A Practical Physiology
Albert F. Blaisdell
Part 3 out of 9
being marked by fleshy pillars which arch up from the sides to form the
soft palate. In the middle of this arch there hangs from its free edge a
little lobe called the uvula. On each side where the pillars begin to
arch is an almond-shaped body known as the tonsil. When we take cold,
one or both of the tonsils may become inflamed, and so swollen as to
obstruct the passage into the throat. The mouth is lined with mucous
membrane, which is continuous with that of the throat, œsophagus,
stomach, and intestines (Fig. 51).
132. Mastication, or Chewing. The first step of the process of
digestion is mastication, the cutting and grinding of the food by the
teeth, effected by the vertical and lateral movements of the lower jaw.
While the food is thus being crushed, it is moved to and fro by the varied
movements of the tongue, that every part of it may be acted upon by the
teeth. The advantage of this is obvious. The more finely the food is
divided, the more easily will the digestive fluids reach every part of it,
and the more thoroughly and speedily will digestion ensue.
The act of chewing is simple and yet important, for if hurriedly or
imperfectly done, the food is in a condition to cause disturbance in the
digestive process. Thorough mastication is a necessary introduction to the
more complicated changes which occur in the later digestion.
133. The Teeth. The teeth are attached to the upper and lower
maxillary bones by roots which sink into the sockets of the jaws. Each
tooth consists of a _crown_, the visible part, and one or more fangs,
buried in the sockets. There are in adults 32 teeth, 16 in each jaw.
Teeth differ in name according to their form and the uses to which they
are specially adapted. Thus, at the front of the jaws, the incisors,
or cutting teeth, number eight, two on each side. They have a single root
and the crown is beveled behind, presenting a chisel-like edge. The
incisors divide the food, and are well developed in rodents, as squirrels,
rats, and beavers.
Next come the canine teeth, or cuspids, two in each jaw, so called
from their resemblance to the teeth of dogs and other flesh-eating
animals. These teeth have single roots, but their crowns are more pointed
than in the incisors. The upper two are often called eye teeth, and the
lower two, stomach teeth. Next behind the canines follow, on each side,
two bicuspids. Their crowns are broad, and they have two roots. The
three hindmost teeth in each jaw are the molars, or grinders. These
are broad teeth with four or five points on each, and usually each molar
has three roots.
The last molars are known as the wisdom teeth, as they do not usually
appear until the person has reached the "years of discretion." All animals
that live on grass, hay, corn, and the cereals generally, have large
grinding teeth, as the horse, ox, sheep, and elephant.
The following table shows the teeth in their order:
Mo. Bi. Ca. In. In. Ca. Bi. Mo.
Upper 3 2 1 2 | 2 1 2 3 = 16
| } = 32
Lower 3 2 1 2 | 2 1 2 3 = 16
The vertical line indicates the middle of the jaw, and shows that on each
side of each jaw there are eight teeth.
134. Development of the Teeth. The teeth just described are the
permanent set, which succeeds the temporary or milk teeth.
The latter are twenty in number, ten in each jaw, of which the four in the
middle are incisors. The tooth beyond on each side is an eye tooth, and
the next two on each side are bicuspids, or premolars.
The milk teeth appear during the first and second years, and last until
about the sixth or seventh year, from which time until the twelfth or
thirteenth year, they are gradually pushed out, one by one, by the
permanent teeth. The roots of the milk teeth are much smaller than those
of the second set.
[Illustration: Fig. 48.--Temporary and Permanent Teeth together.
A, central incisors;
B lateral incisors;
D, anterior molars;
E, posterior molars
F, central incisors;
H, lateral incisors;
L, first bicuspids;
M, second biscuspids;
N, first molars
The plan of a gradual succession of teeth is a beautiful provision of
nature, permitting the jaws to increase in size, and preserving the
relative position and regularity of the successive teeth.
[Illustration: Fig. 49.--Showing the Principal Organs of the Thorax and
Abdomen _in situ_. (The principal muscles are seen on the left, and
superficial veins on the right.)]
135. Structure of the Teeth. If we should saw a tooth down through
its center we would find in the interior a cavity. This is the pulp
cavity, which is filled with the dental pulp, a delicate substance
richly supplied with nerves and blood-vessels, which enter the tooth by
small openings at the point of the root. The teeth are thus nourished like
other parts of the body. The exposure of the delicate pulp to the air, due
to the decay of the dentine, gives rise to the pain of toothache.
Surrounding the cavity on all sides is the hard substance known as the
dentine, or tooth ivory. Outside the dentine of the root is a
substance closely resembling bone, called cement. In fact, it is true
bone, but lacks the Haversian canals. The root is held in its socket
by a dense fibrous membrane which surrounds the cement as the periosteum
[Illustration: Fig. 50.--Section of Face. (Showing the parotid and
The crown of the tooth is not covered by cement, but by the hard
enamel, which forms a strong protection for the exposed part. When
the teeth are first "cut," the surface of the enamel is coated with a
delicate membrane which answers to the Scriptural phrase "the skin of the
teeth." This is worn off in adult life.
136. Insalivation. The thorough mixture of the saliva with the food
is called insalivation. While the food is being chewed, it is
moistened with a fluid called saliva, which flows into the mouth from
six little glands. There are on each side of the mouth three salivary
glands, which secrete the saliva from the blood. The parotid is
situated on the side of the face in front of the ear. The disease, common
in childhood, during which this gland becomes inflamed and swollen, is
known as the "mumps." The submaxillary gland is placed below and to
the inner side of the lower jaw, and the sublingual is on the floor
of the mouth, between the tongue and the gums. Each gland opens into the
mouth by a little duct. These glands somewhat resemble a bunch of grapes
with a tube for a stalk.
The saliva is a colorless liquid without taste or smell. Its
principal element, besides water, is a ferment called _ptyalin_, which has
the remarkable property of being able to change starch into a form of
cane-sugar, known as maltose.
Thus, while the food is being chewed, another process is going on by which
starch is changed into sugar. The saliva also moistens the food into a
mass for swallowing, and aids in speech by keeping the mouth moist.
The activity of the salivary glands is largely regulated by their abundant
supply of nerves. Thus, the saliva flows into the mouth, even at the
sight, smell, or thought of food. This is popularly known as "making the
mouth water." The flow of saliva may be checked by nervous influences, as
sudden terror and undue anxiety.
Experiment 56. _To show the action of saliva on starch_. Saliva for
experiment may be obtained by chewing a piece of India rubber and
collecting the saliva in a test tube. Observe that it is colorless and
either transparent or translucent, and when poured from one vessel to
another is glairy and more or less adhesive. Its reaction is alkaline to
Experiment 57. Make a thin paste from pure starch or arrowroot.
Dilute a little of the saliva with five volumes of water, and filter it.
This is best done through a filter perforated at its apex by a pin-hole.
In this way all air-bubbles are avoided. Label three test tubes _A, B_,
and _C_. In _A_, place starch paste; in _B_, saliva; and in _C_ one
volume of saliva and three volumes of starch paste. Place them for ten
minutes in a water bath at about 104° Fahrenheit.
Test portions of all three for a reducing sugar, by means of Fehling's
solution or tablets. _A_ and _B_ give no evidence of sugar, while
_C_ reduces the Fehling, giving a yellow or red deposit of cuprous
oxide. Therefore, starch is converted into a reducing sugar by the
saliva. This is done by the ferment ptyalin contained in saliva.
137. The Pharynx and Œsophagus. The dilated upper part of the
alimentary canal is called the pharynx. It forms a blind sac above
the level of the mouth. The mouth opens directly into the pharynx, and
just above it are two openings leading into the posterior passages of the
nose. There are also little openings, one on each side, from which begin
the Eustachian tubes, which lead upward to the ear cavities.
The windpipe opens downward from the pharynx, but this communication can
be shut off by a little plate or lid of cartilage, the epiglottis.
During the act of swallowing, this closes down over the entrance to the
windpipe, like a lid, and prevents the food from passing into the
air-passages. This tiny trap-door can be seen, by the aid of a mirror, if
we open the mouth wide and press down the back of the tongue with the
handle of a spoon (Figs. 46, 84, and 85).
Thus, there are six openings from the pharynx; the œsophagus being
the direct continuation from it to the stomach. If we open the mouth
before a mirror we see through the fauces the rear wall of the pharynx. In
its lining membrane is a large number of glands, the secretion from which
during a severe cold may be quite troublesome.
The œsophagus, or gullet, is a tube about nine inches long,
reaching from the throat to the stomach. It lies behind the windpipe,
pierces the diaphragm between the chest and abdomen, and opens into the
stomach. It has in its walls muscular fibers, which, by their worm-like
contractions, grasp the successive masses of food swallowed, and pass them
along downwards into the stomach.
138. Deglutition, or Swallowing. The food, having been well chewed
and mixed with saliva, is now ready to be swallowed as a soft, pasty mass.
The tongue gathers it up and forces it backwards between the pillars of
the fauces into the pharynx.
If we place the fingers on the "Adam's apple," and then pretend to
swallow something, we can feel the upper part of the windpipe and the
closing of its lid (epiglottis), so as to cover the entrance and prevent
the passage of food into the trachea.
There is only one pathway for the food to travel, and that is down the
œsophagus. The slow descent of the food may be seen if a horse or
dog be watched while swallowing. Even liquids do not fall or flow down the
food passage. Hence, acrobats can drink while standing on their heads, or
a horse with its mouth below the level of the œsophagus. The food is
under the control of the will until it has entered the pharynx; all the
later movements are involuntary.
[Illustration: Fig. 51.--A View into the Back Part of the Adult Mouth.
(The head is represented as having been thrown back, and the tongue drawn
A, B, incisors;
D, E, bicuspids;
F, H, K, molars;
M, anterior pillar of the fauces;
O, upper part of the pharynx;
P, tongue drawn forward;
R, linear ridge, or raphé.
139. The Stomach. The stomach is the most dilated portion of the
alimentary canal and the principal organ of digestion. Its form is not
easily described. It has been compared to a bagpipe, which it resembles
somewhat, when moderately distended. When empty it is flattened, and in
some parts its opposite walls are in contact.
We may describe the stomach as a pear-shaped bag, with the large end to
the left and the small end to the right. It lies chiefly on the left side
of the abdomen, under the diaphragm, and protected by the lower ribs. The
fact that the large end of the stomach lies just beneath the diaphragm and
the heart, and is sometimes greatly distended on account of indigestion or
gas, may cause feelings of heaviness in the chest or palpitation of the
heart. The stomach is subject to greater variations in size than any other
organ of the body, depending on its contents. Just after a moderate meal
it averages about twelve inches in length and four in diameter, with a
capacity of about four pints.
