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


After that is passage through the duodenum, where many chemical cradle takes place, chyme passes through the jejunum and also ileum. Their main duty is to ensure the the various molecules resulting from chemical digestion pass with the gut wall into the blood or lymph. This process of nutrient absorb is aided by the presence of folds and projections the hugely increase the surface ar area the the gut wall, and also regular contractions that the ring of smooth muscle that move intestinal contents back and forth. This article, the 4th in a six-part series exploring the gastrointestinal tract, defines the anatomy and functions the the jejunum and ileum.

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Citation: Nigam Y et al (2019) Gastrointestinal street 4: anatomy and duty 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; all 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 big intestines bring out all the significant functions the the cradle system. This is wherein the ‘real business’ of digestion takes place. The intestines take up most of the space in the abdominal cavity and constitute the greatest portion of the cradle (GI) tract in regards to mass and length. They get their blood supply through the mesenteric artery.

The little intestine is around five times longer than the big intestine but has a smaller diameter (about 2.54cm matches 7.62cm), which is why it is called ‘small’. It comprises the duodenum (25cm), jejunum (around 2.5m) and also ileum (around 3.5m). Tethered to the posterior wall surface of the abdomen by the mesentery (an expansion of the peritoneum), the whole convolution that the tiny intestine lies loosely in the ab cavity, framed through the colon (Fig 1). Its folds and the projections in its lining create an substantial surface area of about 200m2 – much more than 100 times the surface ar area the the skin – i beg your pardon is necessary for the absorption of nutrient (Wilson, 2008).

Peter Lamb

The anatomy and role of the duodenum, the first part the the little intestine, is defined in part 3 that this series on the GI tract. Having actually received acidic chyme indigenous the stomach, the duodenum completes a huge part that the process of chemical digestion, liberating small molecules from ingested food (see part 3). Once this is done, the jejunum and also ileum greatly assume the duty of absorbing these molecules (amino acids, monosaccharides and also lipids), i m sorry pass into the bloodstream come be provided by the body. This article, part 4 of the series, describes the anatomy and functions that the jejunum and also ileum.

Anatomy of the jejunum

The jejunum provides up two-fifths that the complete length that the little intestine and is around 0.9m in length. The starts at the duodenojejunal flexure and ends at the ileum. There is no clean border between the jejunum and also the ileum. Histologically, the jejunum differs from the remainder of the tiny intestine by the lack of Brunner’s glands (which are current in the duodenum – see part 3) and Peyer’s spot (which are existing in the ileum – see part 1 and below).

A huge surface area is a prerequisite because that the optimal absorb of nutrients, for this reason the wall of the jejunum contains the following features that increase its surface area:

Circular folds;Villi;Microvilli.

These attributes are likewise found, albeit with slight differences, in the ileum.

Circular folds

Macroscopically noticeable space the many circular folds (or valves that Kerckring) to run parallel to each other in the mucosa the the jejunum. These deep ridges in the mucosal lining triple the surface ar area of the absorptive mucosa in the minister wall. They also slow down 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 under provides an ext time for nutrient to it is in absorbed.


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

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

The venules enable glucose and also amino acids to be took in directly right into the bloodstream, while assets from the malfunction of lipids (fatty acids and glycerol) are soaked up into the lymphatic mechanism via the lacteals.

Peter Lamb


Peter Lamb


The mucosal epithelial cell (Fig 3) have actually thin, hair-like extensions about 1μm (0.001mm) in length, jutting out into the minister lumen. These tiny projections are well-known as microvilli and also there are about 200 million that them per 1mm2. They broaden the surface ar area accessible for nutrient absorption by another 20 times. Microscopically, they show up as a massive of bristles and are, therefore, termed the brush border. Addressed to the surface ar of the microvilli room a collection of enzymes that complete chemical digestion.

Anatomy the the ileum

The ileum is the longest component of the little intestine, make up about three-fifths the its total length. It is thicker and an ext vascular 보다 the jejunum, and also the circular folds room less dense and an ext separated (Keuchel et al, 2013). At the distal end, the ileum is separated native the big intestine through the ileocaecal valve, a sphincter created by the circular muscle great of the ileum and also caecum, and also controlled by nerves and also hormones. The ileocaecal valve avoids reflux that the bacteria-rich contents from the big intestine right into the small intestine.

The ileum is well-off in immune organization (lymphoid follicles). A characteristic attribute is Peyer’s patches, uncovered lying in that is mucosa, i beg your pardon are vital part the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. One Peyer’s job is around 2-5cm long and also consists of approximately 300 aggregated lymphoid follicles. This are focused in the distal ileum and also serve to keep bacteria from entering the bloodstream.

