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Structure and function of the gut 

Structure and function of the gut

Chapter:
Structure and function of the gut
Author(s):

D.G. Thompson

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199204854.003.1501

November 28, 2012: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 28 March 2017

The gastrointestinal tract is a hollow tube stretching from the oral cavity through the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and rectum to the anal sphincter. Its function is the transport, digestion, and elimination of ingested material to supply nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes that are essential for life, together with the protection of the rest of the body from injurious or allergenic material. The stomach acts as a storage, sterilizing, and digestive tank; the small intestine is the major site of digestion and absorption; the colon’s function is to salvage water and electrolyte from the small intestinal effluent; and the rectum provides a storage function, enabling the elimination of colonic residue (defecation) to be restricted to times of personal convenience.

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