[Illustration: Fig. 52.--The Stomach. A, cardiac end; B, pyloric end, C,
lesser curvature, D, greater curvature]
The orifice by which the food enters is called the cardiac opening,
because it is near the heart. The other opening, by which the food leaves
the stomach, and where the small intestine begins, is the pyloric
orifice, and is guarded by a kind of valve, known as the pylorus, or
gatekeeper. The concave border between the two orifices is called the
_small curvature_, and the convex as the _great curvature_, of the
140. Coats of Stomach. The walls of the stomach are formed by four
coats, known successively from without as serous, muscular,
sub-mucous, and mucous. The outer coat is the serous membrane
which lines the abdomen,--the peritoneum (note, p. 135). The second
coat is muscular, having three sets of involuntary muscular fibers. The
outer set runs lengthwise from the cardiac orifice to the pylorus. The
middle set encircles all parts of the stomach, while the inner set
consists of oblique fibers. The third coat is the sub-mucous, made up of
loose connective tissues, and binds the mucous to the muscular coat.
Lastly there is the mucous coat, a moist, pink, inelastic membrane, which
completely lines the stomach. When the stomach is not distended, the
mucous layer is thrown into folds presenting a corrugated appearance.
[Illustration: Fig. 53.--Pits in the Mucous Membrane of the Stomach, and
Openings of the Gastric Glands. (Magnified 20 diameters.)]
141. The Gastric Glands. If we were to examine with a hand lens the
inner surface of the stomach, we would find it covered with little pits,
or depressions, at the bottom of which would be seen dark dots. These dots
are the openings of the gastric glands. In the form of fine, wavy
tubes, the gastric glands are buried in the mucous membrane, their mouths
opening on the surface. When the stomach is empty the mucous membrane is
pale, but when food enters, it at once takes on a rosy tint. This is due
to the influx of blood from the large number of very minute blood-vessels
which are in the tissue between the rows of glands.
The cells of the gastric glands are thrown into a state of greater
activity by the increased quantity of blood supply. As a result, soon
after food enters the stomach, drops of fluid collect at the mouths of the
glands and trickle down its walls to mix with the food. Thus these glands
produce a large quantity of gastric juice, to aid in the digestion of
142. Digestion in the Stomach. When the food, thoroughly mixed with
saliva, reaches the stomach, the cardiac end of that organ is closed as
well as the pyloric valve, and the muscular walls contract on the
contents. A spiral wave of motion begins, becoming more rapid as digestion
goes on. Every particle of food is thus constantly churned about in the
stomach and thoroughly mixed with the gastric juice. The action of the
juice is aided by the heat of the parts, a temperature of about 99°
The gastric juice is a thin almost colorless fluid with a sour taste
and odor. The reaction is distinctly acid, normally due to free
hydrochloric acid. Its chief constituents are two ferments called pepsin
and rennin, free hydrochloric acid, mineral salts, and 95 per cent of
[Illustration: Fig. 54.--A highly magnified view of a peptic or gastric
gland, which is represented as giving off branches. It shows the columnar
epithelium of the surface dipping down into the duct D of the gland, from
which two tubes branch off. Each tube is lined with columnar epithelial
cells, and there is a minute central passage with the "neck" at N. Here
and there are seen other special cells called parietal cells, P, which are
supposed to produce the acid of the gastric juice. The principal cells are
represented at C.]
Pepsin the important constituent of the gastric juice, has the
power, in the presence of an acid, of dissolving the proteid food-stuffs.
Some of which is converted into what are called _peptones_, both soluble
and capable of filtering through membranes. The gastric juice has no
action on starchy foods, neither does it act on fats, except to dissolve
the albuminous walls of the fat cells. The fat itself is thus set free in
the form of minute globules. The whole contents of the stomach now assume
the appearance and the consistency of a thick soup, usually of a grayish
color, known as chyme.
It is well known that "rennet" prepared from the calf's stomach has a
remarkable effect in rapidly curdling milk, and this property is utilized
in the manufacture of cheese. Now, a similar ferment is abundant in the
gastric juice, and may be called _rennin_. It causes milk to clot, and
does this by so acting on the casein as to make the milk set into a jelly.
Mothers are sometimes frightened when their children, seemingly in perfect
health, vomit masses of curdled milk. This curdling of the milk is,
however, a normal process, and the only noteworthy thing is its rejection,
usually due to overfeeding.
Experiment 58. _To show that pepsin and acid are necessary for
gastric digestion._ Take three beakers, or large test tubes; label them
_A_, _B_, _C_. Put into _A_ water and a few grains of powdered pepsin.
Fill _B_ two-thirds full of dilute hydrochloric acid (one teaspoonful to
a pint), and fill _C_ two-thirds full of hydrochloric acid and a few
grains of pepsin. Put into each a small quantity of well-washed fibrin,
and place them all in a water bath at 104° Fahrenheit for half an hour.
Examine them. In _A_, the fibrin is unchanged; in _B_, the fibrin is
clear and swollen up; in _C_, it has disappeared, having first become
swollen and clear, and completely dissolved, being finally converted
into peptones. Therefore, both acid and ferment are required for gastric
Experiment 59. Half fill with dilute hydrochloric acid three large
test tubes, labelled _A_, _B_, _C_. Add to each a few grains of pepsin.
Boil _B_, and make _C_ faintly alkaline with sodic carbonate. The
alkalinity may be noted by adding previously some neutral litmus
solution. Add to each an equal amount--a few threads--of well-washed
fibrin which has been previously steeped for some time in dilute
hydrochloric acid, so that it is swollen and transparent. Keep the tubes
in a water-bath at about 104° Fahrenheit for an hour and examine them at
intervals of twenty minutes.
After five to ten minutes the fibrin in _A_ is dissolved and the fluid
begins to be turbid. In _B_ and _C_ there is no change. Even after long
exposure to 100° Fahrenheit there is no change in _B_ and _C_.
After a variable time, from one to four hours, the contents of the
stomach, which are now called chyme, begin to move on in successive
portions into the next part of the intestinal canal. The ring-like
muscles of the pylorus relax at intervals to allow the muscles of the
stomach to force the partly digested mass into the small intestines.
This action is frequently repeated, until even the indigestible masses
which the gastric juice cannot break down are crowded out of the stomach
into the intestines. From three to four hours after a meal the stomach
is again quite emptied.
A certain amount of this semi-liquid mass, especially the peptones, with
any saccharine fluids, resulting from the partial conversion of starch or
otherwise, is at once absorbed, making its way through the delicate
vessels of the stomach into the blood current, which is flowing through
the gastric veins to the portal vein of the liver.
[Illustration: Fig. 55.--A Small Portion of the Mucous Membrane of the
Small Intestine. (Villi are seen surrounded with the openings of the
tubular glands.) [Magnified 20 diameters.]]
143. The Small Intestine. At the pyloric end of the stomach the
alimentary canal becomes again a slender tube called the small
intestine. This is about twenty feet long and one inch in diameter,
and is divided, for the convenience of description, into three parts.
The first 12 inches is called the duodenum. Into this portion opens
the bile duct from the liver with the duct from the pancreas, these having
been first united and then entering the intestine as a common duct.
The next portion of the intestine is called the jejunum, because it
is usually empty after death.
The remaining portion is named the ileum, because of the many folds
into which it is thrown. It is the longest part of the small intestine,
and terminates in the right iliac region, opening into the large
intestine. This opening is guarded by the folds of the membrane forming
the ileo-cæcal valve, which permits the passage of material from the
small to the large intestine, but prevents its backward movement.
144. The Coats of the Small Intestine. Like the stomach, the small
intestine has four coats, the serous, muscular, sub-mucous,
and mucous. The serous is the peritoneum. The muscular consists
of an outer layer of longitudinal, and an inner layer of circular fibers,
by contraction of which the food is forced along the bowel. The sub-mucous
coat is made up of a loose layer of tissue in which the blood-vessels and
nerves are distributed. The inner, or mucous, surface has a fine, velvety
feeling, due to a countless number of tiny, thread-like projections,
called villi. They stand up somewhat like the "pile" of velvet. It is
through these villi that the digested food passes into the blood.
[Illustration: Fig. 56.--Sectional View of Intestinal Villi. (Black dots
represent the glandular openings.)]
The inner coat of a large part of the small intestine is thrown into
numerous transverse folds called _valvulæ conniventes_. These seem to
serve two purposes, to increase the extent of the surface of the bowels
and to delay mechanically the progress of the intestinal contents. Buried
in the mucous layer throughout the length, both of the small and large
intestines, are other glands which secrete intestinal fluids. Thus, in the
lower part of the ileum there are numerous glands in oval patches known as
_Peyer's patches_. These are very prone to become inflamed and to ulcerate
during the course of typhoid fever.
145. The Large Intestine. The large intestine begins in the
right iliac region and is about five or six feet long. It is much larger
than the small intestine, joining it obliquely at short distance from its
end. A blind pouch, or dilated pocket is thus formed at the place of
junction, called the cæcum. A valvular arrangement called the
ileo-cæcal valve, which is provided with a button-hole slit, forms a kind
of movable partition between this part of the large intestine and the
[Illustration: Fig. 57.--Tubular Glands of the Small Intestines.
A, B, tubular glands seen in vertical section with their orifices at C,
opening upon the membrane between the villi, D, villus (Magnified 40
Attached to the cæcum is a worm-shaped tube, about the size of a lead
pencil, and from three to four inches long, called the _vermiform
appendix_. Its use is unknown. This tube is of great surgical importance,
from the fact that it is subject to severe inflammation, often resulting
in an internal abscess, which is always dangerous and may prove fatal.
Inflammation of the appendix is known as _appendicitis_,--a name quite
familiar on account of the many surgical operations performed of late
years for its relief.
The large intestine passes upwards on the right side as the ascending
colon, until the under side of the liver is reached, where it passes
to the left side, as the transverse colon, below the stomach. It
there turns downward, as the descending colon, and making an S-shaped
curve, ends in the rectum. Thus the large intestine encircles, in the
form of a horseshoe, the convoluted mass of small intestines.
Like the small intestine, the large has four coats. The mucous coat,
however, has no folds, or villi, but numerous closely set glands, like
some of those of the small intestine. The longitudinal muscular fibers of
the large intestine are arranged in three bands, or bundles, which, being
shorter than the canal itself, produce a series of bulgings or pouches in
its walls. This sacculation of the large bowel is supposed to be designed
for delaying the onward flow of its contents, thus allowing more time for
the absorption of the liquid material. The blood-vessels and nerves of
this part of the digestive canal are very numerous, and are derived from
the same sources as those of the small intestine.
146. The Liver. The liver is a part of the digestive apparatus,
since it forms the bile, one of the digestive fluids. It is a large
reddish-brown organ, situated just below the diaphragm, and on the right
side. The liver is the largest gland in the body, and weighs from 50 to 60
ounces. It consists of two lobes, the right and the left, the right being
much the larger. The upper, convex surface of the liver is very smooth and
even; but the under surface is irregular, broken by the entrance and exit
of the various vessels which belong to the organ. It is held in its place
by five ligaments, four of which are formed by double folds of the
The thin front edge of the liver reaches just below the bony edge of the
ribs; but the dome-shaped diaphragm rises slightly in a horizontal
position, and the liver passes up and is almost wholly covered by the
ribs. In tight lacing, the liver is often forced downward out from the
cover of the ribs, and thus becomes permanently displaced. As a result,
other organs in the abdomen and pelvis are crowded together, and also
147. Minute Structure of the Liver. When a small piece of the liver
is examined under a microscope it is found to be made up of masses of
many-sided cells, each about 1/1000 of an inch in diameter. Each group of
cells is called a _lobule_. When a single lobule is examined under the
microscope it appears to be of an irregular, circular shape, with its
cells arranged in rows, radiating from the center to the circumference.
