Q:

How does the digestive system maintain homeostasis?

A:

The digestive system maintains homeostasis by creating the proper pH balance in the gastric environment. In addition, by maintaining the correct enzyme ratio, the digestive system nurtures beneficial bacteria that inhibit disease and produce biological substances the body needs such as vitamin K.

Homeostasis is the balance the body maintains to continue to function properly. All the bodily systems, including the digestive system, contribute to homeostasis. The body maintains homeostasis using both positive and negative mechanisms. Negative feedback occurs when the body senses an imbalance, and the various systems work to counterbalance and restore proper equilibrium. Positive feedback happens when the body senses a change and works to enhance it.

The body's pH balance, its ratio of acid and alkaline, is an important part of overall homeostasis. In the mouth, saliva is only slightly acidic. However, the digestive system needs and maintains a highly acidic environment in which to rapidly break down food. Along with the regulation of the pH balance, the digestive system maintains microflora such as acidophilus and bifidobacterium that break down cancer-causing carcinogens and other infections. After it breaks down food through a complex conveyer-like system, the digestive system passes needed nutrients on to the circulatory system for absorption by the body.

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