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Fighting a Cupcake Intruder (Grade 4)

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Fighting a Cupcake Intruder
by Jeana Schafer

Cupcakes are my absolute favorite thing of all time. I love the sweet taste of frosting coating my tongue when I take a big bite. My mouth waters just thinking about it!

It’s funny to think about the connection between imagining something delicious and my mouth starting to water. It has to do with the fact that saliva is full of enzymes that start the digestive process before I even swallow. The enzymes, which are proteins called amylase, wage war against the cupcake like tiny soldiers. Unarmed in comparison to the powerful enzymes, the cupcake surrenders and is broken down into simpler sugars by these enzymes.

I like to think of the cupcake as an intruder, and my body uses the digestive system as a defense mechanism to break it down into something much friendlier. After surrendering to the salivary enzymes, the cupcake passes through my esophagus. The esophagus is the muscular tube that delivers food from throat to stomach through a series of contractions. These esophageal contractions have a special name: peristalsis.

Through peristalsis, the now broken-down cupcake is dropped into the stomach, where it lands in a pool of acid. Like saliva, the stomach acid has its own army of enzymes to further break down the cupcake; however, unlike saliva, stomach acid is strong enough to burn through metal. Good thing our stomachs are coated in mucus to prevent the acid from burning through us!

The cupcake is far from its original solid and frosted state, and it leaves the stomach as a paste that then enters my small intestine. An adult’s small intestine is very big—usually around 20 feet long! Of course, it does not lie perfectly straight, otherwise people would have to be more than 20 feet tall. Fortunately, it is only about 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) long, so it can be compacted into a much smaller space. The intentestinal tube is coiled and folded to achieve this compacted state. Inside, bile from the liver and more enzymes continue to break down the cupcake paste as it moves through the longest part of the digestive tract. It takes the cupcake 6 to 8 hours to make its way through! This is a very important part of the digestive tract, as most of the nutrients from the cupcake are absorbed into my bloodstream through my small intestine.

By this point, the cupcake behemoth has become far less intimidating. Most of the friendly nutrients and sugars have been absorbed by my body to give me energy and help me function. The remainder of the cupcake moves to my large intestine, also known as the colon, so that my body can also absorb the cupcake’s remaining water content. When the water content is fully absorbed by my body, the only part of the cupcake left is the dangerous waste. My body purges this waste as feces (poop) so that I do not get sick and can eat more cupcakes!
What substance helps start the digestive process?
  1. sugar
  2. saliva
  3. salt
  4. soap
What substance helps start the digestive process?
  1. sugar
  2. saliva
  3. salt
  4. soap
What is peristalsis?
  1. the contractions of muscles to move food to the intestines
  2. the process of ridding digested food from the body
  3. the scientific name for a cupcakes
  4. the name of one of your intestines
What do bile and enzymes do in the digestive process?
  1. make food taste better
  2. bring energy to your body
  3. help break down food you eat
  4. cause your stomach to feel full
How long does it take a cupcake to make its way through your body?
  1. 30 minutes
  2. 1-2 hours
  3. 6-8 hours
  4. one day
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