Minute, hair-like channels separate the cells one from another, and unite
in one main duct leading from the lobule. It is the lobules which give to
the liver its coarse, granular appearance, when torn across.
[Illustration: Fig. 58.--Diagrammatic Section of a Villus
A, layer of columnar epithelium covering the villus;
B, central lacteal of villus;
C, unstriped muscular fibers;
D, goblet cell
Now there is a large vessel called the portal vein that brings to the
liver blood full of nourishing material obtained from the stomach and
intestines. On entering the liver this great vein conducts itself as if it
were an artery. It divides and subdivides into smaller and smaller
branches, until, in the form of the tiniest vessels, called capillaries,
it passes inward among the cells to the very center of the hepatic
148. The Bile. We have in the liver, on a grand scale, exactly the
same conditions as obtain in the smaller and simpler glands. The
thin-walled liver cells take from the blood certain materials which they
elaborate into an important digestive fluid, called the bile.
This newly manufactured fluid is carried away in little canals, called
_bile ducts_. These minute ducts gradually unite and form at last one main
duct, which carries the bile from the liver. This is known as the hepatic
duct. It passes out on the under side of the liver, and as it
approaches the intestine, it meets at an acute angle the cystic duct which
proceeds from the gall bladder and forms with it the common bile
duct. The common duct opens obliquely into the horseshoe bend of the
The cystic duct leads back to the under surface of the liver, where
it expands into a sac capable of holding about two ounces of fluid, and is
known as the gall bladder. Thus the bile, prepared in the depths of
the liver by the liver cells, is carried away by the bile ducts, and may
pass directly into the intestines to mix with the food. If, however,
digestion is not going on, the mouth of the bile duct is closed, and in
that case the bile is carried by the cystic duct to the gall bladder. Here
it remains until such time as it is needed.
149. Blood Supply of the Liver. We must not forget that the liver
itself, being a large and important organ, requires constant nourishment
for the work assigned to it. The blood which is brought to it by the
portal vein, being venous, is not fit to nourish it. The work is done by
the arterial blood brought to it by a great branch direct from the aorta,
known as the hepatic artery, minute branches of which in the form of
capillaries, spread themselves around the hepatic lobules.
The blood, having done its work and now laden with impurities, is picked
up by minute veinlets, which unite again and again till they at last form
one great trunk called the hepatic vein. This carries the impure
blood from the liver, and finally empties it into one of the large veins
of the body.
After the blood has been robbed of its bile-making materials, it is
collected by the veinlets that surround the lobules, and finds its way
with other venous blood into the hepatic vein. In brief, blood is brought
to the liver and distributed through its substance by two distinct
channels,--the portal vein and the hepatic artery, but it leaves
the liver by one distinct channel,--the hepatic vein.
[Illustration: Fig. 59--Showing the Relations of the Duodenum and Other
Intestinal Organs. (A portion of the stomach has been cut away.)]
150. Functions of the Liver. We have thus far studied the liver only
as an organ of secretion, whose work is to elaborate bile for future use
in the process of digestion. This is, however, only one of its functions,
and perhaps not the most important. In fact, the functions of the liver
are not single, but several. The bile is not wholly a digestive fluid, but
it contains, also, materials which are separated from the blood to be
cast out of the body before they work mischief. Thus, the liver ranks
above all others as an organ of excretion, that is, it separates
material of no further use to the body.
Of the various ingredients of the bile, only the bile salts are of use in
the work of digestion, for they act upon the fats in the alimentary canal,
and aid somehow in their emulsion and absorption. They appear to be
themselves split up into other substances, and absorbed with the dissolved
fats into the blood stream again.
The third function of the liver is very different from those already
described. It is found that the liver of an animal well and regularly fed,
when examined soon after death, contains a quantity of a carbohydrate
substance not unlike starch. This substance, extracted in the form of a
white powder, is really an animal starch. It is called glycogen, or
liver sugar, and is easily converted into grape sugar.
The hepatic cells appear to manufacture this glycogen and to store it up
from the food brought by the portal blood. It is also thought the glycogen
thus deposited and stored up in the liver is little by little changed into
sugar. Then, as it is wanted, the liver disposes of this stored-up
material, by pouring it, in a state of solution, into the hepatic vein. It
is thus steadily carried to the tissues, as their needs demand, to supply
them with material to be transformed into heat and energy.
151. The Pancreas. The pancreas, or sweetbread, is much smaller
than the liver. It is a tongue-like mass from six to eight inches long,
weighing from three to four ounces, and is often compared in appearance to
a dog's tongue. It is somewhat the shape of a hammer with the handle
running to a point.
The pancreas lies behind the stomach, across the body, from right to left,
with its large head embraced in the horseshoe bend of the duodenum. It
closely resembles the salivary glands in structure, with its main duct
running from one end to the other. This duct at last enters the duodenum
in company with the common bile duct.
The pancreatic juice, the most powerful in the body, is clear,
somewhat viscid, fluid. It has a decided alkaline reaction and is not
unlike saliva in many respects. Combined with the bile, this juice acts
upon the large drops of fat which pass from the stomach into the duodenum
and emulsifies them. This process consists partly in producing a fine
subdivision of the particles of fat, called an emulsion, and partly in a
chemical decomposition by which a kind of soap is formed. In this way the
oils and fats are divided into particles sufficiently minute to permit of
their being absorbed into the blood.
Again, this most important digestive fluid produces on starch an action
similar to that of saliva, but much more powerful. During its short stay
in the mouth, very little starch is changed into sugar, and in the
stomach, as we have seen, the action of the saliva is arrested. Now, the
pancreatic juice takes up the work in the small intestine and changes the
greater part of the starch into sugar. Nor is this all, for it also acts
powerfully upon the proteids not acted upon in the stomach, and changes
them into peptones that do not differ materially from those resulting from
gastric digestion. The remarkable power which the pancreatic juice
possesses of acting on all the food-stuffs appears to be due mainly to the
presence of a specific element or ferment, known as _trypsin_.
Experiment 60. _To show the action of pancreatic juice upon oils or
fats._ Put two grains of Fairchild's extract of pancreas into a
four-ounce bottle. Add half a teaspoonful of warm water, and shake well
for a few minutes; then add a tablespoonful of cod liver oil; shake
A creamy, opaque mixture of the oil and water, called an emulsion, will
result. This will gradually separate upon standing, the pancreatic
extract settling in the water at the bottom. When shaken it will again
form an emulsion.
Experiment 61. _To show the action of pancreatic juice on starch_.
Put two tablespoonfuls of _smooth_ starch paste into a goblet, and while
still so warm as just to be borne by the mouth, stir into it two grains
of the extract of pancreas. The starch paste will rapidly become
thinner, and gradually change into soluble starch, in a perfectly fluid
solution. Within a few minutes some of the starch is converted through
intermediary stages into maltose. Use the Fehling test for sugar.
152. Digestion in the Small Intestines. After digestion in the
stomach has been going on for some time, successive portions of the
semi-digested food begin to pass into the duodenum. The pancreas now takes
on new activity, and a copious flow of pancreatic juice is poured along
its duct into the intestines. As the food is pushed along over the common
opening of the bile and pancreatic ducts, a great quantity of bile from
this reservoir, the gall bladder, is poured into the intestines. These two
digestive fluids are now mixed with the chyme, and act upon it in the
remarkable manner just described.
[Illustration: Fig. 60.--Diagrammatic Scheme of Intestinal Absorption.
B, lacteals and mesentery glands;
C, veins of intestines;
R.C, receptacle of the chyle (receptaculum chyli);
P V, portal vein;
H V, hepatic veins;
S.V.C, superior vena cava;
R.A, right auricle of the heart;
I.V.C, inferior vena cava.
The inner surface of the small intestine also secretes a liquid called
intestinal juice, the precise functions of which are not known. The
chyme, thus acted upon by the different digestive fluids, resembles a
thick cream, and is now called chyle. The chyle is propelled along
the intestine by the worm-like contractions of its muscular walls. A
function of the bile, not yet mentioned, is to stimulate these movements,
and at the same time by its antiseptic properties to prevent putrefaction
of the contents of the intestine.
153. Digestion in the Large Intestines. Digestion does not occur to
any great extent in the large intestines. The food enters this portion of
the digestive canal through the ileo-cæcal valve, and travels through it
slowly. Time is thus given for the fluid materials to be taken up by the
blood-vessels of the mucous membrane. The remains of the food now become
less fluid, and consist of undigested matter which has escaped the action
of the several digestive juices, or withstood their influence. Driven
onward by the contractions of the muscular walls, the refuse materials at
last reach the rectum, from which they are voluntarily expelled from the
154. Absorption. While food remains within the alimentary canal it is as
much outside of the body, so far as nutrition is concerned, as if it had
never been taken inside. To be of any service the food must enter the
blood; it must be absorbed. The efficient agents in absorption are the
blood-vessels, the lacteals, and the lymphatics. The process through which
the nutritious material is fitted to enter the blood, is called
absorption. It is a process not confined, as we shall see, simply to the
alimentary canal, but one that is going on in every tissue.
The vessels by which the process of absorption is carried on are called
absorbents. The story, briefly told, is this: certain food materials
that have been prepared to enter the blood, filter through the mucous
membrane of the intestinal canal, and also the thin walls of minute
blood-vessels and lymphatics, and are carried by these to larger vessels,
and at last reach the heart, thence to be distributed to the tissues.
155. Absorption from the Mouth and Stomach. The lining of the mouth
and œsophagus is not well adapted for absorption. That this does
occur is shown by the fact that certain poisonous chemicals, like cyanide
of potash, if kept in the mouth for a few moments will cause death. While
we are chewing and swallowing our food, no doubt a certain amount of water
and common salt, together with sugar which has been changed from starch by
the action of the saliva, gains entrance to the blood.
In the stomach, however, absorption takes place with great activity. The
semi-liquid food is separated from the enormous supply of blood-vessels in
the mucous membrane only by a thin porous partition. There is, therefore,
nothing to prevent the exchange taking place between the blood and the
food. Water, along with any substances in the food that have become
dissolved, will pass through the partition and enter the blood-current.
Thus it is that a certain amount of starch that has been changed into
sugar, of salts in solution, of proteids converted into peptones, is taken
up directly by the blood-vessels of the stomach.
156. Absorption by the Intestines. Absorption by the intestines is a
most active and complicated process. The stomach is really an organ more
for the digestion than the absorption of food, while the small intestines
are especially constructed for absorption. In fact, the greatest part of
absorption is accomplished by the small intestines. They have not only a
very large area of absorbing surface, but also structures especially
adapted to do this work.
