How the digestive system works.
We often don’t think about how our bodies work until there’s a problem. But we think it’s helpful to know more about the digestive system and how this affects the way your surgeon will form your stoma.
The digestive system
Our digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the main organs that help digestion, including the mouth, salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, small intestine, colon (large bowel or large intestine) and rectum. As food moves down the digestive tract from the mouth, these body parts all work together to break down food and liquids and use the various components in different ways to keep our bodies healthy.
The small bowel (or small intestine)
Between the stomach and large intestine lies the small intestine. This is where most of the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream from digested food. It uses enzymes along with the liver and pancreas to break down food. If problems occur with the small intestine your body can’t get enough nutrients and water from the food you eat. Common problems with the small bowel include Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, Intestinal Cancer and Peptic Ulcers. If any illness or injury stops the small intestine from its usual function, a stoma may be formed. This is known as an ileostomy.
The colon (large bowel or large intestine)
Towards the end of the digestive tract is the large intestine or colon. Its main function is to absorb water and salts from any undigested food and pass any leftover products as a stool, with the help of the rectum and anus. Common conditions that cause colon problems include Colitis, Irritable Bowel Disease, Polyps and Colon Cancer. If the colon can’t perform its required function, a stoma may be formed. This is called a colostomy.
The rectum is part of the sigmoid colon that runs from the end of the large intestine to the start of the anus. It can range from 10 to 15 cm long and is responsible for carrying waste out of the body. If a surgical procedure requires all or part of the rectum to be removed, patients may need a temporary or permanent colostomy or ileostomy while the area heals.