The liver, pancreas and gall bladder are called accessory organs. This means they work with the GI tract to break down food.
The liver is the largest gland in the body, weighing about 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) in an adult. The liver has many roles in the digestive system. For example, it:
- produces a green fluid called bile, which breaks down fats
- removes wastes and toxins from the body
- breaks down nutrients and stores some vitamins and minerals.
Accessory organs of the digestive system
The pancreas is located below the stomach. It produces a mix of enzymes that together are called pancreatic juice. This juice helps neutralize the very acidic chyme when it enters the small intestine. Pancreatic juice also helps us to digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
The gall bladder is a pouch-shaped organ that stores the bile produced by the liver. The gall bladder shares a vessel, called the common bile duct, with the liver. When bile is needed, it moves through the common bile duct into the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum. It is here that the bile breaks down fat.
Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE