A. Background

The stomach, intestines (small and large), liver, gallbladder, and pancreas operate as a physiological unit to effect the digestion and absorption of bodily nutrients. A discussion of the principal pancreatic hormones, insulin and glucagon, is presented in Chapter 7. This chapter will focus only on the gastrointestinal hormones.

The gastrointestinal hormones are a family of polypeptides produced by specialized endocrine cells present in the stomach and small and large intestines, which function both as traditional hormonal messengers and as neurotransmitters. These hormones mediate a variety of specific biological responses by the stomach, small intestine, both the endocrine and exocrine pancreas, liver, and gallbladder, which, when integrated, optimize the physiological conditions necessary to permit the efficient digestion and absorption of protein, carbohydrates, and fat from the lumen of the intestine.

Gastrointestinal function is modulated by a complex series of hormonal and neural interrelationships. There is also increasing evidence of neuroendocrine communication between the brain and gut that provides an additional level of integration and complexity to these digestive processes.


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