5 Ways To Simplify Absorption In the Intestines To Students


Food is the spice of life; aside from the aroma and enticing looks, it is also delicious to taste if it's well garnished. However, food has not served its purpose if it's not beneficial to our bodies.

The cells of the body find the food 'tasty' as well. They are the basic functional unit of life, so they require energy to carry out their functions. Meanwhile, this energy mentioned above can only be derived from eating. 

Digestion breaks down complex food molecules into simpler ones to release energy. There is Intestinal digestion that takes place in our body, which makes use of various chemical and mechanical processes to break down the ingested food for absorption by the cell. While on the other hand, there is intracellular digestion, anchored by Lysosomes, a powerful membrane-bound organelle. In both cases, it is remarkable to emphasize the importance of digestive enzymes.

The useful nutrients in digested food particles are absorbed by the Ileum(small intestine). The Colon (large intestine) absorbs excess water in the feces alongside sodium and chloride ions. Moreover, in both processes, the materials are absorbed into the bloodstream, which transports them to all other body cells.

Teaching this topic can be abstract and vague, especially with the enzyme structures and spontaneous cellular reactions. The molecular basis of absorption of food particles into the bloodstream is not visible to the naked eye. The theory can be explained and backed with proven theories. Nonetheless, they seem vague and abstract to students.

Intending to capture the student's attention while ensuring a proper understanding of this topic, we have devised a solution to yield the students' interest and retention. So, hang around till the end of this article to uncover the secrets of capturing students' attention which ultimately gives you the credit of an outstanding teacher.

Absorption In The Small And Large Intestines: A Journey From The Stomach To The Bloodstream  GIF

This GIF is from Labster's Absorption In The Small And Large Intestines: A Journey From The Stomach To The Bloodstream virtual lab.

3 Reasons Why This Is A Tricky Topic To Teach 

1. The Complex Enzymes Involved

Our body is a natural machine made possible with the help of enzymes and other symbiotic cellular organisms.

Enzymes are organic catalysts that speed up the rate of chemical reactions in the body.

Understanding the structure of enzymes and how they can help simplify this topic.

Both intracellularly and extracellularly, digestion is facilitated with the help of enzymes.

Understanding the active sites and substrate relationship can make things easier and factors that affect their normal functioning. 

2. Complicated Anatomical Structures and Relations

The whole digestion process starts from the mouth, but the food does not miraculously disappear to the point of absorption and excretion. There are certain anatomical structures the food has to visit for major chemical processes before getting to the Ileum and Colon for absorption into the bloodstream.

In addition to the gross anatomical structures involved, the blood supply and drainage, innervation, relations with other organs, lymphatics, and even variation in these structures must be accounted for. 

The histology of this process is even more complicated. The various embalmed slides that must be studied show the live action of the functions they serve. Yet, they withhold the complicated structures in the tissues.

Memorizing the anatomy of the digestion and absorption process can be very tedious for students. Visual representation from textbooks can not be enough for proper comprehension. Virtual simulation can be a lot more helpful in this case. In contrast, the students get swayed into experimenting with what is being taught at the molecular and cellular levels up to the system level while enjoying it.

3. The complex Physiology And Biochemistry of Digestion And Absorption 

Knowing about the structures is as important as understanding the functions they perform. The absorption of each nutrient in the ingested food particle into the bloodstream occurs singly following the chemical structure of the molecule, atom, or ion involved. To understand the insight into the whole process, more complex physiology and biochemistry of the gastrointestinal tract is required. This can be boring to students, especially when it is bulky to read.

Five ways to make Absorption In The Intestines a more approachable topic to understand

1. Prerequisite Topics

Some basic topics need to be understood before this topic. Examples of such are Enzymes and enzymatic reactions, histology of the Gastrointestinal tract, and physiology of blood.

The anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract should be treated carefully, as this would enhance the knowledge of the functions of the structures involved. 

Moreover, time is a major factor and can be man's greatest enemy or ally, as the situation implies. There may not be enough time to revise these topics or discuss them elaborately. If such an enigma is encountered, a well-monitored assignment can be dished out to the students. Extra marks may be involved; this would motivate them to do it and drive their curiosity. Luckily it's a win-win situation. The students understand the topic while the teacher gets his job done.

2. Gross Anatomy Practicals

Cadaver can be very useful in this case. The anatomical structures such as the stomach, duodenum, ileum, and colon can be physically touched and examined by the students in the gross anatomy laboratory.

Practical exercises should be given to the student to know their level of comprehension. When the real body senses are involved, retention will be easier. 

3. Histology Slides

The laboratory should have histology slides with a good light microscope for students. The histology slides should be based on the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. 

When the students view them, they will be able to relate each of the tissues to the functions they perform. For example, the small intestine's epithelial cells are conspicuous with their simple squamous epithelium. This aids the absorption of the digested materials while serving protective purposes.

This applies to all other tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. They should be sorted in order of importance so as not to bore the students with too much irrelevant detailed information. 

4. Informative Charts

This is a good visual tool that can enhance the mode of passing across some pieces of information effectively to the students. 

As a teacher, you should know what your students want, how well they are performing and the kind of chart that will be helpful to their situation. You can purchase the charts or make them yourself, either way, ensuring it is captivating and informative.

There are some intricate parts of this topic that involve hormones that regulate certain Gastrointestinal tract movements; a chart can be useful in this scenario. Other crucial charts for this topic include:

a. Anatomy of the Human Gastrointestinal Tract 

The human body has a lot of systems, but the one that will be useful here is the digestive system. A neatly drawn and well-labeled digestive system will be the best deal here.

b. Enzymes Involved in Digestion 

Standard charts in this category include the structure of digestive enzymes, their mode of action, factors affecting their normal functioning,  etc.

c. Absorption process in the Ileum

There are many channels involved in this process, as well as ions. The digested food particles are in their simplest forms such as glucose, polypeptides and triglycerides. Explaining the process of absorption of these food molecules by the channels in the ileum using charts will simplify them.

d. Absorption process in the Colon

Similarly as stated above. The absorption of Na and Cl ions in the large intestine is not visible to the naked eye. A good chart can demonstrate that with attractive and illustrative diagrams

e. Blood as a carrier 

The blood is a circulating fluid with a variety of functions. Understanding the composition of the blood can be helpful. Highlighting these aforementioned points in a chart will make it easier to remember by the students. The blood is a bulky topic to be considered and its relevance is remarkable. 

f. Cellular respiration and Digestion 

This is the final phase of the digestion and absorption process. Every function performed by a living being has a cellular etymology. In short, understanding the basics of cellular structure and function by the students will help in a myriad of ways.

5. Employ Virtual Lab Simulations

Another helpful way to teach this topic in a friendly and intuitive way is through virtual laboratory simulations.

At Labster, we offer a variety of simulation experiments to test students' knowledge of applying the various techniques and theories learned in the classroom. 

The simulations are engaging. There is room for trials and failures, which helps the students build confidence and perfection. The student's progress can also be monitored by the teachers.

The virtual laboratory simulation is short and covers the following areas

  • Well-defined movement of food in the anatomical structures involved (from the mouth to the point of absorption and excretion)

  • Functions of the small and large intestines

  • Histology of the small and large intestines

  • Simplified and friendly animation of the complex small intestine

  • Implications of malnutrition 

absorbtion small intestine

Learn more about the Absorption In The Small And Large Intestines: A Journey From The Stomach To The Bloodstream virtual laboratory simulation.

Get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual labs with your students.

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