These are small hair-like protusions from the intestinal wall into the intestines. They maximise the surface area available for the passage of food and water- the bigger the surface area the more nutrients can diffuse across at the same time. If the villi are damaged, less absorption occurs and malnutrition may occur.

Villi are broad and leaf-like in the duodenum, tall and thin in the jejunum, and short and broad in the ileum. Small capillaries and lacteals present in the villi allow the products of digestion to be absorbed into the circulatory and/or lymphatic systems. [1]

Part of the theory behind the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is that the ingestion of certain sugars (specifically lactose from milk and sucrose which is table sugar) can cause damage to the microvilli of cells, making it harder for these cells to absorb nutrtients. The elimination of these sugars is therefore thought to heal the villi.


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