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Digestive system

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name the components of the alimentary canal.
  2. List the accessory organs of the digestive system.
  3. Describe the general functions of the main organs of the digestive system.

Watch videos

The digestive system is a set of organs that are concerned with the ingestion, digestion, absorption and elimination of food. The organs of the digestive system can be divided into two groups:

  • The alimentary canal, which is essentially a continuous muscular tube that is in direct contact with the ingested food. Its organs are the oral cavity proper, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anal canal.
  • The accessory digestive organs, which do not come into direct contact with the ingested food, but are instead indirectly involved in the digestive process. These organs are salivary glands, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

In the following video, we will introduce you to the overall structure and function of the digestive system by following the journey of the food bolus from the mouth to the anal canal.

To improve your understanding of digestive system terminology, take a closer look at some commonly used roots, prefixes and suffixes related to the digestive system in the video below.

Now that you understand the basics of the digestive system, it’s time you learn more about the main organs of the digestive system, their structure, functions and the role each organ plays in the digestive process.

Take a quiz

After watching the previous videos on the digestive system, be sure to put that newly found knowledge to the test and see how well you retained this new information.

If you feel like a pro already, customize your own quiz to get a broader focus on the body systems and challenge yourself further!

Download the following PDF worksheets and identify the parts of the digestive system.


Browse atlas

You can take a closer look at the individual organs of the digestive system here. First let’s go through the images of each organ of the alimentary tract.

Here you can find the images of the individual accessory digestive organs.


Key points about the digestive system
Organs Alimentary canal: Oral cavity proper, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, ileum), large intestine (cecum, vermiform appendix, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon), rectum and anal canal
Accessory digestive organs
: Salivary glands (sublingual, submandibular, parotid), liver, gallbladder and pancreas
Functions Ingestion, mechanical digestion (mastication) and chemical digestion of food, absorption of necessary nutrients, elimination of unnecessary matter and waste

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