Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: intestine from Philip's Encyclopedia

Lower part of the alimentary canal, of the digestive system beyond the stomach. In the human, it is about 7m (24ft) long. Food is moved through the intestine by the wave-like action of peristalsis. It undergoes the final stages of digestion and is absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine, which extends some 3m (10ft) from the stomach to the large intestine. In the large intestine (caecum, colon and rectum) water is absorbed from undigested material, which is then passed out of the body through the anus.

Summary Article: intestine
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

muscular hoselike portion of the gastrointestinal tract extending from the lower end of the stomach (pylorus) to the anal opening. In humans this fairly narrow (about 1 in./2.5 cm) tubelike structure winds compactly back and forth within the abdominal cavity for about 23 ft (7 m), and is known as the small intestine. It is not only an organ of digestion (for that part of the process not completed by the stomach) but is the chief organ of absorption. By contraction of its muscular walls (peristalsis) the food mass is propelled onward and, as it is carried along, it is subject to the digestive action of the secretions of the intestinal lining as well as to that of bile and pancreatic juice which enter the upper intestine (duodenum) from ducts leading from the liver and pancreas. Innumerable minute projections (villi) in the intestinal mucous lining absorb the altered food for distribution by the blood and lymphatic systems to the rest of the body. Food continues to pass into the middle (jejunum) and end (ileum) of the small intestines.

The small intestine joins the large intestine, or colon, at the cecum in the right lower abdominal cavity. Here, also, is the appendix, a blind pouch projecting from the cecum. The large intestine is wider in diameter. Its direction as it leaves the cecum is upward (ascending colon), across the abdominal cavity (transverse colon) beneath the stomach, and then downward (descending colon) on the left side of the abdominal cavity, making a sharp turn in the left lower portion (sigmoid) to merge with the rectum. In all, the large intestine is about 5 ft (1.5 m) long. Bacteria, the indigestible residue of food, and mucus form the bulk of matter in the large intestine. The water content of the bulk is absorbed through the walls of the large intestine, and the solid matter is excreted through the rectum.

See digestive system.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Large Intestine
The Human Body Book: An Illustrated Guide to Its Structure, Function and Disorders

The large intestine is the final part of the digestive tract and comprises three main regions – the caecum, colon, and rectum. The caecum is a...

Full text Article Stomach and Small Intestine
The Human Body Book: An Illustrated Guide to Its Structure, Function and Disorders

After the mouth, throat, and oesophagus, the next major sections of the digestive tract are the stomach and the small intestine. The stomach...

Full text Article intestine
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

The part of the digestive tract, in the abdomen, that extends from the stomach to the anus. It is divided into two parts. The small intestine,...

See more from Credo