157. The Lacteals. We have learned in Section 144 that the mucous
lining of the small intestines is crowded with millions of little
appendages called villi, meaning "tufts of hair." These are only
about 1/30 of an inch long, and a dime will cover more than five hundred
of them. Each villus contains a loop of blood-vessels, and another vessel,
the lacteal, so called from the Latin word _lac_, milk, because of the
milky appearance of the fluid it contains. The villi are adapted
especially for the absorption of fat. They dip like the tiniest fingers
into the chyle, and the minute particles of fat pass through their
cellular covering and gain entrance to the lacteals. The milky material
sucked up by the lacteals is not in a proper condition to be poured at
once into the blood current. It is, as it were, in too crude a state, and
needs some special preparation.
The intestines are suspended to the posterior wall of the abdomen by a
double fold of peritoneum called the mesentery. In this membrane are
some 150 glands about the size of an almond, called mesenteric
glands. Now the lacteals join these glands and pour in their fluid
contents to undergo some important changes. It is not unlikely that the
mesenteric glands may intercept, like a filter, material which, if allowed
to enter the blood, would disturb the whole body. Thus, while the glands
might suffer, the rest of the body might escape. This may account for the
fact that these glands and the lymphatics may be easily irritated and
inflamed, thus becoming enlarged and sensitive, as often occurs in the
Having been acted upon by the mesenteric glands, and passed through them,
the chyle flows onward until it is poured into a dilated reservoir for the
chyle, known as the receptaculum chyli. This is a sac-like expansion
of the lower end of the thoracic duct. Into this receptacle, situated at
the level of the upper lumbar vertebræ, in front of the spinal column, are
poured, not only the contents of the lacteals, but also of the lymphatic
vessels of the lower limbs.
158. The Thoracic Duct. This duct is a tube from fifteen to eighteen
inches long, which passes upwards in front of the spine to reach the base
of the neck, where it opens at the junction of the great veins of the left
side of the head with those of the left arm. Thus the thoracic duct
acts as a kind of feeding pipe to carry along the nutritive material
obtained from the food and to pour it into the blood current. It is to be
remembered that the lacteals are in reality lymphatics--the
lymphatics of the intestines.
[Illustration: Fig. 61.--Section of a Lymphatic Gland.
A, strong fibrous capsule sending partitions into the gland;
B, partitions between the follicles or pouches of the _cortical_ or
C, partitions of the _medullary_ or central portion;
D, E, masses of protoplasmic matter in the pouches of the gland;
F, lymph-vessels which bring lymph _to_ the gland, passing into its
G, confluence of those leading to the efferent vessel;
H, vessel which carries the lymph away _from_ the gland.
159. The Lymphatics. In nearly every tissue and organ of the body
there is a marvelous network of vessels, precisely like the lacteals,
called the lymphatics. These are busily at work taking up and making
over anew waste fluids or surplus materials derived from the blood and
tissues generally. It is estimated that the quantity of fluid picked up
from the tissues by the lymphatics and restored daily to the circulation
is equal to the bulk of the blood in the body. The lymphatics seem to
start out from the part in which they are found, like the rootlets of a
plant in the soil. They carry a turbid, slightly yellowish fluid, called
lymph, very much like blood without the red corpuscles.
Now, just as the chyle was not fit to be immediately taken up by the
blood, but was passed through the mesenteric glands to be properly worked
over, so the lymph is carried to the lymphatic glands, where it
undergoes certain changes to fit it for being poured into the blood.
Nature, like a careful housekeeper, allows nothing to be wasted that can
be of any further service in the animal economy (Figs. 63 and 64).
The lymphatics unite to form larger and larger vessels, and at last join
the thoracic duct, except the lymphatics of the right side of the head and
chest and right arm. These open by the right lymphatic duct into the
venous system on the right side of the neck.
The whole lymphatic system may be regarded as a necessary appendage to the
vascular system (Chapter VII.). It is convenient, however, to treat it
under the general topic of absorption, in order to complete the history of
160. The Spleen and Other Ductless Glands. With the lymphatics may be
classified, for convenience, a number of organs called ductless or
blood glands. Although they apparently prepare materials for use in
the body, they have no ducts or canals along which may be carried the
result of their work. Again, they are called blood glands because it is
supposed they serve some purpose in preparing material for the blood.
The spleen is the largest of these glands. It lies beneath the
diaphragm, and upon the left side of the stomach. It is of a deep red
color, full of blood, and is about the size and shape of the palm of the
The spleen has a fibrous capsule from which partitions pass inwards,
dividing it into spaces by a framework of elastic tissue, with plain
muscular fibers. These spaces are filled with what is called the spleen
pulp, through which the blood filters from its artery, just as a fluid
would pass through a sponge. The functions of the spleen are not known. It
appears to take some part in the formation of blood corpuscles. In certain
diseases, like malarial fever, it may become remarkably enlarged. It may
be wholly removed from an animal without apparent injury. During digestion
it seems to act as a muscular pump, drawing the blood onwards with
increased vigor along its large vein to the liver.
The thyroid is another ductless gland. It is situated beneath the
muscles of the neck on the sides of "Adam's apple" and below it. It
undergoes great enlargement in the disease called goitre.
The thymus is also a blood gland. It is situated around the windpipe,
behind the upper part of the breastbone. Until about the end of the second
year it increases in size, and then it begins gradually to shrivel away.
Like the spleen, the thyroid and thymus glands are supposed to work some
change in the blood, but what is not clearly known.
The suprarenal capsules are two little bodies, one perched on the top
of each kidney, in shape not unlike that of a conical hat. Of their
functions nothing definite is known.
The action produced by the tendency of fluids to mix, or become equally
diffused in contact with each other, is known as _osmosis_, a form of
molecular attraction allied to that of adhesion. The various physical
processes by which the products of digestion are transferred from the
digestive canal to the blood may be illustrated in a general way by the
following simple experiments.
The student must, however, understand that the necessarily crude
experiments of the classroom may not conform in certain essentials to
these great processes conducted in the living body, which they are
intended to illustrate and explain.
[Illustration: Fig. 62.]
Experiment 62. _Simple Apparatus for Illustrating Endosmotic
Action._ "Remove carefully a circular portion, about an inch in
diameter, of the shell from one end of an egg, which may be done without
injuring the membranes, by cracking the shell in small pieces, which are
picked off with forceps. A small glass tube is then introduced through
an opening in the shell and membranes of the other end of the egg, and
is secured in a vertical position by wax or plaster of Paris, the tube
penetrating the yelk. The egg is then placed in a wine-glass partly
filled with water. In the course of a few minutes, the water will have
penetrated the exposed membrane, and the yelk will rise in the
tube."--Flint's _Human Physiology_, page 293.
Experiment 63. Stretch a piece of moist bladder across a glass
tube,--a common lamp-chimney will do. Into this put a strong saline
solution. Now suspend the tube in a wide mouthed vessel of water. After
a short time it will be found that a part of the salt solution has
passed through into the water, while a larger amount of water has passed
into the tube and raised the height of the liquid within it.
161. The Quantity of Food as Affected by Age. The quantity of food
required to keep the body in proper condition is modified to a great
extent by circumstances. Age, occupation, place of residence, climate, and
season, as well as individual conditions of health and disease, are always
important factors in the problem. In youth the body is not only growing,
but the tissue changes are active. The restless energy and necessary
growth at this time of life cannot be maintained without an abundance of
wholesome food. This food supply for young people should be ample enough
to answer the demands of their keen appetite and vigorous digestion.
In adult life, when the processes of digestion and assimilation are
active, the amount of food may without harm, be in excess of the actual
needs of the body. This is true, however, only so long as active muscular
exercise is taken.
In advanced life the tissue changes are slow, digestion is less active,
and the ability to assimilate food is greatly diminished. Growth has
ceased, the energy which induced activity is gone, and the proteids are no
longer required to build up worn-out tissues. Hence, as old age
approaches, the quantity of nitrogenous foods should be steadily
Experiment 64. Obtain a sheep's bladder and pour into it a heavy
solution of sugar or some colored simple elixir, found at any drug
store. Tie the bladder carefully and place it in a vessel containing
water. After a while it will be found that an interchange has occurred,
water having passed into the bladder and the water outside having become
Experiment 65. Make a hole about as big as a five-cent piece in the
large end of an egg. That is, break the shell carefully and snip the
outer shell membrane, thus opening the space between the outer and inner
membranes. Now put the egg into a glass of water, keeping it in an
upright position by resting on a napkin-ring. There is only the inner
shell membrane between the liquid white of the egg (albumen) and the
An interchange takes place, and the water passes towards the albumen. As
the albumen does not pass out freely towards the water, the membrane
becomes distended, like a little bag at the top of the egg.
162. Ill Effects of a too Generous Diet. A generous diet, even of
those who take active muscular exercise, should be indulged in only with
vigilance and discretion. Frequent sick or nervous headaches, a sense of
fullness, bilious attacks, and dyspepsia are some of the after-effects of
eating more food than the body actually requires. The excess of food is
not properly acted upon by the digestive juices, and is liable to undergo
fermentation, and thus to become a source of irritation to the stomach and
the intestines. If too much and too rich food be persistently indulged in,
the complexion is apt to become muddy, the skin, especially of the face,
pale and sallow, and more or less covered with blotches and pimples; the
breath has an unpleasant odor, and the general appearance of the body is
An excess of any one of the different classes of foods may lead to serious
results. Thus a diet habitually too rich in proteids, as with those who
eat meat in excess, often over-taxes the kidneys to get rid of the excess
of nitrogenous waste, and the organs of excretion are not able to rid the
tissues of waste products which accumulate in the system. From the blood,
thus imperfectly purified, may result kidney troubles and various diseases
of the liver and the stomach.
163. Effect of Occupation. Occupation has an important influence upon
the quantity of food demanded for the bodily support. Those who work long
and hard at physical labor, need a generous amount of nutritious food. A
liberal diet of the cereals and lean meat, especially beef, gives that
vigor to the muscles which enables one to undergo laborious and prolonged
physical exertion. On the other hand, those who follow a sedentary
occupation do not need so large a quantity of food. Brain-workers who
would work well and live long, should not indulge in too generous a diet.
The digestion of heavy meals involves a great expenditure of nervous
force. Hence, the forces of the brain-worker, being required for mental
exertion, should not be expended to an unwarranted extent on the task of
164. Effect of Climate. Climate also has a marked influence on the
quantity of food demanded by the system. Much more food of all kinds is
consumed in cold than in warm climates. The accounts by travelers of the
quantity of food used by the inhabitants of the frigid zone are almost
beyond belief. A Russian admiral gives an instance of a man who, in his
presence, ate at a single meal 28 pounds of rice and butter. Dr. Hayes,
the Arctic traveler, states from personal observation that the daily
ration of the Eskimos is 12 to 15 pounds of meat. With the thermometer
ranging from 60 to 70° F. below zero, there was a persistent craving for
strong animal diet, especially fatty foods.
[Illustration: Fig. 63.--Lymphatics and Lymphatic Glands of the Axilla.]
