle, and chemical through the hydrochloric acid that is produced in the gastric pits within the cells of the stomach.

Here we have a gastric pit that you’ll find within the stomach. Notice you’ll have these different types of cells, that make different types of chemicals, all designed to break down the food. The idea of the stomach is to not only break the food down mechanically, but also chemically before it pushes it into the next part of the digestive system. Eventually, the food will be pushed … broken down into such small pieces, that it will be able to go through the hepatic portal circulation through the liver, and the bladder, where the nutrients will end up reaching its target cells, and the byproducts or the waste products of that food will be secreted through the large intestines and excreted as faeces through the rectum and the anus.

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