The small intestine is an important part of the gastrointestinal tract, and it is located right before the large intestine. One of the reasons why the small intestine is vital for the digestive process is because this is where most of the digestion and the absorption of the nutrients occurs. In other words, it is the role of the small intestine to absorb all the minerals and nutrients from the ingested food, and the three main categories of nutrients that are being processed here are the carbohydrates, the fats and the proteins.
A Brief Overview Of The Structure Of The Small Intestine And Its Role In Digestion
All the three categories of nutrients described above are vital for the correct functioning of the digestive tract, and the small intestine is structured in such a manner that it facilitates their absorption. The folded structure of the intestine, which is medically known as the “Plicae Circulares” due to its folded appearance allows it to absorb every mineral and vitamin through the wall of the small intestine, and then transporting it into the blood vessels.
There are two distinct digestive processes that take place in the small intestine: the absorption process (which involves the uptake of both nutrients and fluids by the bodily tissues, and which takes place in the ileum and the jejunum of the small intestine), and the assimilation process, the latter being a slightly more complex one during which the chemical components and the nutrients that result from all the ingested foods and drinks are being broken down and then taken directly to the cells of the body, which are then fed and receive the energy they need in order to function.
The breakdown of the proteins is one of the most notable processes that take part in this part of the intestine, as the initial chemical breakdown starts in the stomach, and then continues in the small and large intestine. The lipids are also processed in the small intestine with the help of the bile salts, as they are broken down into smaller parts and then the small intestine absorbs them into the bloodstream. Last, but not least, the carbohydrates and the simple sugars are digested in the small intestine as well, although a small part of the carbohydrates pass undigested directly to the large intestine, where the digestion process is completed with the help of the intestinal bacteria (widely known as “the good bacteria”), whose purpose is to breakdown all the remaining nutrients.