The intense cold makes such a drain upon the heat-producing power of the
body that only food containing the largest proportion of carbon is capable
of making up for the loss. In tropical countries, on the other hand, the
natives crave and subsist mainly upon fruits and vegetables.
165. The Kinds of Food Required. An appetite for plain, well-cooked
food is a safe guide to follow. Every person in good health, taking a
moderate amount of daily exercise, should have a keen appetite for three
meals a day and enjoy them. Food should be both nutritious and digestible.
It is nutritious in proportion to the amount of material it furnishes for
the nourishment of the tissues. It is digestible in a greater or less
degree in respect to the readiness with which it yields to the action of
the digestive fluids, and is prepared to be taken up by the blood. This
digestibility depends partly upon the nature of the food in its raw state,
partly upon the effect produced upon it by cooking, and to some extent
upon its admixture with other foods. Certain foods, as the vegetable
albumens, are both nutritious and digestible. A hard-working man may grow
strong and maintain vigorous health on most of them, even if deprived of
While it is true that the vegetable albumens furnish all that is really
needed for the bodily health, animal food of some kind is an economical
and useful addition to the diet. Races of men who endure prolonged
physical exertion have discovered for themselves, without the teaching of
science, the great value of meat. Hence the common custom of eating meat
with bread and vegetables is a sound one. It is undoubtedly true that the
people of this country, as a rule, eat meat too often and too much at a
time. The judicious admixture of different classes of foods greatly aids
The great abundance and variety of food in this country, permit this
principle to be put into practice. A variety of mixed foods, as milk,
eggs, bread, and meat, are almost invariably associated to a greater or
less extent at every meal.
Oftentimes where there is of necessity a sameness of diet, there arises a
craving for special articles of food. Thus on long voyages, and during
long campaigns in war, there is an almost universal craving for onions,
raw potatoes, and other vegetables.
166. Hints about Meals. On an average, three meals each day, from
five to six hours apart, is the proper number for adults. Five hours is by
no means too long a time to intervene between consecutive meals, for it is
not desirable to introduce new food into the stomach, until the gastric
digestion of the preceding meal has been completed, and until the stomach
has had time to rest, and is in condition to receive fresh material. The
stomach, like other organs, does its work best at regular periods.
Eating out of mealtimes should be strictly avoided, for it robs the
stomach of its needed rest. Food eaten when the body and mind are wearied
is not well digested. Rest, even for a few minutes, should be taken before
eating a full meal. It is well to lie down, or sit quietly and read,
fifteen minutes before eating, and directly afterwards, if possible.
Severe exercise and hard study just after a full meal, are very apt to
delay or actually arrest digestion, for after eating heartily, the vital
forces of the body are called upon to help the stomach digest its food. If
our bodily energies are compelled, in addition to this, to help the
muscles or brain, digestion is retarded, and a feeling of dullness and
heaviness follows. Fermentative changes, instead of the normal digestive
changes, are apt to take place in the food.
167. Practical Points about Eating. We should not eat for at least
two or three hours before going to bed. When we are asleep, the vital
forces are at a low ebb, the process of digestion is for the time nearly
suspended, and the retention of incompletely digested food in the stomach
may cause bad dreams and troubled sleep. But in many cases of
sleeplessness, a trifle of some simple food, especially if the stomach
seems to feel exhausted, often appears to promote sleep and rest.
[NOTE. The table on the next page shows the results of many
experiments to illustrate the time taken for the gastric digestion of
a number of the more common solid foods. There are a good many factors
of which the table takes no account, such as the interval since the
last meal, state of the appetite, amount of work and exercise, method
of cooking, and especially the quantity of food.]
Table Showing the Digestibility of the More Common Solid Foods.
Food How Time in
Apples, sweet and mellow Raw 1½
Apples, sour and hard " 2½
Apple Dumpling Boiled 3
Bass, striped, fresh Broiled 3
Beans, pod Boiled 2½
Beef, with salt only " 2¾
" fresh, lean Raw 3
" " " Fried 4
" " " Roasted 3½
" old, hard, salted Boiled 4¼
Beefsteak Broiled 3
Beets Boiled 3¾
Bread, corn Baked 3¼
" wheat, fresh " 3½
Butter Melted 3½
Cabbage, with vinegar Raw 2
" " " Boiled 4½
" heads Raw 2½
Carrots Boiled 3¼
Cheese, old, strong Raw 3½
Chicken, full-grown Fricassee 2¾
" soup Boiled 3
Codfish, cured, dried " 2
Corncake Baked 2¾
Custard " 2¾
Duck, domestic Roasted 4
" wild " 4½
Eggs, fresh, whipped Raw 1½
" " 2
" soft-boiled Boiled 3
" hard-boiled " 3½
" Fried 3½
Fowl, domestic Boiled 4
" " Roasted 4
Gelatin Boiled 2½
Goose Roasted 2½
Green corn and beans Boiled 3¾
Hash, meat and vegetables Warmed 2½
Lamb Broiled 2½
Liver " 2
Milk Boiled 2
" Raw 2¼
Mutton, fresh Broiled 3
" " Boiled 3
" " Roasted 3¼
Oysters, fresh Raw 2½
" " Roasted 3¼
" " Stewed 3½
Parsnips Boiled 2½
Pig Roasted 2½
Pig's feet, soused Boiled 1
Pork, recently salted " 4½
" Fried 4¼
" Raw 3
" steaks Fried 3¼
" Stewed 3
" fat or lean Roasted 5¼
Potatoes Baked 2½
" Boiled 3½
" Roasted 2½
Rice Boiled 1
Sago " 1¾
Salmon, salted " 4
Soup, barley " 1½
" beans " 3
" beef, vegetables, bread " 4
" marrow bone " 4½
" mutton " 3½
Sponge Cake Baked 2½
Suet, beef, fresh Boiled 5⅓
" mutton " 4½
Tapioca " 2
Tripe, soused " 1
Trout, salmon, fresh " 1½
" " " Fried 1½
Turkey, wild Roasted 2¼
" domestic Boiled 2¼
" " Roasted 2½
Turnips Boiled 3½
Veal Roasted 4
" Fried 4½
Venison, steaks Broiled 1½
The state of mind has much to do with digestion. Sudden fear or joy, or
unexpected news, may destroy the appetite at once. Let a hungry person be
anxiously awaiting a hearty meal, when suddenly a disastrous telegram is
brought him; all appetite instantly disappears, and the tempting food is
refused. Hence we should laugh and talk at our meals, and drive away
anxious thoughts and unpleasant topics of discussion.
The proper chewing of the food is an important element in digestion.
Hence, eat slowly, and do not "bolt" large fragments of food. If
imperfectly chewed, it is not readily acted upon by the gastric juice, and
often undergoes fermentative changes which result in sour stomach, gastric
pain, and other digestive disturbance.
If we take too much drink with our meals, the flow of the saliva is
checked, and digestion is hindered. It is not desireable to dilute the
gastric juice, nor to chill the stomach with large amount of cold liquid.
Do not take food and drink too hot or too cold. If they are taken too
cold, the stomach is chilled, and digestion delayed. If we drink freely of
ice-water, it may require half an hour or more for the stomach to regain
its natural heat.
It is a poor plan to stimulate a flagging appetite with highly spiced food
and bitter drinks. An undue amount of pepper, mustard, horseradish,
pickles, and highly seasoned meat-sauces may stimulate digestion for the
time, but they soon impair it.
[NOTE. The process of gastric digestion was studied many years ago by
Dr. Beaumont and others, in the remarkable case of Alexis St. Martin,
a French-Canadian, who met with a gun-shot wound which left a
permanent opening into his stomach, guarded by a little valve of
mucous membrane. Through this opening the lining of the stomach could
be seen, the temperature ascertained, and numerous experiments made as
to the digestibility of various kinds of food.
It was by these careful and convincing experiments that the foundation
of our exact knowledge of the composition and action of gastric juice
was laid. The modest book in which Dr. Beaumont published his results
is still counted among the classics of physiology. The production of
artificial fistulæ in animals, a method that has since proved so
fruitful, was first suggested by his work.]
It cannot be too strongly stated that food of a simple character, well
cooked and neatly served, is more productive of healthful living than a
great variety of fancy dishes which unduly stimulate the digestive organs,
and create a craving for food in excess of the bodily needs.
168. The Proper Care of the Teeth. It is our duty not only to take
the very best care of our teeth, but to retain them as long as possible.
Teeth, as we well know, are prone to decay. We may inherit poor and soft
teeth: our mode of living may make bad teeth worse. If an ounce of
prevention is ever worth a pound of cure, it is in keeping the teeth in
good order. Bad teeth and toothless gums mean imperfect chewing of the
food and, hence, impaired digestion. To attain a healthful old age, the
power of vigorous mastication must be preserved.
One of the most frequent causes of decay of the teeth is the retention of
fragments of food between and around them. The warmth and moisture of the
mouth make these matters decompose quickly. The acid thus generated
attacks the enamel of the teeth, causing decay of the dentine. Decayed
teeth are often the cause of an offensive breath and a foul stomach.
[Illustration: Fig. 64.--Lymphatics on the Inside of the Right Hand.]
To keep the teeth clean and wholesome, they should be thoroughly cleansed
at bedtime and in the morning with a soft brush and warm water. Castile
soap, and some prepared tooth-powder without grit, should be used, and the
brush should be applied on both sides of the teeth.
The enamel, once broken through, is never renewed. The tooth decays,
slowly but surely: hence we must guard against certain habits which injure
the enamel, as picking the teeth with pins and needles. We should never
crack nuts, crush hard candy, or bite off stout thread with the teeth.
Stiff tooth-brushes, gritty and cheap tooth-powders, and hot food and
drink, often injure the enamel.
To remove fragments of food which have lodged between adjacent teeth, a
quill or wooden toothpick should be used. Even better than these is the
use of surgeon's floss, or silk, which when drawn between the teeth,
effectually dislodges retained particles. If the teeth are not regularly
cleansed they become discolored, and a hard coating known as _tartar_
accumulates on them and tends to loosen them. It is said that after the
age of thirty more teeth are lost from this deposit than from all other
causes combined. In fact decay and tartar are the two great agents that
furnish work for the dentist.
169. Hints about Saving Teeth. We should exercise the greatest care
in saving the teeth. The last resort of all is to lose a tooth by
extraction. The skilled dentist will save almost anything in the shape of
People are often urged and consent to have a number of teeth extracted
which, with but little trouble and expense, might be kept and do good
service for years. The object is to replace the teeth with an artificial
set. Very few plates, either partial or entire, are worn with real
comfort. They should always be removed before going to sleep, as there is
danger of their being swallowed.
The great majority of drugs have no injurious effect upon the teeth. Some
medicines, however, must be used with great care. The acids used in the
tincture of iron have a great affinity for the lime salts of the teeth. As
this form of iron is often used, it is not unusual to see teeth very badly
stained or decayed from the effects of this drug. The acid used in the
liquid preparations of quinine may destroy the teeth in a comparatively
short time. After taking such medicines the mouth should be thoroughly
rinsed with a weak solution of common soda, and the teeth cleansed.
