Volume 1 Issue 6

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Maintaining a Healthy Gastrointestinal Barrier is Essential for Optimal Immune Function Of the physical barriers between your internal organs and the outside world, your gastrointestinal tract is of primary importance. The gastrointestinal tract is like an internal skin, but it has about 150 times more surface than your outside skin. It also contains the largest number of immune cells of your whole body, constituting approximately 60% of your entire immune system. It may be surprising that the gastrointestinal tract has more of your immune system localized within it than any other organ in your body; however, it has a into contact with the largest amount and number of different molecules and organisms of any organ in your whole body. Just as an example, the average person ingests more than 25 tons of food over his or her lifetime. Unlike your skin or even your lungs, your damaging molecules and pathogenic organism, while still letting in the nutrients and food components your body needs to survive. So, it has to be selective in its protection. The gastrointestinal mucosal layer has the unique role of keeping out damaging molecules and organisms, like harmful bacteria and viruses, while allowing in only the health-promoting nutrients, molecules and substances. In a perfect scenario, substances and organisms never make it across this barrier and are excreted from your body. defense. Studies have shown that diets low in choline result in low levels of phosphatidylcholine. Maintaining healthy cells within the tissues that constitute your barriers, including your gastrointestinal tract is also vital for optimal health. Vitamin A plays an important role in supporting the cells of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and lungs. The epithelial cells, which constitute the main barriers that separate you from the external environment, plus vitamin A promotes the formation of the protective mucous in your gastrointestinal tract. Phosphatidylcholine is a component of your cell membranes, and therefore choline-rich foods also support healthy cell membranes. Essential fatty acids, such as those monounsaturated fatty acids, such as those in olive oil, can also support healthy gastrointestinal cells by promoting healthy membranes. and vegetables, promote a healthy gastrointestinal system in several ways. They are fermented by the friendly bacteria in your colon to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are used as a fuel by gastrointestinal SCFAs also promote a healthy gastrointestinal barrier. Fiber also promotes the removal of toxins that can adversely affect your gastrointestinal tract cells and supports healthy digestive function overall. The foods you eat can provide support for this barrier or cause damage to it. For instance, alcohol consumption is known to irritate the gastric (stomach) mucosal barrier. Some drugs, for example, the nonibuprofen also can harm this barrier. Many nutrients help to support a healthy barrier. Foods that are high in phosphatidylcholine or its precursor, choline, gastrointestinal barrier since phosphatidylcholine is one of the components of the protective mucosa that Abby's Magazine - November / December 2013 | Page 19

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