This article, component 4 in a 6-part series, describes the physiology and functions the the jejunum and also ileum, the last two sections the the little intestine, where most absorption of nutrient takes place


After its passage v the duodenum, where many chemical cradle takes place, chyme passes through the jejunum and ileum. Their main duty is come ensure that the assorted molecules resulting from chemistry digestion pass with the gut wall surface into the blood or lymph. This procedure of nutrient absorb is assisted by the existence of folds and also projections that hugely rise the surface area of the gut wall, and regular contractions the the ring of smooth muscle that relocate intestinal contents earlier and forth. This article, the 4th in a six-part collection exploring the cradle tract, defines the anatomy and also functions of the jejunum and also ileum.

You are watching: The majority of nutrient absorption occurs in the

Citation: Nigam Y et al (2019) Gastrointestinal tract 4: anatomy and function of the jejunum and ileum. Nursing Times ; 115: 9, 43-46.

Authors: Yamni Nigam is professor in biomedical science; john Knight is associate professor in biomedical science; Nikki Williams is associate professor in respiratory tract physiology; all at the university of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University.

This write-up has been double-blind peer reviewed


With the exception of ingestion, the little and huge intestines lug out every the major functions of the cradle system. This is where the ‘real business’ of cradle takes place. The intestines take up most of the space in the abdominal cavity and constitute the greatest part of the gastrointestinal (GI) street in terms of mass and length. They get their blood supply through the mesenteric artery.

The little intestine is about five times much longer than the huge intestine but has a smaller sized diameter (about 2.54cm versus 7.62cm), i m sorry is why it is dubbed ‘small’. The comprises the duodenum (25cm), jejunum (around 2.5m) and ileum (around 3.5m). Tethered come the posterior wall of the abdomen by the mesentery (an expansion of the peritoneum), the entire convolution of the tiny intestine lies loosely in the ab cavity, framed by the colon (Fig 1). Its folds and also the projections in that lining create an substantial surface area of about 200m2 – an ext than 100 time the surface area of the skin – which is important for the absorb of nutrient (Wilson, 2008).

Peter Lamb

The anatomy and function of the duodenum, the very first part the the tiny intestine, is described in part 3 of this series on the GI tract. Having actually received acidic chyme native the stomach, the duodenum completes a huge part the the process of chemical digestion, liberating small molecules native ingested food (see part 3). As soon as this is done, the jejunum and ileum largely assume the function of absorbing these molecules (amino acids, monosaccharides and also lipids), which pass right into the bloodstream come be used by the body. This article, part 4 of the series, describes the anatomy and functions the the jejunum and also ileum.

Anatomy that the jejunum

The jejunum makes up two-fifths that the full length of the small intestine and also is around 0.9m in length. It starts at the duodenojejunal flexure and ends at the ileum. There is no clear border between the jejunum and the ileum. Histologically, the jejunum differs from the rest of the small intestine by the lack of Brunner’s glands (which are existing in the duodenum – view part 3) and also Peyer’s job (which are current in the ileum – view part 1 and below).

A large surface area is a prerequisite because that the optimal absorption of nutrients, therefore the wall of the jejunum has the following attributes that boost its surface area:

Circular folds;Villi;Microvilli.

These functions are also found, albeit v slight differences, in the ileum.

Circular folds

Macroscopically noticeable are the countless circular wrinkle (or valves of Kerckring) running parallel to each various other in the mucosa the the jejunum. This deep ridges in the mucosal lining triple the surface area of the absorptive mucosa in the minister wall. They likewise slow under the circulation of chyme, as their shape causes it to travel in a spiral fashion fairly than moving down the GI street in a directly line (Welcome, 2018). This slowing down provides much more time for nutrient to it is in absorbed.


Located in the one folds and also measuring 0.5-1mm in length, finger-like projections recognized as villi extend into the minister lumen (Fig 2), multiplying by 10 the surface area easily accessible for nutrient absorption. Every villus consists of a:

Capillary bed – consisting of an arteriole and also a venule;Lymphatic capillary – main lacteal (Fig 3).

The venules permit glucose and also amino acids to be took in directly into the bloodstream, while commodities from the breakdown of lipids (fatty acids and also glycerol) are absorbed into the lymphatic system via the lacteals.

Peter Lamb


Peter Lamb


The mucosal epithelial cells (Fig 3) have thin, hair-like extensions around 1μm (0.001mm) in length, jutting out right into the intestinal lumen. These small projections are known as microvilli and there are approximately 200 million that them per 1mm2. They broaden the surface area available for nutrient absorb by an additional 20 times. Microscopically, they show up as a fixed of bristles and are, therefore, termed the brush border. Resolved to the surface ar of the microvilli are a collection of enzyme that end up chemical digestion.

Anatomy that the ileum

The ileum is the longest component of the little intestine, making up about three-fifths the its total length. That is thicker and more vascular 보다 the jejunum, and the circular folds space less dense and an ext separated (Keuchel et al, 2013). At the distal end, the ileum is separated from the big intestine by the ileocaecal valve, a sphincter formed by the one muscle class of the ileum and also caecum, and also controlled by nerves and hormones. The ileocaecal valve avoids reflux the the bacteria-rich content from the huge intestine into the tiny intestine.

The ileum is well-off in immune tissue (lymphoid follicles). A characteristic feature is Peyer’s patches, found lying in the mucosa, i beg your pardon are an essential part that gut-associated lymphoid tissue. One Peyer’s job is around 2-5cm long and consists of around 300 aggregated lymphoid follicles. These are focused in the distal ileum and serve to keep bacteria indigenous entering the bloodstream.

Peyer’s patches room most significant in young people and also become less unique with age, which reflects the age-related reduction in task of the gut’s immune system.

