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Digestive System Function: Medical Terminology

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Health Literacy and Digestive System Function

Knowledge and understanding of the medical terminology pertaining to the digestive system function is an integral part of health literacy. Many common ailments involve the digestive system.  Therefore knowledge of some of the basic terms pertaining to its function can be valuable in understanding your health and the health care you receive.  Listed below are common medical terms and their definitions. To enhance your learning experience you can hear the correct pronunciation of the terms in bold font in the order in which they appear. Just click the play button below.

Medical Terminology


Absorption – It is the movement of nutrients across the inner lining and wall of the intestine into the bloodstream.  

Bile – It is the yellowish-brown or green fluid which the liver secretes and discharges into the duodenum.  It aids in the digestion of fat and its absorption in the small intestine.  

Bilirubin – It is the pigmented breakdown product of hemoglobin red blood cells.  The liver transforms it as it passes through.  After that transformation it excretes it in bile.  Because of its color it causes jaundice when tissue levels of it are elevated.  

Defecation – It is the act of having a bowel movement. 

Deglutition – The act of swallowing.  digestive system function

Digestion – It is the process of converting food substances for absorption, energy production and construction of body substances. It involves the breakdown of chemical compounds into simpler ones through the actions of enzymes within the intestine.  

Dyspepsia – It is impaired digestion.  Symptoms of it include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating, and/or abdominal discomfort.  

Ingestion – It is the intake of food, liquids medicines, etc. into the body by mouth. 

Hepatic drug metabolism – It is the activities within the liver that produce chemical changes in various drugs.  Some of the changes promote elimination of the drugs from the body.  Others convert drugs from an inactive form into an active form.  

Malabsorption – It is impaired absorption of nutrients within the small intestine.  

Mastication – It is the act of chewing food in preparation for swallowing and digestion.  

Peristalsis – It is waves of involuntary alternating contractions and relaxations of smooth muscle within the intestinal tract.  If propels contents from one end of the tract to the other.  Those contents include nutrients, water and waste.



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