This article, component 4 in a 6-part series, describes the physiology and functions of the jejunum and also ileum, the last 2 sections the the tiny intestine, where many absorption of nutrients takes place


After that passage through the duodenum, where most chemical cradle takes place, chyme passes through the jejunum and ileum. Your main function is to ensure that the miscellaneous molecules resulting from chemistry digestion pass v the gut wall into the blood or lymph. This procedure of nutrient absorb is helped by the existence of folds and projections the hugely rise the surface ar area of the gut wall, and regular contractions the the rings of smooth muscle that move intestinal contents ago and forth. This article, the 4th in a six-part collection exploring the cradle tract, describes the anatomy and also functions of the jejunum and ileum.

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

Authors: Yamni Nigam is professor in biomedical science; man Knight is combine professor in biomedical science; Nikki Williams is associate professor in respiratory physiology; every at the college of Human and also Health Sciences, Swansea University.

This write-up has to be double-blind peer reviewed


With the exception of ingestion, the tiny and large intestines bring out all the major functions that the digestive system. This is where the ‘real business’ of cradle takes place. The intestines take up many of the room in the ab cavity and constitute the greatest part of the gastrointestinal (GI) street in terms of mass and length. They receive their blood supply through the mesenteric artery.

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

Peter Lamb

The anatomy and function of the duodenum, the an initial part of the small intestine, is explained in part 3 that this collection on the GI tract. Having received acidic chyme indigenous the stomach, the duodenum completes a big part the the process of chemical digestion, liberating little molecules indigenous ingested food (see part 3). Once this is done, the jejunum and ileum largely assume the function of soaking up these molecule (amino acids, monosaccharides and lipids), i m sorry pass into the bloodstream come be provided by the body. This article, part 4 of the series, explains the anatomy and functions that the jejunum and ileum.

Anatomy of the jejunum

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

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

Circular folds;Villi;Microvilli.

These features are also found, albeit through slight differences, in the ileum.

Circular folds

Macroscopically noticeable space the many circular folds (or valves of Kerckring) running parallel to each various other in the mucosa of the jejunum. These deep ridges in the mucosal lining triple the surface ar area of the absorptive mucosa in the intestinal wall. They additionally slow under the circulation of chyme, as their shape causes it to travel in a spiral fashion fairly than moving down the GI tract in a directly line (Welcome, 2018). This slowing down provides an ext time for nutrients to be absorbed.


Located in the circular folds and also measuring 0.5-1mm in length, finger-like projections well-known as villi prolong into the minister lumen (Fig 2), multiplying by 10 the surface area available for nutrient absorption. Every villus has a:

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

The venules allow glucose and amino acids to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, while commodities from the break down of lipids (fatty acids and 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 into the minister lumen. These tiny projections are known as microvilli and also there are around 200 million that them every 1mm2. They increase the surface area available for nutrient absorb by another 20 times. Microscopically, they show up as a massive of bristles and are, therefore, termed the brush border. Fixed to the surface of the microvilli room a collection of enzyme that complete chemical digestion.

Anatomy that the ileum

The ileum is the longest component of the tiny intestine, make up around three-fifths of its total length. It is more thick and more vascular 보다 the jejunum, and also the one folds are less thick and much more separated (Keuchel et al, 2013). In ~ the distal end, the ileum is separated native the big intestine by the ileocaecal valve, a sphincter formed by the one muscle layers of the ileum and caecum, and also controlled by nerves and hormones. The ileocaecal valve avoids reflux that the bacteria-rich content from the huge intestine into the tiny intestine.

The ileum is well-off in immune organization (lymphoid follicles). A characteristic function is Peyer’s patches, discovered lying in the mucosa, i m sorry are critical part of gut-associated lymphoid tissue. One Peyer’s spot is approximately 2-5cm long and also consists of roughly 300 aggregated lymphoid follicles. These are focused in the distal ileum and also serve to store bacteria indigenous entering the bloodstream.

Peyer’s patches are most prominent in young people and also become less distinct with age, which shows the age-related palliation in activity of the gut’s immune system.

Digestion and also absorption

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


The rings of smooth muscle in the wall surface of the small intestine repeatedly contract and also relax in a process called segmentation. This move intestinal contents back and forth. Segmentation distends the little intestine however does no drive chyme through the tract; instead, the mixes it v digestive juices and also then pushes it versus the mucosa to enable nutrient absorption.