Digestion and also absorption

The duodenum accomplishes a good deal of chemical digestion, and also a tiny amount the nutrient absorb (see part 3); the main function of the jejunum and also ileum is to end up chemical cradle (enzymatic cleavage the nutrients) and also absorb these nutrients in addition to water and vitamins. The brush border of the tiny intestine has enzymes that complete the process of chemical digestion. Table 1 lists these enzymes and their roles.


The rings of smooth muscle in the wall of the tiny intestine consistently contract and also relax in a process called segmentation. This moves intestinal contents back and forth. Segment distends the small intestine but does no drive chyme v the tract; instead, that mixes it through digestive juices and then pushes it against the mucosa to enable nutrient absorption.

Each day, around 8L the water (from diet ingestion and GI street secretions and juices, including saliva), several hundred grams that carbohydrates, ≥100g that fat, 50-100g of amino acids and 50-100g of salt ion pass v the wall of the small intestine and into the blood (Hall, 2011).

The carry of nutrients throughout the membrane of the minister epithelial cells into the villi, and subsequently right into blood capillaries and also lacteals, occurs either passively or actively. Passive transport needs no energy and also involves the diffusion of basic molecules follow me a concentration gradient – activity from one area whereby they are in high concentration come one wherein they room in lower concentration – in this case, the blood. Water and some vitamins deserve to cross the gut wall passively. Energetic transport requires power to traction molecules out of the minister lumen against a concentration gradient. In addition, particular molecules – such as glucose, amino acids and also vitamin B12 – have actually their own carriers or transporters, i beg your pardon they use to ‘piggyback’ across the gut wall into the bloodstream.


Digested carbohydrates enter the blood capillaries irrigating every villus. Nearly all ingested carbohydrate are took in as monosaccharides, 80% of which room glucose. Glucose is actively took in via a co-transport mechanism using sodium ion as carriers. Other absorbable monosaccharides incorporate galactose from milk and also fructose from fruit.

Amino acids

Most products of protein cradle (amino acids) are also absorbed through an active co-transport system with salt ions and also enter the blood capillary system of each villus. Lock then take trip to the liver via the hepatic portal vein.


Digested fats mingle with bile salts, i m sorry ferry them to the mucosa whereby they space coated with lipoproteins and aggregated into tiny molecules dubbed chylomicrons, which space taken right into the main lacteals the the villi. Castle travel with lymph come the thoracic duct, whereby they get in the blood supply. If over there is malabsorption the fats, these pass into the huge intestine, whereby they kind pale, oily, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhoea – see part 3). As soon as that happens, details fat-soluble vitamin (A, D, E and also K) may additionally not it is in absorbed, potentially causing deficiencies.

Vitamin B complex

The vitamin B complicated encompasses eight water-soluble vitamins that are important for key functions of the body, consisting of red blood cell formation, maintain of healthy hair and also nails, and also healthy work of the brain and heart. This eight vitamins are: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin).

Vitamin B1. Necessary for metabolism, vitamin B1 additionally plays a function in healthy nerve conduction and muscle contraction. It is found in fortified foods items such together bread and cereals, but likewise in eggs, fish, nuts, legumes and specific meats (Wiley and also Gupta, 2019). Vitamin B1 deficiency is typical in people who have actually a negative diet (for example, homeless people) and also can reason a variety of disorders including beriberi. In some cases, vitamin B1 deficiency deserve to be brought about by long-term, heavy alcohol intake, which ultimately impairs the body’s capability to absorb the vitamin. Vitamin B1 deficiency caused by alcohol can result in Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for red blood cabinet development, normal functioning that the nervous system, cell metabolism and also DNA synthesis. The richest natural sources that vitamin B12 space liver and kidney, however it is likewise present in meat, fish, dairy products products, eggs and shellfish.

Vitamin B12 is liberated native ingested food in the mountain milieu that the stomach. In the duodenum, the binds v intrinsic factor created by the gastric parietal cell (see component 2); that is just in that bound form that it deserve to be absorbed (Moll and also Davis, 2017). Absorption wake up in the terminal portion of the ileum, where vitamin B12 attaches to details membrane receptors located on absorptive cell (enterocytes) in ~ the bottom that the pits between the microvilli (Schjønsby, 1989). To leave the enterocytes and also enter the bloodstream, the vitamin must then bind to a transport protein, transcobalamin II.

A common reason of vitamin B12 deficiency is the devastation of gastric parietal cell by autoantibodies, i m sorry severely reduces gastric acid manufacturing by the stomach and also leads come a problem known as pernicious anaemia (see component 2). Vitamin B12 deficiency must not it is in ignored. If individuals who space deficient do not get injections of the vitamin they may experience severe negative consequences, consisting of dementia.

Movement in the direction of the large intestine

Digestive activity in the stomach provokes the gastroileal reflex, which stimulates peristalsis come push components along the ileum and also the colon. The reflex ensures that the content of one enjoy the meal is fully emptied from both the stomach and also the small intestine prior to the following meal is eaten. It have the right to take increase to 5 hours for all chyme to leaving the tiny intestine (Young et al, 2014).

See more: Download You Spin Me Right Round Lyrics Flo Rida, Lyrics For Right Round By Flo Rida

When most of the chyme has actually been absorbed, the walls of the little intestine come to be less distended and also segmentation gives method to peristalsis, i beg your pardon helps move unabsorbed matter along towards the huge intestine. Peristalsis functions a tiny like squeezing toothpaste along and out the a tube. Through each repeated peristaltic contraction, chyme and waste gradually move down the little intestine. When motility in the ileum increases, the ileocaecal valve relaxes, allowing food residue to go into the big intestine in ~ the caecum.