Your First-Line Immune Defense: The Mucosal Barrier Of The Gut

Your First-Line Immune Defense The mucosal barrier—your first-line immune defense—refers to all of the mucous membranes that comprise the primary interface between the external environment and the internal environment of the body. This mucosal barrier lets beneficial things into your general circulation and keeps harmful ones out.

To clarify this, an analogy can be made between the earth’s ozone layer and your body’s mucosal barriers. The ozone layer lets the right amount of sunlight through, sustaining life on earth; your mucosal barriers allow nutrients through, sustaining your health. The ozone layer prevents harmful radiation from getting through; the mucosal barriers prevent infectious agents and allergens from invading your body. But just as our planet has a damaged ozone layer, many of us have damaged mucosal barriers.

Consequently, we are not protected from harmful substances such as parasites, viruses, and bacteria. No disease or symptom needs to be present to warrant protecting the mucosal barrier of the intestines; keeping it healthy helps to keep us strong and disease-resistant.

Strengthening the gut lining is applicable to relieving and avoiding the impacts of asthma, arthritis, food allergies, ulcers, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, autoimmune diseases, alcoholism, chronic fatigue, joint pain, migraines, diarrhea, parasitic infections, dysbiosis, candidiasis, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes, all of which can have their origin in harmful substances entering the body from the intestines. Inflammation—commonly caused by food intolerances and infections—damages these tissues.

Sustained internal dysbiosis contributes to the clinical manifistaion of atopic and autoimmune disorders. A study of alopecia was performed by on 50 patients with alopecia by examining their intestines. 79% of the patients with alopecia had intestinal dysbiosis. The growth of opportunistic pathogens such as Enterococcus, Klebisella, Candida, etc was obtained in 94.3% of the patients. (Kornishera et al Immunopathology, allergology, infectionology 2012;2:106-110)

 

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This image illustrates the shape and components of a healthy mucosal barrier. In the image below, we see a healthy mucosal lining (left) and one with collapsed tissues—caused by inflammation—on the right. When the finger-like projections called villi collapse visible on the right—harmful organisms are harbored and given a safe place to thrive, while nutrient absorption becomes compromised. The promotion of healing and protection against such damage is paramount to overall health and disease prevention.

 

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Nourish and Restore

Healing of the mucosal barrier can occur when the causes of inflammation are removed and targeted nutrition is delivered. We recommend functional medicine testing  to determine the causes of inflammation and nutritional deficiencies that contribute to the condition.  A simple Secretory IgA Saliva Test is a great test to determine inflammation followed by a IgG4 Food Antibodies functional medicine test to identify offending foods.

Mucosal surfaces are the first lines of defense against invasion and colonization by pathogenic microorganisms. The principal molecule of mucosal immune responses is
Secretory IgA (sIgA), which is produced by activated B cells.  IgA is the only immunoglobulin isotype that can be selectively passed across mucosal walls to reach the lumens of organs lined with mucosal cells. An imbalance of protective SIgA can result in a compromised mucosal immunity and eventual gastrointestinal, immunological and neurological disorders.

Our nutritional supplements are specifically formulated to accelerate repair of the mucosal barrier of the gut wall, restoring healthy form and function to damaged tissue. They reduced overall inflammation and supports the liver by preventing toxins from leaking through and damaging this organ, while soothing and restoring the intestinal lining.

A principal component in many of our products  is the amino acid Glutamine. Glutamine’s ability to heal the mucosal barrier cells and tissue is well known in nutritional science, as is its role in reducing the amount of toxins that penetrate through the barrier into the bloodstream. Glutamine is arguably the most important amino acid given its ability to rebuild tissues and strengthen immune function.

At Balanced Body Wellness Centre, we utilize  a synergistic mix of botanicals that reduces gut inflammation and assists in tissue repair. These nutrients are combined with the soothing and restorative ingredients like quercetin, MSM, bromelain, and they act as a cohesive healing force. These can improve mucosal barrier integrity, contributing to improved nutrient absorption and protection against foreign agents.

Some of the wonderful botanical herbs we utilized are:

  • Deglycyrrhized Licorice Root Extract
    • Deglycyrrhized licorice (DGL) increases the quantity and quality of the natural protective substances that line the intestinal tract and increases the blood supply to the intestinal lining.
  • Hawthorne Leaf and Flower Extract
    • More potent than berry extract. Well known for its effectiveness at reducing the risk of heart disease, hawthorn berry extract gently dilates the coronary vessels, increasing the supply of arterial blood to the heart. This action enhances circulation and oxygen utilization throughout the mucosal tissues.
  • Milk Thistle Seed Extract (Standardized to Contain 80% Silymarin)
    • Milk thistle has been shown to support healthy liver function and decrease blood sugar levels, both actions that contribute to the healing process stimulated by the formula. The extract helps the liver manage the burden of extra toxins permeating through a compromised mucosal barrier.
  • Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) Root Extract(Standardized to Contain 0.8% Eleutherosides)
    • In studies, eleuthero appears to boost immune system function by increasing the activity of immune system cells. By helping the body to tolerate mental and physical stress, it promotes tissue repair and supports mucosal immune activity.
  • Slippery Elm Bark
    • Slippery elm bark has noted anti-inflammatory activity and is very rich in mucilage, a complex mixture of polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates). Because the mucilage resists digestion by stomachs acids and enzymes, the bark exacts a soothing action throughout the entire digestive system.
  • Turmeric Root Extract (Standardized to Contain 95% Curcumin)
    • Studies indicate that the curcumin in turmeric root has anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit COX-2 activity. COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain. The low incidence of colorectal cancers observed in Asia is thought to be linked to high dietary intake of turmeric.

Treatment focuses on decreasing the mucosal inflammation via strict adherence to refraining from consumption of offending foods that are inflammatory in nature, of increasing consumption of the positive foods, proteolytic enzymes,  and healing botanicals.

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