The human body is a network of highly developed and complex organ systems, working in a synchronized manner for the sustenance of life. The digestive system in the body plays a significant role in the metabolism of food. This vital system of the body consists of the stomach, liver, pancreas, and small and large intestine. The food is digested in the stomach, with the help of the enzymes secreted by the liver and the pancreas. The digested food is then passed through the small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed and assimilated in the bloodstream. The undigested food is then passed on to the large intestine, from where it is eliminated from the body through the anus. Whatever is left unabsorbed by the duodenum and jejunum is absorbed in the ileum.
Function of the Ileum
The ileum is one of the parts of the small intestine, the others being duodenum and jejunum. The ileocecal valve separates the ileum from the cecum. Though the jejunum and the ileum are parts of the small intestine, anatomically they have a slight difference. The ileum, which is approximately 7.5 feet long, is smaller than the jejunum and has a lighter shade.
- As mentioned earlier, the primary function is to absorb the nutrients from the chyme, or digested food. This is done with the help of villi, which are finger-like projections found in the inner wall.
- There are lymph vessels called lacteals in the villi which absorbs fat in the lymphatic system. This digested fat is then drained into the bloodstream, which is transported along with other nutrients, to the liver through the hepatic portal vein. Detoxification takes place and the nutrients are assimilated by the body.
- Another important function is to absorb vitamin B12. Proteins and peptides are broken down into amino acids in the ileum.
- Breaking down of carbohydrates into simple sugars, and lipids into glycerol and fatty acids to be easily absorbed by the body is also one of the functions. This is possible due to the enzymes produced by the cells in the ileum lining.
- The terminal ileum is the last portion of the small intestine anatomy. This part of the small intestine absorbs bile salts that are produced by the liver.
Diseases of the Small Intestine
Now that you are familiar with the functions that the ileum performs, you must also be aware of the intestinal disorders so that you can take appropriate measures to get relief from them. Here are some of the common problems that affect the small intestine.
Some of these disorders are minor and can be treated, whereas some are of serious nature, which can even prove to be life-threatening.
- The presence of microbes in any part of the small intestine can cause a number of small intestine diseases in this digestive organ. This can lead to the improper functioning of the small intestine.
- Small intestine blockage can occur due to the presence of a tumor or hernia. This can obstruct the movement of the digested food from the small intestine to the large intestine.
- Other disorders like small intestine inflammation can impair the ileum, thereby causing a hindrance in the process of digestion. This can also lead to a lot of pain and discomfort to the individual.
- In severe cases, the ileum may also be affected due to cancer. This may occur due to the presence of toxins in the food or if the undigested food is not eliminated from the body for a long time. This undigested food can turn toxic leading to unhealthy multiplication of cells, resulting in cancer.
In order to avoid disorders of the small intestine, practicing a healthy lifestyle and going to a health care provider for a routine checkup will prove to be helpful.