Ever wonder how all that food you eat turns into the energy you use every day? You might not think about your intestines very often, but they’re probably at work right now, helping your body absorb needed nutrients.\nYour intestines are the main organs that absorb essential nutrients from the foods you eat. Broken up into the small intestine and the large intestine, both have very important roles in how your body works. Below, you’ll find information about these organs that will help you understand their important roles.\nWhat Is the Small Intestine?\nThe longer of your two intestines, your small intestine is between twenty and thirty feet long and absorbs most of your food. There are three major sections of your small intestine which include:\n\nDuodenum: Mixes semi-digested food with bile from your gallbladder, liver, and pancreas to break down food further\nJejunum: Absorbs fatty acids, sugars, and amino acids\nIleum: Absorbs most of the nutrients before passing food along to the large intestine\n\nWhat Is the Large Intestine?\nAfter passing through your small intestine, food then moves to the large intestine. Around five feet long, the large intestine absorbs salts and liquid left over from the digestive process.\nMost nutrients are already absorbed by the time food enters your large intestine. Some substances are left over, including:\n\nFiber\nPlant material (which is hard to digest)\nDead cells\nWater\nBile pigments\n\nAfter passing through the colon for reabsorption, these substances exit your body in the form of waste through your anus.\nCommon intestinal diseases and conditions\nYour intestines have the largest surface area in your body, around 250 square meters, which allows your body to achieve maximum food absorption. Many diseases can affect your intestines, causing painful symptoms, like diarrhea, fever and fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, weight loss and reduced appetite, and more.\nSome of these disorders include:\n\nInflammatory bowel disease, which is comprised of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis\nColon polyps and colorectal cancer\nFunctional bowel disorders, including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)\nDiverticular disease\nShort gut syndrome\n\nMedical or surgical treatment of intestinal failure\nWhile many intestinal diseases and conditions can be treated with medicines, lifestyle changes, and other therapies, some diseases may require an intestinal transplant. In the transplant, the diseased section of intestine is removed and replaced with a healthy donor’s intestine. Although it is considered a major surgery, many patients are able to restore their normal diet. Your transplant team will talk with you about of all the risks and benefits of the surgery.\nUPMC intestinal transplant teams offer a multidisciplinary approach making sure all aspects of your care are treated. For more information or to make an appointment please call 412-647-5800 or visit the UPMC Transplant Services website.