The Physiological Process in Bowel Elimination

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  • 0:00 Bowel Elimination
  • 0:56 Large Intestine
  • 2:21 Rectum
  • 3:10 Anus
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Bowel elimination is the way your digestive tract rids itself of solid wastes. Learn how the foods you eat are stripped of their nutrients and prepared for removal. Discover the structures, movements, and reflexes involved in bowel elimination.

Bowel Elimination

In my neighborhood, every Tuesday is trash day. I typically have two bags of trash that I sit out on the curb. The bags are filled with empty containers and objects that no longer have any use. So, I'm always thankful when trash day comes around because it allows me to rid my home of solid wastes.

In some ways, your body has its own form of housecleaning. It's called bowel elimination, which is the way your body rids itself of solid wastes from the digestive tract. These wastes, or feces, are the remnants of undigested food that have passed through your large intestine, or bowel. Along the journey, most of the valuable nutrients and much of the water was removed from the food remnants, and the fecal matter that remains is no longer of use to your body. In this lesson, we will learn about how feces moves through and is eliminated from the bowel.

Large Intestine

By the time the remnants of your dinner make it to your large intestine, they have been chopped and tossed and doused with powerful digestive juices. These processes broke down the food, and stripped it of most of its useful products. Therefore, the functions of the large intestine are few. It absorbs some of the remaining water and nutrients from the fecal matter and moves it toward the rectum. The rectum is the last section of the large intestine that acts as a temporary storage space for feces before elimination. But, before we discuss what happens in the rectum, it's important to learn how the feces moves through the main part of the large intestine, called the colon.

Wastes don't just flow through your colon; they are propelled by two main types of movements known as peristalsis and mass movements. While peristalsis, which is a wavelike series of muscular contractions, is not as propulsive in the large intestine as it was in earlier areas of the digestive tract, it does play a role in moving feces through the colon. More of the movement of feces through the colon is thanks to the mass movements, which are strong, slow-moving contractions that move through the large intestine one to four times a day. Even though mass movements are powerful contractions, you likely don't even notice them as they move over your colon and force feces toward the rectum.


When feces arrives in the rectum, the rectal walls stretch. This stretching activates the defecation reflex, which is simply the reflex that stimulates the desire to defecate, or have a bowel movement.

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