In Depth: Organs
The small intestine occupies most of the space within the abdominal cavity. This 21-foot long tube is where the majority of digestion occurs. The small intestine breaks down fats, starches, and proteins into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed. The food you eat takes three to eight hours to work its way through the small intestine.
Despite it’s misleading name, the large intestine is shorter (about five feet) than the small intestine, but it is larger in girth. It is the last part of the digestive tract and made up of the cecum, colon, and rectum.
At the height of the abdominal cavity is the liver, the body’s largest organ. It acts like a filtration system. It rids the body of toxins and produces bile to aid the process of metabolism, which is how food gets broken down.
The gallbladder is a small sac near the liver that holds extra bile made by the liver until it is pumped into the small intestine. Bile helps break down fat.
Directly below the liver, the stomach stores food and prepares it for digestion. Digestive juices and stomach muscles churn the food to break it down further before it passes into the small intestine.
The pancreas is yet another gland that produces enzymes to help your body digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also makes hormones that help regulate the distribution of nutrients, including sugar.
A woman’s lower abdominal region contains the uterus, a pear-shaped hollow organ located between the bladder and rectum in a woman’s abdomen. It consists of two main parts:
- Cervix: The lowest part of the uterus, the cervix is the narrow portion that leads to the vagina.
- Corpus: This is a two-layered body of the uterus. The spongy inside layer is meant to nourish a fertilized egg, and the muscular outer layer is designed to expand during pregnancy to accommodate the developing fetus. The corpus also contracts during childbirth to help deliver the child. The corpus is also commonly referred to as the womb.