Would it surprise you that all living organisms are a complex (or sometimes very simple) layer of flesh and bones wrapped around an empty tube? This tube, while seemingly boring and unimportant, is how living organisms stay alive. You see, our bodies are open systems that interact with the environment. The eyes, nose, ears, skin, and tongue sense different stimuli and relay that information to the brain. The endocrine system is how the brain “talks” to all the organs. The lungs, heart, and blood vessels bring in oxygen and pump it to all the cells. But none of these processes would be possible without the digestive system. This is the empty tube that was referred to at the beginning of this newsletter.
The Magic of the Empty Tube
In order for a living organism to function properly, it requires some type of energy. As you probably remember from high school science, there are many types of energy. In the case of living things, we need chemical energy. It’s no nuclear power plant, but the energy stored in the last bond of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is what powers all our cells. And in order to create ATP, our bodies must strip chemical energy from other molecules. You’re familiar with these high-energy molecules, they’re found in donuts, apples, pasta, and other carbohydrates!
The word “catabolism” describes the process of breaking down big molecules into small simple ones in order to create ATP. This process first starts in the stomach, where proteins are broken down by pepsin. As we travel through the rest of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, proteins are further reduced to amino acids. Fats, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids are also cut down to just the building blocks. All these tiny molecules are absorbed, distributed, and reassembled in your cells. Of course, all good processes (and bad ones too!) produce waste products. The large intestine isn’t just your body’s largest dumpster, it’s also where the last bit of digestion happens. Commensal bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa in your lower gut synthesis fatty acids and even vitamins for their own survival; it’s sort of a nice evolutionary bonus that you get to benefit from these bacteria-made molecules too! And if these nice gut-friends are ever depleted, your appendix harbors a community of OG gut microorganisms, always ready to recolonize the large intestine if something bad happens to the current residents.
It seems gross on the macro level, but digestion is the stuff of life. Look at some of the simplest organisms; they may not have a brain or even a heart, but they will always have a big ole GI tract churning away. Our GI tract necklace, stomach necklace, and appendix necklace makes a great gift for anyone who understands and appreciates the value of digestion. Plus, no gross stuff comes with our pieces, just sparkly science awesomeness! Purchase one or all three for yourself or for a friend. They also make a great gift for GI specialists, dieticians, nutritionists, and starry-eyed pre-med students.
written by Science with Evie