How do the intestines work?

The bowels (intestines) receive food from the stomach. The food that people eat is mashed up in the stomach, and then it goes to the small and large bowels. The main job of the small bowel is to take the nutrients from food. The body needs nutrients to work properly.

After the nutrients are taken out, the food moves into the large bowel. The cells in the large bowel squeeze the water out of the food. Once that’s done, everything left is squished together to make poop (stool). The muscle walls in the large intestine move the poop toward the person's bottom.

Dr. Muslim Atiq, MD

Our intestinal tract works by absorbing our food and breaking it down into the nutrients we need and into waste products- nutrients we don't need. Peristalsis are the rhythmic contractions that move food and waste along the digestive tract. Absorption takes place in the small intestine where the nutrients pass through the villi (fingerlike projections) intestinal wall and go into the blood stream. The liver produces bile, which is secreted into the intestine and helps break down fat. The pancreas produces enzymes (lipase and amylase) that are also secreted into the small intestine to help break down fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. From the small intestine, undigested food and some water travel to the large intestine. Here, water is absorbed and stool is formed.

Continue Learning about Digestive Health

What Your Poo Says About You
What Your Poo Says About You
Bowel movements are not exactly dinner party conversation. You may even be too embarrassed to talk about them with your doctor. That’s a mistake, thou...
Read More
How can I get my digestion back on track?
Natasha Turner, NDNatasha Turner, ND
You can get your digestion back on track and optimize fat burning by removing foods that trigger inf...
More Answers
Embarrassing Stomach Issues, Solved
Embarrassing Stomach Issues, SolvedEmbarrassing Stomach Issues, SolvedEmbarrassing Stomach Issues, SolvedEmbarrassing Stomach Issues, Solved
Find out if your gas, grunts and growls are normal and what to do about them.
Start Slideshow
Should I Avoid Foods That Contain Gluten If I Don't Have Celiac Disease?
Should I Avoid Foods That Contain Gluten If I Don't Have Celiac Disease?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.