170. Alcohol and Digestion. The influence of alcoholic drinks upon
digestion is of the utmost importance. Alcohol is not, and cannot be
regarded from a physiological point of view as a true food. The reception
given to it by the stomach proves this very plainly. It is obviously an
unwelcome intruder. It cannot, like proper foods, be transformed into any
element or component of the human body, but passes on, innutritious and
for the most part unappropriated. Taken even into the mouth, by any person
not hardened to its use, its effect is so pungent and burning as at once
to demand its rejection. But if allowed to pass into the stomach, that
organ immediately rebels against its intrusion, and not unfrequently
ejects it with indignant emphasis. The burning sensation it produces
there, is only an appeal for water to dilute it.
The stomach meanwhile, in response to this fiery invitation, secretes from
its myriad pores its juices and watery fluids, to protect itself as much
as possible from the invading liquid. It does not digest alcoholic drinks;
we might say it does not attempt to, because they are not material
suitable for digestion, and also because no organ can perform its normal
work while smarting under an unnatural irritation.
Even if the stomach does not at once eject the poison, it refuses to
adopt it as food, for it does not pass along with the other food material,
as chyme, into the intestines, but is seized by the absorbents, borne into
the veins, which convey it to the heart, whence the pulmonary artery
conveys it to the lungs, where its presence is announced in the breath.
But wherever alcohol is carried in the tissues, it is always an irritant,
every organ in turn endeavoring to rid itself of the noxious material.
171. Effect of Alcoholic Liquor upon the Stomach. The methods by
which intoxicating drinks impair and often ruin digestion are various. We
know that a piece of animal food, as beef, if soaked in alcohol for a few
hours, becomes hard and tough, the fibers having been compacted together
because of the abstraction of their moisture by the alcohol, which has a
marvelous affinity for water. In the same way alcohol hardens and toughens
animal food in the stomach, condensing its fibers, and rendering it
indigestible, thus preventing the healthful nutrition of the body. So, if
alcohol be added to the clear, liquid white of an egg, it is instantly
coagulated and transformed into hard albumen. As a result of this
hardening action, animal food in contact with alcoholic liquids in the
stomach remains undigested, and must either be detained there so long as
to become a source of gastric disturbance, or else be allowed to pass
undigested through the pyloric gate, and then may become a cause of
serious intestinal disturbance.
This peculiar property of alcohol, its greedy absorption of water from
objects in contact with it, acts also by absorbing liquids from the
surface of the stomach itself, thus hardening the delicate glands,
impairing their ability to absorb the food-liquids, and so inducing
gastric dyspepsia. This local injury inflicted upon the stomach by all
forms of intoxicants, is serious and protracted. This organ is, with
admirable wisdom, so constructed as to endure a surprising amount of
abuse, but it was plainly not intended to thrive on alcoholic liquids. The
application of fiery drinks to its tender surface produces at first a
marked congestion of its blood-vessels, changing the natural pink color,
as in the mouth, to a bright or deep red.
If the irritation be not repeated, the lining membrane soon recovers its
natural appearance. But if repeated and continued, the congestion becomes
more intense, the red color deeper and darker; the entire surface is the
subject of chronic inflammation, its walls are thickened, and sometimes
ulcerated. In this deplorable state, the organ is quite unable to perform
its normal work of digestion.
172. Alcohol and the Gastric Juice. But still another destructive
influence upon digestion appears in the singular fact that alcohol
diminishes the power of the gastric juice to do its proper work. Alcohol
coagulates the pepsin, which is the dissolving element in this important
gastric fluid. A very simple experiment will prove this. Obtain a small
quantity of gastric juice from the fresh stomach of a calf or pig, by
gently pressing it in a very little water. Pour the milky juice into a
clear glass vessel, add a little alcohol, and a white deposit will
presently settle to the bottom. This deposit contains the pepsin of the
gastric juice, the potent element by which it does its special work of
digestion. The ill effect of alcohol upon it is one of the prime factors
in the long series of evil results from the use of intoxicants.
173. The Final Results upon Digestion. We have thus explained three
different methods by which alcoholic drinks exercise a terrible power for
harm; they act upon the food so as to render it less digestible; they
injure the stomach so as seriously to impair its power of digestion; and
they deprive the gastric juice of the one principal ingredient essential
to its usefulness.
Alcoholic drinks forced upon the stomach are a foreign substance; the
stomach treats them as such, and refuses to go on with the process of
digestion till it first gets rid of the poison. This irritating presence
and delay weaken the stomach, so that when proper food follows, the
enfeebled organ is ill prepared for its work. After intoxication, there
occurs an obvious reaction of the stomach, and digestive organs, against
the violent and unnatural disturbance. The appetite is extinguished or
depraved, and intense headache racks the frame, the whole system is
prostrated, as from a partial paralysis (all these results being the voice
of Nature's sharp warning of this great wrong), and a rest of some days
is needed before the system fully recovers from the injury inflicted.
It is altogether an error to suppose the use of intoxicants is necessary
or even desirable to promote appetite or digestion. In health, good food
and a stomach undisturbed by artificial interference furnish all the
conditions required. More than these is harmful. If it may sometimes seem
as if alcoholic drinks arouse the appetite and invigorate digestion, we
must not shut our eyes to the fact that this is only a seeming, and that
their continued use will inevitably ruin both. In brief, there is no more
sure foe to good appetite and normal digestion than the habitual use of
174. Effect of Alcoholic Drinks upon the Liver. It is to be noted
that the circulation of the liver is peculiar; that the capillaries of the
hepatic artery unite in the lobule with those of the portal vein, and thus
the blood from both sources is combined; and that the portal vein brings
to the liver the blood from the stomach, the intestines, and the spleen.
From the fact that alcohol absorbed from the stomach enters the portal
vein, and is borne directly to the liver, we would expect to find this
organ suffering the full effects of its presence. And all the more would
this be true, because we have just learned that the liver acts as a sort
of filter to strain from the blood its impurities. So the liver is
especially liable to diseases produced by alcoholics. Post mortems of
those who have died while intoxicated show a larger amount of alcohol in
the liver than in any other organ. Next to the stomach the liver is an
early and late sufferer, and this is especially the case with hard
drinkers, and even more moderate drinkers in hot climates. Yellow fever
occurring in inebriates is always fatal.
The effects produced in the liver are not so much functional as organic;
that is, not merely a disturbed mode of action, but a destruction of the
fabric of the organ itself. From the use of intoxicants, the liver
becomes at first irritated, then inflamed, and finally seriously diseased.
The fine bands, or septa, which serve as partitions between the hepatic
lobules, and so maintain the form and consistency of the organ, are the
special subjects of the inflammation. Though the liver is at first
enlarged, it soon becomes contracted; the secreting cells are compressed,
and are quite unable to perform their proper work, which indeed is a very
important one in the round of the digestion of food and the purification
of the blood. This contraction of the septa in time gives the whole organ
an irregularly puckered appearance, called from this fact a hob-nail liver
or, popularly, gin liver. The yellowish discoloration, usually from
retained or perverted bile, gives the disease the medical name of
cirrhosis. It is usually accompanied with dropsy in the lower
extremities, caused by obstruction to the return of the circulation from
the parts below the liver. This disease is always fatal.
175. Fatty Degeneration Due to Alcohol. Another form of destructive
disease often occurs. There is an increase of fat globules deposited in
the liver, causing notable enlargement and destroying its function. This
is called fatty degeneration, and is not limited to the liver, but other
organs are likely to be similarly affected. In truth, this deposition of
fat is a most significant occurrence, as it means actual destruction of
the liver tissues,--nothing less than progressive death of the organ. This
condition always leads to a fatal issue. Still other forms of alcoholic
disease of the liver are produced, one being the excessive formation of
sugar, constituting what is known as a form of diabetes.
176. Effect of Tobacco on Digestion. The noxious influence of
tobacco upon the process of digestion is nearly parallel to the effects of
alcohol, which it resembles in its irritant and narcotic character.
Locally, it stimulates the secretion of saliva to an unnatural extent, and
this excess of secretion diminishes the amount available for normal
Tobacco also poisons the saliva furnished for the digestion of food, and
thus at the very outset impairs, in both of these particulars, the general
digestion, and especially the digestion of the starchy portions of the
food. For this reason the amount of food taken, fails to nourish as it
should, and either more food must be taken, or the body becomes gradually
The poisonous _nicotine_, the active element of tobacco, exerts a
destructive influence upon the stomach digestion, enfeebling the vigor of
the muscular walls of that organ. These effects combined produce
dyspepsia, with its weary train of baneful results.
The tobacco tongue never presents the natural, clear, pink color, but
rather a dirty yellow, and is usually heavily coated, showing a disordered
stomach and impaired digestion. Then, too, there is dryness of the mouth,
an unnatural thirst that demands drink. But pure water is stale and flat
to such a mouth: something more emphatic is needed. Thus comes the
unnatural craving for alcoholic liquors, and thus are taken the first
steps on the downward grade.
"There is no doubt that tobacco predisposes to neuralgia, vertigo,
indigestion, and other affections of the nervous, circulatory and
digestive organs."--W. H. Hammond, the eminent surgeon of New York city
and formerly Surgeon General, U.S.A.
Drs. Seaver of Yale University and Hitchcock of Amherst College,
instructors of physical education in these two colleges, have clearly
demonstrated by personal examination and recorded statistics that the use
of tobacco among college students checks growth in weight, height,
chest-girth, and, most of all, in lung capacity.
Experiment 66. Test a portion of _C_ (Experiment 57) with solution
of iodine; no blue color is obtained, as all the starch has disappeared,
having been converted into a reducing sugar, or maltose.
Experiment 67. Make a thick starch paste; place some in test tubes,
labeled _A_ and _B_. Keep _A_ for comparison, and to _B_ add saliva, and
expose both to about 104° F. _A_ is unaffected, while _B_ soon becomes
fluid --within two minutes--and loses its opalescence; this liquefaction
is a process quite antecedent to the saccharifying process which
Experiment 68. _To show the action of gastric juice on milk_. Mix
two teaspoonfuls of fresh milk in a test tube with a few drops of
neutral artificial gastric juice; keep at about 100° F. In a short
time the milk curdles, so that the tube can be inverted without the curd
falling out. By and by _whey_ is squeezed out of the clot. The curdling
of milk by the rennet ferment present in the gastric juice, is quite
different from that produced by the "souring of milk," or by the
precipitation of caseinogen by acids. Here the casein (carrying with it
most of the fats) is precipitated in a neutral fluid.
Experiment 69. To the test tube in the preceding experiment, add
two teaspoonfuls of dilute hydrochloric acid, and keep at 100° F. for
two hours. The pepsin in the presence of the acid digests the casein,
gradually dissolving it, forming a straw-colored fluid containing
peptones. The peptonized milk has a peculiar odor and bitter taste.
