Large Intestine

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The large intestine is considered either the last or the second to last section of the digestive tract, depending on which definition you use. Some consider the large intestine to include the colon, cecum, rectum and anus. Others consider the anus to be a separate section, and the last section of the digestive tract. In this description we consider the anus to be part of the large intestine. The primary responsibility of the large intestine is to extract water and salt from digestive products before they are eliminated from the body as waste. Read on to learn more about the large intestine, and its role in digestion.

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Large Intestine

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Large Intestine
Large Intestine

Large intestine follows the small intestine in the digestive tract. It is approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and 2-1/2 inches (6.3 cm) in diameter.

The large intestine consists of seven sections. These include the cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum, and anus.

The cecum is the first part of the large intestine, and is connected to the ileum of the small intestine. It is basically a pouch that receives waste from the small intestine. The cecum is separated from the ileum by the ileocecal valve. The valve controls the amount of waste released to the large intestine, and prevents waste in the large intestine from going back into the ileum. The main function of the cecum is to absorb water and salts from the waste, and to mix the waste with mucus that provides lubrication easing passage through the large intestine.

The cecum passes the waste on to the ascending colon. The ascending colon extends upwards from the cecum to the level of the liver, then bends sharply to the left and crosses the abdomen as the transverse colon. It then becomes the descending colon as it heads downward towards the lower abdomen where it becomes the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon becomes the rectum and anus.

The main functions of the large intestine are absorption of water and minerals, and the formation and elimination of feces.

 

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