Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the boundary between the external and the internal world. The GI tract’s function is to allow enough of the external world to be absorbed to allow life to be sustained but not so much that homeostasis is disturbed, leading to disease and possible death. The absorptive process of the intestines takes place primarily as a result of diffusion, carrier transport, and endocytosis. When too great or too small a quantity of nutrients and substances is absorbed, the balance of life is challenged. The GI tract’s protective role qualifies it as one of the largest immune organs in the body, responsible for protecting the internal milieu.
A Healthy GI Tract’s
Effect on Overall Health
Many chronic disease states arise from inadequate functioning of the GI tract. Any state of functioning that is less than optimal results in the inability of the body to control its exposure to harmful external factors.
Illness frequently arises when the total load of toxins and external substances accumulates to deleterious levels as a result of increased permeability and parasitic infections. It is critical in the pursuit of health to optimize GI integrity, thus minimizing disruptive xenobiotic and other exposures. (See box entitled Supportive Measures for Protecting GI Functioning.)
Proper Intestinal Permeability
When the intestinal tract is functioning properly, it allows for the transport of sufficient nutrients to nourish the body yet offers adequate filtration of molecules that can result in harm. Increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut syndrome), on the other hand, leads to a myriad of potential health consequences. This arises from the increased absorption of xenobiotics, antigens, immune complexes, intact microorganisms, and endotoxins. Chronic disruption of GI permeability has been associated with a predisposition to developing autoimmune diseases, liver dysfunction, and arthritic and other degenerative diseases. (See box entitled Conditions Associated With Disrupted Intestinal Permeability.)