Experiment 70. _To show the action of rennet on milk_. Place milk
in a test tube, add a drop or two of commercial rennet, and place the
tube in a water-bath at about 100° F. The milk becomes solid in a few
minutes, forming a _curd_, and by and by the curd of casein contracts,
and presses out a fluid,--the _whey_.
Experiment 71. Repeat the experiment, but previously boil the
rennet. No such result is obtained as in the preceding experiment,
because the rennet ferment is destroyed by heat.
Experiment 72. _To show the effect of the pancreatic ferment
(trypsin) upon albuminous matter_. Half fill three test tubes, _A, B,
C_, with one-per-cent solution of sodium carbonate, and add 5 drops of
liquor pancreaticus, or a few grains of Fairchild's extract of pancreas,
in each. Boil _B_, and make _C_ acid with dilute hydrochloric acid.
Place in each tube an equal amount of well-washed fibrin, plug the tubes
with absorbent cotton, and place all in a water-bath at about 100° F.
Experiment 73. Examine from time to time the three test tubes in
the preceding experiment. At the end of one, two, or three hours, there
is no change in _B_ and _C_, while in _A_ the fibrin is gradually being
eroded, and finally disappears; but it does not swell up, and the
solution at the same time becomes slightly turbid. After three hours,
still no change is observable in _B_ and _C_.
Experiment 74. Filter _A_, and carefully neutralize the filtrate
with very dilute hydrochloric or acetic acid, equal to a precipitate of
alkali-albumen. Filter off the precipitate, and on testing the filtrate,
peptones are found. The intermediate bodies, the albumoses, are not
nearly so readily obtained from pancreatic as from gastric digests.
Experiment 75. Filter _B_ and _C_, and carefully neutralize the
filtrates. They give no precipitate. No peptones are found.
Experiment 76. _To show the action of pancreatic juice upon the
albuminous ingredients (casein) of milk_. Into a four-ounce bottle put
two tablespoonfuls of cold water; add one grain of Fairchild's extract
of pancreas, and as much baking soda as can be taken up on the point of
a penknife. Shake well, and add four tablespoonfuls of cold, fresh milk.
Now set the bottle into a basin of hot water (as hot as one can bear the
hand in), and let it stand for about forty-five minutes. While the milk
is digesting, take a small quantity of milk in a goblet, and stir in ten
drops or more of vinegar. A thick curd of casein will be seen.
Upon applying the same test to the digested milk, no curd will be made.
This is because the pancreatic ferment (trypsin) has digested the casein
into "peptone," which does not curdle. This digested milk is therefore
called "peptonized milk."
Experiment 77. _To show the action of bile_. Obtain from the
butcher some ox bile. Note its bitter taste, peculiar odor, and greenish
color. It is alkaline or neutral to litmus paper. Pour it from one
vessel to another, and note that strings of mucin (from the lining
membrane of the gall bladder) connect one vessel with the other. It is
best to precipitate the mucin by acetic acid before making experiments;
and to dilute the clear liquid with a little distilled water.
Experiment 78. _Test for bile pigments_. Place a few drops of bile
on a white porcelain slab. With a glass rod place a drop or two of
strong nitric acid containing nitrous acid near the drop of bile; bring
the acid and bile into contact. Notice the succession of colors,
beginning with green and passing into blue, red, and yellow.
Experiment 79. _To show the action of bile on fats_. Mix three
teaspoonfuls of bile with one-half a teaspoonful of almond oil, to which
some oleic acid is added. Shake well, and keep the tube in a water-bath
at about 100° F. A very good emulsion is obtained.
Experiment 80. _To show that bile favors filtration and the
absorption of fats_. Place two small funnels of exactly the same size in
a filter stand, and under each a beaker. Into each funnel put a filter
paper; moisten the one with water (_A_) and the other with bile (_B_).
Pour into each an equal volume of almond oil; cover with a slip of glass
to prevent evaporation. Set aside for twelve hours, and note that the
oil passes through _B_, but scarcely any through _A_. The oil filters
much more readily through the one moistened with bile, than through the
one moistened with water.
Experiments with the Fats.
Experiment 81. Use olive oil or lard. Show by experiment that they
are soluble in ether, chloroform and hot water, but insoluble in water
Experiment 82. Dissolve a few drops of oil or fat in a teaspoonful
of ether. Let a drop of the solution fall on a piece of tissue or rice
paper. Note the greasy stain, which does not disappear with the heat.
Experiment 83. Pour a little cod-liver oil into a test tube; add a
few drops of a dilute solution of sodium carbonate. The whole mass
becomes white, making an emulsion.
Experiment 84. Shake up olive oil with a solution of albumen in a
test tube. Note that an emulsion is formed.
The Blood and Its Circulation.
177. The Circulation. All the tissues of the body are traversed by
exceedingly minute tubes called capillaries, which receive the blood from
the arteries, and convey it to the veins. These capillaries form a great
system of networks, the meshes of which are filled with the elements of
the various tissues. That is, the capillaries are closed vessels, and the
tissues lie outside of them, as asbestos packing may be used to envelop
hot-water pipes. The space between the walls of the capillaries and the
cells of the tissues is filled with lymph. As the blood flows along
the capillaries, certain parts of the plasma of the blood filter through
their walls into the lymph, and certain parts of the lymph filter through
the cell walls of the tissues and mingle with the blood current. The lymph
thus acts as a medium of exchange, in which a transfer of material takes
place between the blood in the capillaries and the lymph around them. A
similar exchange of material is constantly going on between the lymph and
the tissues themselves.
This, then, we must remember,--that in every tissue, so long as the blood
flows, and life lasts, this exchange takes place between the blood within
the capillaries and the tissues without.
The stream of blood _to_ the tissues carries to them the material,
including the all-important oxygen, with which they build themselves up
and do their work. The stream _from_ the tissues carries into the blood
the products of certain chemical changes which have taken place in these
tissues. These products may represent simple waste matter to be cast out
or material which may be of use to some other tissue.
In brief, the tissues by the help of the lymph live on the blood.
Just as our bodies, as a whole, live on the things around us, the food and
the air, so do the bodily tissues live on the blood which bathes them in
an unceasing current, and which is their immediate air and food.
178. Physical Properties of Blood. The blood has been called the
life of the body from the fact that upon it depends our bodily existence.
The blood is so essentially the nutrient element that it is called
sometimes very aptly "liquid flesh." It is a red, warm, heavy, alkaline
fluid, slightly salt in taste, and has a somewhat fetid odor. Its color
varies from bright red in the arteries and when exposed to the air, to
various tints from dark purple to red in the veins. The color of the blood
is due to the coloring constituent of the red corpuscles, _hæmoglobin_,
which is brighter or darker as it contains more or less oxygen.
[Illustration: Fig. 65.--Blood Corpuscles of Various Animals. (Magnified
to the same scale.)
A, from proteus, a kind of newt;
D, frog after addition of acetic acid, showing the central nucleus;
H, crab or other invertebrate animal
The temperature of the blood varies slightly in different parts of the
circulation. Its average heat near the surface is in health about the
same, _viz_. 98½° F. Blood is alkaline, but outside of the body it soon
becomes neutral, then acid. The chloride of sodium, or common salt, which
the blood contains, gives it a salty taste. In a hemorrhage from the
lungs, the sufferer is quick to notice in the mouth the warm and saltish
taste. The total amount of the blood in the body was formerly greatly
overestimated. It is about 1/13 of the total weight of the body, and in a
person weighing 156 pounds would amount to about 12 pounds.
179. Blood Corpuscles. If we put a drop of blood upon a glass slide,
and place upon it a cover of thin glass, we can flatten it out until the
color almost disappears. If we examine this thin film with a microscope,
we see that the blood is not altogether fluid. We find that the liquid
part, or plasma, is of a light straw color, and has floating in it a
multitude of very minute bodies, called corpuscles. These are of two
kinds, the red and the colorless. The former are much more
numerous, and have been compared somewhat fancifully to countless myriads
of tiny fishes in a swiftly flowing stream.
180. Red Corpuscles. The red corpuscles are circular disks about
1/3200 of an inch in diameter, and double concave in shape. They tend to
adhere in long rolls like piles of coins. They are soft, flexible, and
elastic, readily squeezing through openings and passages narrower than
their own diameter, then at once resuming their own shape.
The red corpuscles are so very small, that rather more than ten millions
of them will lie on a surface one inch square. Their number is so enormous
that, if all the red corpuscles in a healthy person could be arranged in a
continuous line, it is estimated that they would reach four times around
the earth! The principal constituent of these corpuscles, next to water,
and that which gives them color is _hæmoglobin_, a compound containing
iron. As all the tissues are constantly absorbing oxygen, and giving off
carbon dioxid, a very important office of the red corpuscles is to carry
oxygen to all parts of the body.
181. Colorless Corpuscles. The colorless corpuscles are larger
than the red, their average diameter being about 1/2500 of an inch. While
the red corpuscles are regular in shape, and float about, and tumble
freely over one another, the colorless are of irregular shape, and stick
close to the glass slide on which they are placed. Again, while the red
corpuscles are changed only by some influence from without, as pressure
and the like, the colorless corpuscles spontaneously undergo active and
very curious changes of form, resembling those of the amœba, a very
minute organism found in stagnant water (Fig. 2).
The number of both red and colorless corpuscles varies a great deal from
time to time. For instance, the number of the latter increases after
meals, and quickly diminishes. There is reason to think both kinds of
corpuscles are continually being destroyed, their place being supplied by
new ones. While the action of the colorless corpuscles is important to the
lymph and the chyle, and in the coagulation of the blood, their real
function has not been ascertained.
[Illustration: Fig. 66.--Blood Corpuscles of Man.
A, red corpuscles;
B, the same seen edgeways;
C, the same arranged in rows;
D, white corpuscles with nuclei.
Experiment 85. _To show the blood corpuscles_. A moderately
powerful microscope is necessary to examine blood corpuscles. Let a
small drop of blood (easily obtained by pricking the finger with a
needle) be placed upon a clean slip of glass, and covered with thin
glass, such as is ordinarily used for microscopic purposes.
The blood is thus spread out into a film and may be readily examined. At
first the red corpuscles will be seen as pale, disk-like bodies floating
in the clear fluid. Soon they will be observed to stick to each other by
their flattened faces, so as to form rows. The colorless corpuscles are
to be seen among the red ones, but are much less numerous.
182. The Coagulation of the Blood. Blood when shed from the living
body is as fluid as water. But it soon becomes viscid, and flows less
readily from one vessel to another. Soon the whole mass becomes a nearly
solid jelly called a clot. The vessel containing it even can be
turned upside down, without a drop of blood being spilled. If carefully
shaken out, the mass will form a complete mould of the vessel.
At first the clot includes the whole mass of blood, takes the shape of
the vessel in which it is contained, and is of a uniform color. But in a
short time a pale yellowish fluid begins to ooze out, and to collect on
the surface. The clot gradually shrinks, until at the end of a few hours
it is much firmer, and floats in the yellowish fluid. The white corpuscles
become entangled in the upper portion of clot, giving it a pale yellow
look on the top, known as the _buffy coat_. As the clot is attached to the
sides of the vessel, the shrinkage is more pronounced toward the center,
and thus the surface of the clot is hollowed or _cupped_, as it is called.
