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What Are Haustra?

Haustra are small, segmented pouches that line the large intestine.
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  • Originally Written By: Vickie Christensen
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Haustra is the collective name for the small pouches running along the large intestine in humans and many other animals that give the intestine its ribbed, segmented appearance. They’re formed at the intersection of the intestinal wall and longitudinal muscles known as taenie, and play an important role when it comes to processing solid waste and moving it along the intestinal tract. Solid matter is trapped in each pouch, where it is squeezed and where the body extracts water; then, through a series of contractions, it’s moved along to the next pouch or pocket where the routine begins again. Without these pouches, digestion would be a lot more difficult, and problems with regular contractions can lead to a number of gastrointestinal issues. Healthcare experts often recommend that people eat diets high in fiber and lean proteins to help promote proper intestinal function, particularly if they’re prone to problems like diarrhea, cramps, or constipation.

Main Function

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The haustra, which may also be called haustra coli, haustrations of the colon, and sacculations of the colon, are where solid waste begins its transformation into feces, which makes them a really important part of the digestive process. The formation of sacculations increases the surface area of the large intestine, and this helps the colon achieve its three primary functions of retaining, transporting, and finally eliminating digested material as fecal matter. Muscles of the colon move the watery waste material forward and slowly absorb excess water while soluble and insoluble indigestible carbohydrates travel down the large intestine.

As material travels from one haustrum to the next, the intestine removes a majority of the water. Digestive remains are mixed with bacteria and mucus to make feces. Next, this material moves to the ascending colon where more water is removed, and the stools become more solid as they travel along into the descending colon. At this point, intestinal bacteria use some of the fiber to nourish themselves.

Contractions and Puckering

Movement usually happens as a result of haustral contractions, which occur about every 25 minutes. These are painless and can’t usually even be detected by a person. They are more or less an automatic response that causes the colon contents to move to the next segment or pouch.

Development in Humans

The pouches happen as a result of taenial muscle intersections. The taeniae are long narrow muscles in the large intestine. It is the puckering action of the tenia coli that is responsible for circular muscle fibers found at about every inch (2.54 cm) in the large intestine. In between the haustra are semilunar folds, known as the plicae semilunares. Tubes with taeniae and semilunar folds are adaptations, which assist in effective regulation of digesta or items in the alimentary tract undergoing digestion.

Researchers have examined human fetuses to determine when these sacculations or colon tucks first appear, and in most cases they conclude that pouches develop in human fetuses at about the 10th or 11th week of gestation. The taeniae, which are linked to the formation of haustral clefts, also appear at this time.

Common Problems

A number of digestive problems can be traced to defects with these intestinal pouches. Some of the most serious involve situations in which a person’s pouches aren’t regular, which is to say that they don’t occur at sequential intervals the way they’re supposed to. This is most commonly caused by genetic flaw, and is relatively rare. It’s more common to see problems with haustral contractions. When contractions happen too fast, a condition known as “spastic colon” can emerge, which can cause frequent, watery stools. There are a number of things that can cause this, but stress and poor diet are usually among the most common culprits.

Healthcare professionals typically recommend that people eat a diet high in fibers, particularly fruits and whole grains, to optimize intestinal health. Getting plenty of exercise and spending a significant portion of each day standing rather than sitting can also help improve intestinal movement and timing. Certain medications and surgical interventions can help some people, but these sorts of fixes are typically seen as a last resort.

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