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|Human gastrointestinal tract|
Diagram of stomach, intestines and rectum
|Latin||Tractus digestorius (mouth to anus),
canalis alimentarius (esophagus to large intestine),
canalis gastrointestinales (stomach to large intestine)
Gastrointestinal is an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the stomach and intestines. A tract is a collection of related anatomic structures or a series of connected body organs.
The gastrointestinal tract (digestive tract, GI tract, GIT, gut, or alimentary canal) is an organ system within humans and other animals which takes in food, digests it to extract and absorb energy and nutrients, and expels the remaining waste as feces and urine. The mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and intestines are part of the human alimentary canal.
All bilaterians have a gastrointestinal tract, also called a gut or an alimentary canal. This is a tube that transfers food to the organs of digestion. In large bilaterians, the gastrointestinal tract generally also has an exit, the anus, by which the animal disposes of feces (solid wastes). Some small bilaterians have no anus and dispose of solid wastes by other means (for example, through the mouth).
Animals that have gastrointestinal tracts are classified as either protostomes or deuterostomes. The digestive tract evolved separately in these two clades, an example of convergent evolution. The clades are distinguished based on their embryonic development: protostomes develop their mouths first, while deuterostomes develop their mouths second. Protostomes include arthropods, molluscs, and annelids, while deuterostomes include echinoderms and chordates.
The human gastrointestinal tract consists of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, and is divided into the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts. The GI tract includes all structures between the mouth and the anus, forming a continuous passageway that includes the main organs of digestion, namely, the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. In contrast, the human digestive system comprises the gastrointestinal tract plus the accessory organs of digestion (the tongue, salivary glands, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder). The tract may also be divided into foregut, midgut, and hindgut, reflecting the embryological origin of each segment.
The whole human GI tract is about nine metres (30 feet) long at autopsy. It is considerably shorter in the living body because the intestines, which are tubes of smooth muscle tissue, maintain constant muscle tone, somewhat like a slinky that maintains itself in a halfway-tense state but can relax in spots to allow for local distention, peristalsis, and so on.
The GI tract releases hormones from enzymes to help regulate the digestive process. These hormones, including gastrin, secretin, cholecystokinin, and ghrelin, are mediated through either intracrine or autocrine mechanisms, indicating that the cells releasing these hormones are conserved structures throughout evolution.