The Gateway to Disease or Health: You and Your Intestine.by Dr. Michael Austin, Chiropractic Physician on Feb. 20, 2013, under Diet, Health
In the Medical world there is not much attention given to intestinal health unless of course there is an outright pathology. In which case there is an intervention of either drugs or surgery. In the Integrative Healthcare Model intestinal health is key to overall health and well being.
In order to understand how intestinal health impacts your overall health it is important to first understand the intestines structure and function. Below is a cross section drawing of both the small and large intestine.
While the text is probably too small for you to read, you just need to see the finger like projections on the inner surface of the intestine called Villi. The function of villi is to increase the surface area in a relatively small diameter. What can’t be seen here are the microscopic villi that make up the surface area of the villi, microscopic fingers on the surface of the visible finger.
Collectively the villi and micro villi extend the surface area if the intestine from a few square feet to about 2500 – 2700 square feet, or roughly equivalent to the area of a tennis court. That’s pretty big and an amazing use of functional design by nature to maximize the absorptive surface area.
To describe the cellular lining of the micro villi let me use and an analogy. If I line up a bunch of bricks as if I were constructing a walkway and I then put mortar between the bricks to hold them together then coated the bricks with a protective yet permeable layer this would be a good simple visual for us to work with. So the bricks are the intestinal cells of the micro villi, the mortar equals the “gap junctions” holding the cells together. Finally the permeable yet protective coating equals the mucosa or mucous/ jelly like layer. At a very basic level this is the structure of the intestinal lining.
The basic function of the intestine is to absorb nutrients from the food and water we ingest and excrete the waste products from our body. As well as provide a first line of defense from pathogens the was our skin does. Easy enough right?
Now you might be asking what does any of that have to do with my health beyond absorbing and excreting? The answer is everything.
The intestinal cell lining, like your skin, keeps bacteria, viruses and other pathogens from entering your body and making you sick. If you get a cut or large wound in the skin you are open to infection. The same thing happens if the intestinal integrity is compromised; you become susceptible to infection and worse because an opening in the intestine leads directly into your abdominal cavity.
In the next issue – We’ll continue our discussion on intestine and its impact on your overall health and well-being.
Here is a teaser:
Which has more neurons, your brain or your intestine?
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Answer; Your intestine.