There are about 700 enzymes active in the human body, many of those in the digestive system. These are essential for making sure you are able to digest and absorb nutrients from your food. The food travels from from your mouth, through your oesophagus to your stomach. Even if you were standing on your head whilst eating, the food would still get to your stomach. This is due to a process called peristalsis, where muscles contract and relax in waves, pushing the food along.
The stomach is an important part of the digestive system, churning and mixing up all the food. However it’s not the same in all animals. Ruminants, such as cows, deer and giraffe have four chambered stomachs, which help them digest plant-based food. There are even some animals which have no stomach, like seahorses, and platypuses. For these animals the food travels straight to the intestines from the oesophagus!
The small intestine is massive, and this is where most of the digestion, and the work of the enzymes takes place. It is about 7 metres long, and the surface is covered in finger like projections called villi. These villi are then covered in even tinier projections called micro-villi. This results in a huge surface area, about the size of a tennis court, which helps in absorbing nutrients.
GCSE scientists- you need to be able to explain how enzymes work. If you need some help with this, try Part 1 of our new guide “How to work with Enzymes”. It includes information on how enzymes work, and how different factors affect enzyme activity. There are also questions for you to try, alongside answers to check your understanding.
Click the picture below to see the guide.
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