In the digestive system, the large intestine does several specialized functions to help in the processing of food and waste.
The large intestine is shorter than the small intestine but it is larger in diameter, as its name suggests. According to Inner Body, the large intestine
can measure up to 5 feet in length and 2.5 inches in diameter, wrapping around the perimeter of the abdominal cavity and ending at the lower left side of the body.
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The main function of the large intestine in the digestive system, says the Cleveland Clinic
, is to get rid of undigested food, bacteria, and other waste once all of the nutrients have been absorbed by the small intestine. The undigested food moves through the large intestine through a rhythmic, involuntary series of muscular contractions called peristalsis. Excess liquids are removed from the waste, also called feces, and then released into the rectum for elimination once or twice per day.
There are five main parts of the large intestine:
is a 2-inch long pouch that absorbs digestive fluids from the small intestine and passes the remaining waste on to the colon.
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The cecum has a small closed tube at its base called the appendix
. The appendix is a vestigial organ, meaning that our evolutionary process has made it unnecessary and no longer functional.
While many people refer to the entire large intestine as the colon, the colon
is actually the largest component of the large intestine, and its role is to absorb the majority of remaining water and salt from food waste.
is the component of the large intestine where waste is stored. The rectum also sends signals to the brain that trigger the urge to defecate.
Once it is convenient to eliminate the waste, the sphincter muscle called the anus
relaxes to allow waste to pass out of the body.
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