Describe the digestion of food in the small intestine?

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Jan 15, 2018


This is a brief overview.


When digested food from the stomach (called chyme) flows into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) the gallbladder, which holds bile secreted by the liver, releases some of it into the chyme. The bile contains bile salts, which physically break down lipids in the food substance into small oil droplets, to provide a larger surface area for easier digestion by lipase, the enzyme that catalyses the breakdown of fats.

As the food slides through, the pancreas also secretes pancreatic juice, which contains a variety of digestive substances like lipase (for fat digestion), amylase (for starch) and sodium bicarbonate (for neutralizing the acidic chyme). The small intestine moves the half-digested food into the ileum (the longer part of the small intestine) by peristalsis.

As the food moves by, minerals, vitamins and food molecules such as amino acids and glucose are absorbed into the intestine via the villi, small fingerlike projections on the inner surface of the intestine that maximize surface area available for absorption. This process happens mostly by active transport.

By the time the food has moved all the way through the small intestine, nearly all of the available food molecules have been absorbed, and whatever remains moves on to the large intestine for water absorption.

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