Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology

pp 353-360


  • Elois Ann Berlin


The digestive tract begins at the mouth, transits the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, the colon, and terminates at the anus. The digestive system is the greatest avenue of transfer of elements between the human body and the external environment. While the respiratory system serves the vital function of transporting oxygen into the body, which is key for cell metabolism, the digestive system transports many nutrients and other substances that directly affect body structure and function. These beneficial elements are sometimes accompanied by disease causing agents or organisms. This physiological reality is reflected in the epidemiologic patterns of disease and health concerns cross-culturally.

Ethnomedical Perspectives

Ethnomedical systems generally base classification of health problems on signs and symptoms. This does not mean that there is no attention paid to etiology. All explanatory models include concepts of cause, so ...

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