Each day, roughly 8L of water (from dietary ingestion and also GI tract secretions and also juices, including saliva), numerous hundred grams of carbohydrates, ≥100g the fat, 50-100g the amino acids and also 50-100g of salt ions pass with the wall of the tiny intestine and also into the blood (Hall, 2011).

The deliver of nutrients across the membrane of the minister epithelial cells into the villi, and subsequently right into blood capillaries and also lacteals, wake up either passively or actively. Passive transport needs no energy and also involves the diffusion of straightforward molecules along a concentration gradient – movement from an area wherein they are in high concentration to one wherein they are in lower concentration – in this case, the blood. Water and some vitamins can cross the gut wall passively. Active transport requires power to traction molecules out of the intestinal lumen versus a concentration gradient. In addition, details molecules – such as glucose, amino acids and vitamin B12 – have their very own carriers or transporters, which they use to ‘piggyback’ across the gut wall into the bloodstream.


Digested carbohydrates go into the blood capillaries irrigating each villus. Nearly all ingested carbohydrate are absorbed as monosaccharides, 80% that which are glucose. Glucose is actively took in via a co-transport device using sodium ions as carriers. Various other absorbable monosaccharides include galactose from milk and also fructose native fruit.

Amino acids

Most assets of protein cradle (amino acids) room also took in through an active co-transport device with sodium ions and also enter the blood capillary device of every villus. They then take trip to the liver via the hepatic portal vein.


Digested fats mingle through bile salts, i m sorry ferry them to the mucosa whereby they space coated through lipoproteins and aggregated into little molecules referred to as chylomicrons, which room taken into the main lacteals that the villi. They travel with lymph to the thoracic duct, whereby they go into the blood supply. If over there is malabsorption the fats, this pass into the huge intestine, whereby they type pale, oily, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhoea – see component 3). When that happens, particular fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) may also not be absorbed, potentially leading to deficiencies.

Vitamin B complex

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

Vitamin B1. Necessary for metabolism, vitamin B1 also plays a role in healthy and balanced nerve conduction and muscle contraction. That is uncovered in fortified foodstuffs such as bread and also cereals, but additionally in eggs, fish, nuts, legumes and details meats (Wiley and Gupta, 2019). Vitamin B1 deficiency is typical in civilization who have actually a bad diet (for example, homeless people) and can cause a variety of disorders including beriberi. In some cases, vitamin B1 deficiency can be brought about by long-term, hefty alcohol intake, which eventually impairs the body’s capability to absorb the vitamin. Vitamin B1 deficiency resulted in by alcohol can result in Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for red blood cabinet development, common functioning of the concerned system, cell metabolism and DNA synthesis. The richest natural sources of vitamin B12 are liver and kidney, however it is additionally present in meat, fish, dairy product products, eggs and also shellfish.

Vitamin B12 is liberated indigenous ingested food in the mountain milieu the the stomach. In the duodenum, it binds through intrinsic factor created by the gastric parietal cell (see part 2); it is just in that bound form that it have the right to be absorbed (Moll and also Davis, 2017). Absorption occurs in the terminal section of the ileum, wherein vitamin B12 attaches to certain membrane receptors located on absorptive cells (enterocytes) in ~ the bottom the the pits in between the microvilli (Schjønsby, 1989). To leaving the enterocytes and enter the bloodstream, the vitamin should then bind to a carrier protein, transcobalamin II.

A common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is the destruction of gastric parietal cell by autoantibodies, which severely reduces gastric acid manufacturing by the stomach and leads to a condition known as pernicious anaemia (see component 2). Vitamin B12 deficiency need to not it is in ignored. If people who room deficient carry out not receive injections that the vitamin they might experience severe negative consequences, including dementia.

Movement towards the huge intestine

Digestive task in the stomach provokes the gastroileal reflex, i beg your pardon stimulates peristalsis come push materials along the ileum and the colon. The reflex ensures that the contents of one meal is completely emptied indigenous both the stomach and the small intestine prior to the following meal is eaten. It can take up to five hours for every chyme to leave the little intestine (Young et al, 2014).

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When most of the chyme has actually been absorbed, the wall surfaces of the small intestine end up being less distended and also segmentation gives method to peristalsis, i m sorry helps relocate unabsorbed matter along towards the huge intestine. Peristalsis works a little like squeezing toothpaste along and out that a tube. V each repeated peristaltic contraction, chyme and also waste gradually move down the small intestine. When motility in the ileum increases, the ileocaecal valve relaxes, allowing food residue to get in the huge intestine in ~ the caecum.