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

Digestion and also absorption

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


The ring of smooth muscle in the wall of the small intestine consistently contract and relax in a process called segmentation. This moves intestinal contents ago and forth. Segmentation distends the little intestine but does no drive chyme with the tract; instead, the mixes it with digestive juices and then pushes it against the mucosa to allow nutrient absorption.

Each day, about 8L of water (from diet ingestion and also GI tract secretions and juices, consisting of saliva), numerous hundred grams that carbohydrates, ≥100g the fat, 50-100g the amino acids and also 50-100g the salt ions pass through the wall surface of the small intestine and into the blood (Hall, 2011).

The deliver of nutrients across the membrane of the minister epithelial cells into the villi, and subsequently into blood capillaries and lacteals, occurs either passively or actively. Passive transport calls for no energy and also involves the diffusion of basic molecules follow me a concentration gradient – activity from one area wherein they room in high concentration come one where they are in lower concentration – in this case, the blood. Water and some vitamins deserve to cross the gut wall surface passively. Active transport requires power to traction molecules the end of the minister lumen versus a concentration gradient. In addition, certain molecules – such together glucose, amino acids and vitamin B12 – have their very own carriers or transporters, i beg your pardon they usage to ‘piggyback’ across the gut wall surface into the bloodstream.


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

Amino acids

Most assets of protein cradle (amino acids) space also soaked up through an active co-transport mechanism with sodium ions and enter the blood capillary device of every villus. They then travel to the liver via the hepatic portal vein.


Digested fat mingle with bile salts, i beg your pardon ferry them to the mucosa whereby they room coated through lipoproteins and aggregated into tiny molecules referred to as chylomicrons, which are taken right into the main lacteals of the villi. Castle travel through lymph to the thoracic duct, wherein they get in the blood supply. If there is malabsorption of fats, this pass into the large intestine, wherein they form pale, oily, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhoea – see component 3). Once that happens, specific fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and also K) may also not be absorbed, potentially causing deficiencies.

Vitamin B complex

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

Vitamin B1. Important for metabolism, vitamin B1 likewise plays a duty in healthy nerve conduction and muscle contraction. It is uncovered in fortified foods such together bread and also cereals, but likewise in eggs, fish, nuts, legumes and specific meats (Wiley and also Gupta, 2019). Vitamin B1 deficiency is usual in world who have a poor diet (for example, homeless people) and also can cause a range of disorders including beriberi. In part cases, vitamin B1 deficiency can be led to by long-term, heavy alcohol intake, which at some point impairs the body’s capacity to absorb the vitamin. Vitamin B1 deficiency brought about by alcohol can an outcome in Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis.

Vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for red blood cell development, normal functioning the the worried system, cell metabolism and DNA synthesis. The richest herbal sources that vitamin B12 are liver and kidney, but it is also present in meat, fish, dairy products products, eggs and shellfish.

Vitamin B12 is liberated from ingested food in the acid milieu that the stomach. In the duodenum, the binds v intrinsic factor developed by the gastric parietal cell (see component 2); the is just in the bound type that it deserve to be absorbed (Moll and Davis, 2017). Absorption wake up in the terminal portion of the ileum, whereby vitamin B12 attaches to certain membrane receptors located on absorptive cells (enterocytes) in ~ the bottom of the pits in between the microvilli (Schjønsby, 1989). To leaving the enterocytes and also enter the bloodstream, the vitamin have to then bind to a carrier protein, transcobalamin II.

A common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is the destruction of gastric parietal cells by autoantibodies, i m sorry severely reduces gastric acid manufacturing by the stomach and leads to a problem known as pernicious anaemia (see part 2). Vitamin B12 deficiency have to not it is in ignored. If individuals who room deficient perform not obtain injections that the vitamin they may experience severe negative consequences, including dementia.

Movement towards the huge intestine

Digestive activity 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 enjoy the meal is fully emptied from both the stomach and the small intestine before the next meal is eaten. It can take increase to 5 hours for every chyme to leaving the tiny intestine (Young et al, 2014).

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When many of the chyme has actually been absorbed, the walls of the small intestine become less distended and also segmentation gives method to peristalsis, i m sorry helps move unabsorbed matter along towards the large intestine. Peristalsis works a tiny like squeezing toothpaste along and also out of a tube. V each recurring peristaltic contraction, chyme and also waste gradually move down the small intestine. As soon as motility in the ileum increases, the ileocaecal valve relaxes, enabling food residue to get in the large intestine in ~ the caecum.