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The Structure and Function of the Digestive System

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The rectum is an 8-inch chamber that connects the colon to the anus. It is the rectum's job to receive stool from the colon, to let the person know that there is stool to be evacuated, and to hold the stool until evacuation happens. When anything (gas or stool) comes into the rectum, sensors send a message to the brain. The brain then decides if the rectal contents can be released or not. If they can, the sphincters relax and the rectum contracts, disposing its contents. If the contents cannot be disposed, the sphincter contracts and the rectum accommodates so that the sensation temporarily goes away.

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The pancreas has an endocrine function because it releases juices directly into the bloodstream, and it has an exocrine function because it releases juices into ducts. Enzymes, or digestive juices, are secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine. There, it continues breaking down food that has left the stomach. The pancreas also produces the hormone insulin and secretes it into the bloodstream, where it regulates the body's glucose or sugar level. Problems with insulin control can lead to diabetes. Other possible health problems include pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

Chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas (a small organ located behind the stomach and below the ribcage) becomes permanently damaged from inflammation. The most common symptom of chronic pancreatitis is repeated episodes of abdominal (tummy) pain, which can be severe. Long-term alcohol misuse is responsible for around 7 out of every 10 cases of chronic pancreatitis. This is because heavy drinking over a number of years can repeatedly damage the pancreas. In most cases of chronic pancreatitis, there's no specific treatment to reduce the inflammation and repair the damage to the pancreas. Treatment mainly focuses on lifestyle changes, People who don't smoke cigarettes and avoid drinking alcohol tend to experience less pain and live longer than those who continue to drink and smoke after receiving a diagnosis.

The liver has multiple functions, but its main function within the digestive system is to process the nutrients absorbed from the small intestine. Bile from the liver secreted into the small intestine also plays an important role in digesting fat. In addition, the liver is the body's chemical "factory." It takes the raw materials absorbed by the intestine and makes all the various chemicals the body needs to function. The liver also detoxifies potentially harmful chemicals. It breaks down and secretes many drugs.

The anus is the last part of the digestive tract. It is a 2-inch long canal consisting of the pelvic floor muscles and the two anal sphincters (internal and external). The lining of the upper anus is specialized to detect rectal contents. It lets you know whether the contents are liquid, gas, or solid. The anus is surrounded by sphincter muscles that are important in allowing control of stool. The pelvic floor muscle creates an angle between the rectum and the anus that stops stool from coming out when it is not supposed to. The internal sphincter is always tight, except when stool enters the rectum. It keeps us continent when we are asleep or otherwise unaware of the presence of stool. When we get an urge to go to the bathroom, we rely on our external sphincter to hold the stool until reaching a toilet, where it then relaxes to release the contents.

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