The Function of the Small Intestine in the Digestive System
Windowofworld.com – The process of digestion and absorption of nutrients in food and drinks is part of the function of the small intestine. The food you consume stores various nutrients needed by the body’s cells. But before that, the food must be digested into substances that are small enough to be absorbed.
Nutrients from dishes that have been digested, will be absorbed by the body. This nutrient is useful to make the body powered and used for growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. However, there are also nutrients that must be compacted into feces, then discharged through the anus.
The inside of the digestive tract
The intestine in the human body spreads from the end of the stomach to the anus. The intestine itself is divided into two parts, namely the small intestine and large intestine.
The small intestine has a length of about 6 meters with a diameter of 2.5 centimeters. The small intestine is divided into three parts, namely the duodenum, jejunum (empty intestine), and ileum (intestinal absorption). Mostly, the process of digestion and absorption of food nutrients occurs in the small intestine.
While the large intestine has a length of about 1.5 meters with a diameter of 7.5 cm. The intestine is tasked with processing leftover food that cannot be digested or absorbed, absorbs water and electrolytes from leftover food that has been digested in the small intestine, and holds feces for later excretion during bowel movements.
The Function of the Small Intestine in Digging Food
Before entering the small intestine, the food you consume is destroyed through the process of chewing. During the chewing process, saliva production increases to help soften food. It aims to make food easily swallowed and contain enzymes to break down food into nutrients that are easily processed by the intestine.
After that, this chewed food drops into the stomach. In the stomach, food is then crushed and broken down with acidic fluid and enzymes produced by the stomach, until it becomes a liquid or paste. Then, the food is ready to be processed in the small intestine.
Arriving in the small intestine, food that has gone through a series of processes earlier will meet with enzymes and other substances such as bile from the intestinal cells, bile, liver and pancreas. These substances will break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into simpler compounds, so they can be absorbed and utilized by the body.
For example, the protein is broken down again into amino acids to make it more easily absorbed by the body. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which can enter the bloodstream. While fat, is converted into fatty acids and glycerol which is more easily absorbed by the body.
Then, the absorption process is ready to do. Nutrients that have been broken down into these smaller substances, then glide into the intestinal bumps or villi. Villi are made up of smaller intestinal bumps called microvilli. Both can increase the surface area of the small intestine so that absorption of nutrients is easier.
After that, the remnants of food that are not absorbed in the small intestine will go to the large intestine, then exit through the anus.
But there are times when the function of the small intestine does not run smoothly due to certain conditions or diseases. Some conditions that often occur in the small intestine are infection, bleeding, intestinal obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and colon cancer. To prevent interference with the small intestine function due to these conditions, you are advised to consume lots of water and fibrous foods. Avoid high-fat foods because it can increase the risk of colon cancer.
If there are signs or symptoms that indicate problems with the small intestine, such as diarrhea, weight loss (malnutrition), gastrointestinal bleeding, and prolonged abdominal pain, you need to consult a doctor to determine the diagnosis of the disease and get further treatment.