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Structure Defines Function: An Overview of the Digestive, Sensing, Barrier, and Immune Functions of the Gut 

Structure Defines Function: An Overview of the Digestive, Sensing, Barrier, and Immune Functions of the Gut
Chapter:
Structure Defines Function: An Overview of the Digestive, Sensing, Barrier, and Immune Functions of the Gut
Author(s):

Thomas G. Guilliams

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190933043.003.0002
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date: 24 June 2021

This chapter will outline the basic features that define the interface functions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, emphasizing its barrier, digestive, elimination, and sensing functions. Since the GI tract is the largest biological interface with the external environment, understanding how it functions and remains healthy is vital for all medical practitioners. Through a description of the different architectural features and cell types that progressively change from the stomach to the distal colon, this chapter will show that the distinctive functions of the GI tract are geographically defined by these structures. Failure in one important function of the GI tract inevitably increases the burden on others; culminating in an increased burden on the immune system, which inevitably triggers a compensatory innate inflammatory response and leads to a wide range of GI and non-GI signs and symptoms.

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