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The Small Intestine

The small intestine is the site where most of the chemical and mechanical digestion is carried out, and where virtually all of the absorption of useful materials is carried out. The whole of the small intestine is lined with an absorptive mucosal type, with certain modifications for each section. The intestine also has a smooth muscle wall with two layers of muscle; rhythmical contractions force products of digestion through the intestine (peristalisis). There are three main sections to the small intestine;

The duodenum forms a 'C' shape around the head of the pancreas. Its main function is to neutralise the acidic gastric contents (called 'chyme') and to initiate further digestion; Brunner's glands in the submucosa secrete an alkaline mucus which neutralises the chyme and protects the surface of the duodenum. The jejunum The ileum. The jejunum and the ileum are the greatly coiled parts of the small intestine, and together are about 4-6 metres long; the junction between the two sections is not well-defined. The mucosa of these sections is highly folded (the folds are called plicae), increasing the surface area available for absorption dramatically.

The Large Intestine

By the time digestive products reach the large intestine, almost all of the nutritionally useful products have been removed. The large intestine removes water from the remainder, passing semi-solid feces into the rectum to be expelled from the body through the anus. The mucosa is arranged into tightly-packed straight tubular glands which consist of cells specialized for water absorption and mucussecreting goblet cells to aid the passage of feces. The large intestine also contains areas of lymphoid tissue; these can be found in the ileum too (called Peyer's patches), and they provide local immunological protection of potential weak-spots in the body's defenses. As the gut is teeming with bacteria, reinforcement of the standard surface defenses seems only sensible

The colon is approximately 4.5 feet long, 2.5 inches wide, and is a muscular tube composed of lymphatic tissue, blood vessels, connective tissue, and specialized muscles for carrying out the tasks of water absorption and waste removal. The tough outer covering of the colon protects the inner layer of the colon with circular muscles for propelling waste out of the body in an action called peristalsis. Under the outer muscular layer is a sub-mucous coat containing the lymphatic tissue, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The innermost lining is highly moist and sensitive, and

contains the villi- or tiny structures providing blood to the colon. Parts of the Colon: Transverse, Ascending, and Descending Colons The transverse, ascending, and descending colons are named for their physical locations within the digestive tract, and corresponding to the direction food takes as it encounters those sections. Within these parts of the colon, contractions from smooth muscle groups work food material back and forth to move waste through the colon and eventually, out of the body. The intestinal walls secrete alkaline mucus for lubricating the colon walls to ensure continued movement of the waste. The ascending colon travels up along the right side of the body. Due to waste being forced upwards, the muscular contractions working against gravity are essential to keep the system running smoothly. The next section of the colon is termed the transverse colon due to it running across the body horizontally. Then, the descending colon turns downward and becomes the sigmoid colon, followed by the rectum and anus.