Peristalsis is a radially symmetrical contraction and relaxation of muscles which propagates in a wave down the muscular tube, in an anterograde fashion. In humans, peristalsis is found in the contraction of smooth muscles to propel contents through the digestive tract. Earthworms use a similar mechanism to drive their locomotion. The word is derived from New Latin and comes from the Greek peristallein, "to wrap around," from peri-, "around" + stallein, "to place".
In much of the gastrointestinal tract, smooth muscles contract in sequence to produce a peristaltic wave which forces a ball of food (called a bolus while in the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract and chyme in the stomach) along the gastrointestinal tract. Peristaltic movement is initiated by circular smooth muscles contracting behind the chewed material to prevent it from moving back into the mouth, followed by a contraction of longitudinal smooth muscles which pushes the digested food forward. Catastalsis is a related intestinal muscle process.

Swallowing, known scientifically as deglutition, is the process in the human or animal body that makes something pass from the mouth, to the pharynx, and into the esophagus, while shutting the epiglottis. If this fails and the object goes through the trachea, then choking or pulmonary aspiration can occur. In the human body it is controlled by the swallowing reflex.


The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. The liver is necessary for survival; there is currently no way to compensate for the absence of liver function long term, although liver dialysis can be used short term.
This organ plays a major role in metabolism and has a number of functions in the body, including glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, plasma protein synthesis, hormone production, and detoxification. It lies below the diaphragm in the abdominal-pelvic region of the abdomen. It produces bile, an alkaline compound which aids in digestion via the emulsification of lipids. The liver's highly specialized tissues regulate a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions, including the synthesis and breakdown of small and complex molecules, many of which are necessary for normal vital functions.

The term biliary tree is derived from the arboreal branches of the bile ducts. The bile produced in the liver is collected in bile canaliculi, which merge to form bile ducts. Within the liver, these ducts are called intrahepatic (within the liver) bile ducts, and once they exit the liver they are considered extrahepatic (outside the liver). The intrahepatic ducts eventually drain into the right and left hepatic ducts, which merge to form the common hepatic duct. The cystic duct from the gallbladder joins with the common hepatic duct to form the common bile duct.
Bile can either drain directly into the duodenum via the common bile duct, or be temporarily stored in the gallbladder via the cystic duct. The common bile duct and the pancreatic duct enter the second part of the duodenum together at the ampulla of Vater.


1. Proteases

Digestion of proteins is initiated by pepsin in the stomach, but the bulk of protein digestion is due to the pancreatic proteases. Several proteases are synthesized in the pancreas and secreted into the lumen of the small intestine. The two major pancreatic proteases are trypsin and chymotrypsin, which are synthesized and packaged into secretory vesicles as an the inactive proenzymes trypsinogen and chymotrypsinogen.

As you might anticipate, proteases are rather dangerous enzymes to have in cells, and packaging of an inactive precursor is a way for the cells to safely handle these enzymes. The secretory vesicles also contain a trypsin inhibitor which serves as an additional safeguard should some of the trypsinogen be activated to trypsin; following exocytosis this inhibitor is diluted out and becomes ineffective - the pin is out of the grenade.

Once trypsinogen and chymotrypsinogen are released into the lumen of the small intestine, they must be converted into their active forms in order to digest proteins. Trypsinogen is activated by the enzyme enterokinase, which is embedded in the intestinal mucosa.

Once trypsin is formed it activates chymotrypsinogen, as well as additional molecules of trypsinogen. The net result is a rather explosive appearance of active protease once the pancreatic secretions reach the small intestine.

2. Pancreatic Lipase

A major component of dietary fat is triglyceride, or neutral lipid. A triglyceride molecule cannot be directly absorbed across the intestinal mucosa. Rather, it must first be digested into a 2-monoglyceride and two free fatty acids. The enzyme that performs this hydrolysis is pancreatic lipase, which is delivered into the lumen of the gut as a constituent of pancreatic juice.

Sufficient quantities of bile salts must also be present in the lumen of the intestine in order for lipase to efficiently digest dietary triglyceride and for the resulting fatty acids and monoglyceride to be absorbed. This means that normal digestion and absorption of dietary fat is critically dependent on secretions from both the pancreas and liver.

3. Amylase

The major dietary carbohydrate for many species is starch, a storage form of glucose in plants. Amylase (technically alpha-amylase) is the enzyme that hydrolyses starch to maltose (a glucose-glucose disaccharide), as well as the trisaccharide maltotriose and small branchpoints fragments called limit dextrins. The major source of amylase in all species is pancreatic secretions, although amylase is also present in saliva of some animals, including humans.


Defecation (from late Latin defecatio) is the final act of digestion by which organisms eliminate solid, semisolid or liquid waste material (feces) from the digestive tract via the anus. Waves of muscular contraction known as peristalsis in the walls of the colon move fecal matter through the digestive tract towards the rectum. Undigested food may also be expelled this way in the process called ingestion, or more commonly known as diarrhea.

In the adult human, the process of defecation, or the defecation cycle, is normally a combination of both voluntary and involuntary processes with force. The defecation cycle is the interval of time between the completion of one defecation, and the completion of the following defecation. At the start of the cycle, the rectal ampulla (anatomically also: ampulla recti) acts as a temporary storage facility for the unneeded material. As additional fecal material enters the rectum, the rectal walls expand. A sufficient increase in fecal material in the rectum causes stretch receptors from the nervous system located in the rectal walls to trigger the contraction of rectal muscles, relaxation of the internal anal sphincter and an initial contraction of the skeletal muscle of the external sphincter. The relaxation of the internal anal sphincter causes a signal to be sent to the brain indicating an urge to defecate.
If this urge is not acted upon, the material in the rectum is often returned to the colon by reverse peristalsis where more water is absorbed, thus temporarily reducing pressure and stretching within the rectum. The additional fecal material is stored in the colon until the next mass 'peristaltic' movement of the transverse and descending colon. If defecation is delayed for a prolonged period the fecal matter may harden and autolyze, resulting in constipation.
Once the voluntary signal to defecate is sent back from the brain, the final phase of the cycle begins. The rectum now contracts and shortens in peristaltic waves, thus forcing fecal material out of the rectum and out through the anal canal. The internal and external anal sphincters along with the puborectalis muscle allow the feces to be passed by pulling the anus up over the exiting feces in shortening and contracting actions.