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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Your very own internal border wall

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Within your intestines is your very own border patrol and border wall; so efficient it would put the wall construction border protecting aspirations of the president of a certain northern hemisphere country to shame: it’s an internal mucous-covered shag-pile carpet.  This is probably not the most appealing image to ponder, but fortunately it’s all hidden from our direct view. That border has an important role.

Living on the mucous are colonies of helpful bacteria. They pick up food particles then digest them into a form that we prefer to take in. Also present are enzyme molecules, which transform food rather like a tradesman will use tools. Immune cells lounge about here too. For all involved, that border checkpoint is a comfortable place to live.
There’s a few different ways nutrients make it across the border into your bloodstream. One is to just be allowed to pass through. These travellers have molecular ‘passports’ signalling they’re safe, and your immune system gives them the nod to seep through. Another is to be ‘assisted’ across, where a helpful molecule tucks the particle under its arm and carries it through; rather like an immigration agent.

There are many substances your body doesn’t want to let through, too; non-food substances, bad bacteria and the like. The strong barrier needs to hold.

But if your bowels become inflamed, though, the mucous barrier isn’t produced, the enzymes have nowhere to live, and the colonies of helpful bacteria shrink.  Now, not only can unwanted substances pass through without checking but, the usual process of nutrient absorption just doesn’t happen. For you, in the long term, this means more health problems, now from malnourishment.

What causes that protective barrier to disappear? Stress is the number one culprit, as cortisol produced in response to an alarming event stops the production of protective mucous. An influx of pathogenic (disease producing) bacteria that overwhelms the border patrol is another culprit, as is continuing to eat food that ignites an immune response; just like any war zone, normal function comes to a halt around the site of the battle and there’s quite a bit of damage. 

It’s not an unhealthy obsession to keep a close eye on your gut health: without a functioning gut border little of the nutrients from good food will get through. So if you’re managing a chronic health problem that just won’t seem to sort itself out, perhaps it’s worth taking a look inside your tummy function.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'nine clues that all is not well with your gut' 


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