The Small Intestine: Introduction and Index
The small intestine is the portal for absorption of virtually all nutrients into blood. Accomplishing this transport entails breaking down large supramolecular aggregates into small molecules that can be transported across the epithelium. An exception to this statement is seen in herbivores, where large amounts of short chain fatty acids are absorbed at other sites.
By the time ingesta reaches the small intestine, foodstuffs have been mechanically broken down and reduced to a liquid by mastication and grinding in the stomach. Once within the small intestine, these macromolecular aggregates are exposed to pancreatic enzymes and bile, which enables digestion to molecules capable or almost capable of being absorbed. The final stages of digestion occur on the surface of the small intestinal epithelium.
The net effect of passage through the small intestine is absorption of most of the water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium) and essentially all dietary organic molecules (including glucose, amino acids and fatty acids). Through these activities, the small intestine not only provides nutrients to the body, but plays a critical role in water and acid-base balance.
Core concepts in small intestinal physiology are presented as the following topics:
- Gross and Microscopic Anatomy of the Small Intestine
- Villi, Crypts and the Life Cycle of Small Intestinal Enterocytes
- Small Intestinal Motility
- Overview of Transport Across the Intestinal Epithelium
- Secretion in the Small Intestine
- Absorption in the Small Intestine: General Mechanisms
- Absorption of Water and Electrolytes
- Absorption of Monosaccharides
- Absorption of Amino Acids and Peptides
- Absorption of Lipids
Advanced and supplemental topics related to physiology of the small intestine:
- Small Intestinal Brush Border Enzymes
- Absorption of Minerals and Metals
- Absorption of Vitamins
- Paneth Cells
- Ontogeny of Small Intestinal Digestive and Absorptive Function
- Gastrointestinal Transit: How Long Does It Take?
Pathophysiology and diseases affecting the small intestine:
- The Gastrointestinal Barrier
- Pathophysiology of Diarrhea
- Lactose Intolerance (Lactase Non-Persistence)
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