This remarkable process is known as coagulation, or the clotting of
blood; and the liquid which separates from the clot is called serum.
The serum is almost entirely free from corpuscles, these being entangled
in the fibrin.
[Illustration: Fig. 67.--Diagram of Clot with Buffy Coat.
B, cupped upper surface of clot;
C, white corpuscles in upper layer of clot;
D, lower portion of clot with red corpuscles.
This clotting of the blood is due to the formation in the blood, after it
is withdrawn from the living body, of a substance called fibrin.
It is made up of a network of fine white threads, running in every
direction through the plasma, and is a proteid substance. The coagulation
of the blood may be retarded, and even prevented, by a temperature below
40° F., or a temperature above 120° F. The addition of common salt also
prevents coagulation. The clotting of the blood may be hastened by free
access to air, by contact with roughened surfaces, or by keeping it at
This power of coagulation is of the most vital importance. But for this,
a very small cut might cause bleeding sufficient to empty the
blood-vessels, and death would speedily follow. In slight cuts, Nature
plugs up the wound with clots of blood, and thus prevents excessive
bleeding. The unfavorable effects of the want of clotting are illustrated
in some persons in whom bleeding from even the slightest wounds continues
till life is in danger. Such persons are called "bleeders," and surgeons
hesitate to perform on them any operation, however trivial, even the
extraction of a tooth being often followed by an alarming loss of blood.
Experiment 86. A few drops of fresh blood may be easily obtained to
illustrate important points in the physiology of blood, by tying a
string tight around the finger, and piercing it with a clean needle. The
blood runs freely, is red and opaque. Put two or three drops of fresh
blood on a sheet of white paper, and observe that it looks yellowish.
Experiment 87. Put two or three drops of fresh blood on a white
individual butter plate inverted in a saucer of water. Cover it with an
inverted goblet. Take off the cover in five minutes, and the drop has
set into a jelly-like mass. Take it off in half an hour, and a little
clot will be seen in the watery serum.
Experiment 88. _To show the blood-clot._ Carry to the slaughter
house a clean, six or eight ounce, wide-mouthed bottle. Fill it with
fresh blood. Carry it home with great care, and let it stand over night.
The next day the clot will be seen floating in the nearly colorless
Experiment 89. Obtain a pint of fresh blood; put it into a bowl,
and whip it briskly for five minutes, with a bunch of dry twigs. Fine
white threads of fibrin collect on the twigs, the blood remaining fluid.
This is "whipped" or defibrinated blood, which has lost the power of
183. General Plan of Circulation. All the tissues of the body depend
upon the blood for their nourishment. It is evident then that this vital
fluid must be continually renewed, else it would speedily lose all of its
life-giving material. Some provision, then, is necessary not only to have
the blood renewed in quantity and quality, but also to enable it to carry
So we must have an apparatus of circulation. We need first a central
pump from which branch off large pipes, which divide into smaller and
smaller branches until they reach the remotest tissues. Through these
pipes the blood must be pumped and distributed to the whole body. Then we
must have a set of return pipes by which the blood, after it has carried
nourishment to the tissues, and received waste matters from them, shall be
brought back to the central pumping station, to be used again. We must
have also some apparatus to purify the blood from the waste matter it has
[Illustration: Fig. 68.--Anterior View of the Heart.
A, superior vena cava;
B, right auricle;
C, right ventricle;
D, left ventricle;
E, left auricle;
F, pulmonary vein;
H, pulmonary artery;
L, right subclavian artery;
M, right common carotid artery;
N, left common carotid artery.
This central pump is the heart. The pipes leading from it and
gradually growing smaller and smaller are the arteries. The very
minute vessels into which they are at last subdivided are
capillaries. The pipes which convey the blood back to the heart are
the veins. Thus, the arteries end in the tissues in fine, hair-like
vessels, the capillaries; and the veins begin in the tissues in
exceedingly small tubes,--the capillaries. Of course, there can be no
break in the continuity between the arteries and the vein. The apparatus
of circulation is thus formed by the heart, the arteries, the
capillaries, and the veins.
184. The Heart. The heart is a pear-shaped, muscular organ
roughly estimated as about the size of the persons closed fist. It lies in
the chest behind the breastbone, and is, lodged between the lobes of the
lungs, which partly cover it. In shape the heart resembles a cone, the
base of which is directed upwards, a little backwards, and to the right
side, while the apex is pointed downwards, forwards, and to the left side.
During life, the apex of the heart beats against the chest wall in
the space between the fifth and sixth ribs, and about an inch and a half
to the left of the middle line of the body. The beating of the heart can
be readily felt, heard, and often seen moving the chest wall as it strikes
[Illustration: Fig. 69.--Diagram illustrating the Structure of a Serous
A, the viscus, or organ, enveloped by serous membrane;
B, layer of membrane lining cavity;
C, membrane reflected to envelop viscus;
D, outer layer of viscus, with blood-vessels at
E communicating with the general circulation.
The heart does not hang free in the chest, but is suspended and kept in
position to some extent by the great vessels connected with it. It is
enclosed in a bell-shaped covering called the pericardium. This is
really double, with two layers, one over another. The inner or serous
layer covers the external surface of the heart, and is reflected back upon
itself in order to form, like all membranes of this kind, a sac without an
opening. The heart is thus covered by the pericardial sac, but
is not contained inside its cavity. The space between the two membranes is
filled with serous fluid. This fluid permits the heart and the pericardium
to glide upon one another with the least possible amount of friction.
The heart is a hollow organ, but the cavity is divided into two parts by a
muscular partition forming a left and a right side, between which there is
no communication. These two cavities are each divided by a horizontal
partition into an upper and a lower chamber. These partitions, however,
include a set of valves which open like folding doors between the two
rooms. If these doors are closed there are two separate rooms, but if open
there is practically only one room. The heart thus has four chambers, two
on each side. The two upper chambers are called auricles from their
supposed resemblance to the ear. The two lower chambers are called
ventricles, and their walls form the chief portion of the muscular
substance of the organ. There are, therefore, the right and left auricles,
with their thin, soft walls, and the right and left ventricles, with their
thick and strong walls.
185. The Valves of the Heart. The heart is a valvular pump, which
works on mechanical principles, the motive power being supplied by the
contraction of its muscular fibers. Regarding the heart as a pump, its
valves assume great importance. They consist of thin, but strong,
triangular folds of tough membrane which hang down from the edges of the
passages into the ventricles. They may be compared to swinging curtains
which, by opening only one way, allow the blood to flow from the auricles
to the ventricles, but by instantly folding back prevent its return.
[Illustration: Fig. 70.--Lateral Section of the Right Chest. (Showing the
relative position of the heart and its great vessels, the œsophagus
A, inferior constrictor muscle (aids in conveying food down the
C, section of the right bronchus;
D, two right pulmonary veins;
E, great azygos vein crossing œsophagus and right bronchus to empty
into the superior vena cava;
F, thoracic duct;
H, thoracic aorta;
K, lower portion of œsophagus passing through the diaphragm;
L, diaphragm as it appears in sectional view, enveloping the heart;
M, inferior vena cava passing through diaphragm and emptying into
N, right auricle;
O, section of right branch of the pulmonary artery;
R, superior vena cava;
The valve on the right side is called the tricuspid, because it
consists of three little folds which fall over the opening and close it,
being kept from falling too far by a number of slender threads called
chordæ tendinæ. The valve on the left side, called the mitral,
from its fancied resemblance to a bishop's mitre, consists of two folds
which close together as do those of the tricuspid valve.
The slender cords which regulate the valves are only just long enough to
allow the folds to close together, and no force of the blood pushing
against the valves can send them farther back, as the cords will not
stretch The harder the blood in the ventricles pushes back against the
valves, the tighter the cords become and the closer the folds are brought
together, until the way is completely closed.
From the right ventricle a large vessel called the pulmonary artery
passes to the lungs, and from the left ventricle a large vessel called the
aorta arches out to the general circulation of the body. The openings
from the ventricles into these vessels are guarded by the semilunar
valves. Each valve has three folds, each half-moon-shaped, hence the
name semilunar. These valves, when shut, prevent any backward flow of the
blood on the right side between the pulmonary artery and the right
ventricle, and on the left side between the aorta and the left ventricle.
[Illustration: Fig. 71.--Right Cavities of the Heart.
B, superior vena cava;
C, C, right pulmonary veins;
D, inferior vena cava;
E, section of coronary vein;
F, right ventricular cavity;
H, posterior curtain of the tricuspid valve;
K, right auricular cavity;
M, fossa ovalis, oval depression, partition between the auricles formed
186. General Plan of the Blood-vessels Connected with the Heart.
There are numerous blood-vessels connected with the heart, the relative
position and the use of which must be understood. The two largest veins in
the body, the superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava,
open into the right auricle. These two veins bring venous blood from all
parts of the body, and pour it into the right auricle, whence it passes
into the right ventricle.
From the right ventricle arises one large vessel, the pulmonary
artery, which soon divides into two branches of nearly equal size, one
for the right lung, the other for the left. Each branch, having reached
its lung, divides and subdivides again and again, until it ends in
hair-like capillaries, which form a very fine network in every part of the
lung. Thus the blood is pumped from the right ventricle into the pulmonary
artery and distributed throughout the two lungs (Figs. 86 and 88).
We will now turn to the left side of the heart, and notice the general
arrangement of its great vessels. Four veins, called the pulmonary
veins, open into the left auricle, two from each lung. These veins
start from very minute vessels the continuation of the capillaries of the
pulmonary artery. They form larger and larger vessels until they become
two large veins in each lung, and pour their contents into the left
auricle. Thus the pulmonary artery carries venous blood from the right
ventricle _to_ the lungs, as the pulmonary veins carry arterial blood
_from_ the lungs to the left auricle.
From the left ventricle springs the largest arterial trunk in the body,
over one-half of an inch in diameter, called the aorta. From the
aorta other arteries branch off to carry the blood to all parts of the
body, only to be again brought back by the veins to the right side,
through the cavities of the ventricles. We shall learn in Chapter VIII.
that the main object of pumping the blood into the lungs is to have it
purified from certain waste matters which it has taken up in its course
through the body, before it is again sent on its journey from the left
187. The Arteries. The blood-vessels are flexible tubes through which
the blood is borne through the body. There are three kinds,--the
arteries, the veins, and the capillaries, and these differ
from one another in various ways.
The arteries are the highly elastic and extensible tubes which carry
the pure, fresh blood outwards from the heart to all parts of the body.
They may all be regarded as branches of the aorta. After the aorta leaves
the left ventricle it rises towards the neck, but soon turns downwards,
making a curve known as the arch of the aorta.
From the arch are given off the arteries which supply the head and arms
with blood. These are the two carotid arteries, which run up on each
side of the neck to the head, and the two subclavian arteries, which
pass beneath the collar bone to the arms. This great arterial trunk now
Back to Full Books