Remedial Anatomy Part 1: The Alimentary Canal

Idaho state representative Vito Barbieri made social media waves last week by asking if a woman could swallow a camera in order for a physician to perform a remote gyn exam.  The details are slightly murky and I confess I did not seek out audio documentation of the proceedings.  Apparently Barbieri was trying to garner support for a bill banning doctors from prescribing abortifacients via telemedicine.  If you’re curious, you can read all about it.

Let us lay aside partisan discussion and instead launch into a brief summary of the mouth-to-anus situation known as the ALIMENTARY CANAL.  It’s alimentary, my dear Vito, alimentary.

Here’s your smiling face.  IMG_8303Food goes into your mouth, you chew it up in your oral cavity, and through an incredibly well-coordinated movement know as swallowing the food passes through the oropharynx and shoots into the esophagus.  This is a neat trick, because the trachea (helps take air to the lungs) sits in front of the esophagus.  Way to go tongue and epiglottis!  IMG_8304So the bolus (wad) of masticated (chewed) organic material (food) travels down the esophagus to the lower esophageal sphincter. Think of this as the mostly one-way door to the stomach.  (You really don’t want stuff to come back up, either as vomit or as reflux.)  IMG_8305 After banging around in the stomach for awhile, the food passes into about twenty feet of small intestine. In case you’re wondering, the small intestine is divided into three parts: the duodenum the jejunum and the ileum.  IMG_8308So your bisonburger






is actively deconstructed and sent on its merry way to the large intestine, the colon.  You got your ascending colon that snakes up the right side of your abdomen (belly).  Then the transverse colon that crosses the belly to the left.  And finally the descending and sigmoid colon that empties into the rectum.  IMG_8310The opening of the rectum is called the anus, and that’s where the burger re-emerges as poop.  Yippee!IMG_8311

We can now put to rest the question of whether a woman can swallow a camera for a gynecological exam.  No.

Next week, I’ll explain female reproductive anatomy with the help of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Please note: Drawings are not to scale, organs are not made of ink and paper, and I am not an artist.  Autographed lithographs are available on a limited basis, however.  For the sake of simplicity, I omitted all discussion of the pancreas, gallbladder, and appendix.  Oh fine, you insist on knowing where the appendix sits.  There it is hanging off the start of the ascending colon.  Happy now? IMG_8391

Musical Moment

I am not an actor, but I play a physician in real life.  As usual, anything written here is not intended as MEDICAL ADVICE.  If you need medical advice, please see your health care provider.  Thank you.


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One Response to Remedial Anatomy Part 1: The Alimentary Canal

  1. Very good information. Lucky me I recently found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

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