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What is the structure of the digestive system?

A Biology (basics) post.

‘The human digestive system consists of the alimentary canal [the gut] and its associated glands, the salivary glands, the liver and the pancreas. The alimentary canal begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. Between the two openings is a long convoluted tube organised into several distinct regions.’

(Boyle and Senior, 2008: 131).

The Short Answer

The digestive system is:

the ‘alimentary canal and its associated glands, the salivary glands, the liver and the pancreas.’ (Boyle and Senior, 2008: 131)

The Extended Answer

Within the alimentary canal are:

  • The mouth, including the tongue and teeth.
  • The oesophagus, which ‘carries food from the mouth to the stomach’
  • The stomach, ‘a muscular bag or sac that stores food’
  • The small intestine, which is where most digestion and absorption occurs. It includes the:
    • duodenum
    • ileum
  • The large intestine, including the:
    • appendix
    • colon, ‘whose main function is to absorb water’
    • rectum
  • The anus

(Boyle and Senior, 2008: 130-131)

The digestive system is therefore consisted of all of the above as well as the liver ‘and its adjuncts – the gallbladder and bile ducts’ (Keeton et al, 2020), pancreas, and the salivary glands.

Of course, each component has its own functions and parts. As such, this answer could be extended even further.


Boyle, M. And Senior, K. 2008. Human Biology, Third Edition, Collins: London

Collison, P. et al, 2001. Nelson Modular Science 1, Nelson Thornes: Cheltenham

Keeton, W.T. et al, 2020. Human Digestive System, Available Online: (Accessed 13/09/20)

Digestive system with salivary glands (licensed Adobe image)

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