Structure and Function
D Rumsey, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The small intestine is the barrier between the external environment and the interior of the human body that all nutrients must pass; it is the organ of nutrition. Absorption of nutrients across the barrier is only possible following the complex process of food digestion. Both processes occur largely within the small intestine. Complete digestion and absorption only take place if the optimal motility patterns of the small intestine occur. Each facet of small intestinal function, absorption, digestion, and motility is dependent on the other to produce human nutrition.
Furthermore, within the physiology of the small intestine, regulatory mechanisms exist to alter the rate of nutrient absorption, signal the passage of nutrients, and change the phases of metabolism. The complexity of function in the small intestine is also related to its structure, architecture, and cellular kinetics.
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