The Small Intestine (1)
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.