What Does the Duodenum Do?

The duodenum is a part of the small intestine, and it is responsible for some digestive processes. Sometimes called the “anterior intestine,” the duodenum is the first portion of the small intestine, and it immediately follows the stomach in the digestive tract. All mammals, reptiles and amphibians have a duodenum, although its structure differs from one species to the next.

While the stomach holds the acids that help to begin the breakdown of food, most chemical digestion takes place in the duodenum. Most of the iron absorbed from dietary items occurs in the duodenum. Chemicals called enzymes reside in and are excreted by the duodenum, and they help digest food in the digestive tract.

The duodenum plays other roles in digestive processes as well. It alters the rate at which the stomach releases food, affects the secretion of bile from the gall bladder and sets the pace for the digestive system.

Duodenums can become damaged and cause serious health problems for the animal. If too many bacteria penetrate the area, the mucosa can become damaged by the gastric acid of the stomach. If this condition is left untreated, duodenal ulcers may appear, which can cause serious pain in the abdomen.