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Normal physiology of the gastrointestinal system 

Normal physiology of the gastrointestinal system
Normal physiology of the gastrointestinal system

Annika Reintam Blaser

and Adam M. Deane

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date: 03 July 2022

The gastrointestinal (GI) system is responsible for digestion and absorption, but also has important endocrine, immune and barrier functions. Additionally, the GI system plays a major role in fluid, electrolyte and acid-base balance. The GI system is regulated by complex myogenic, neural and humoral mechanisms, and, in health, these are affected by the presence of luminal nutrient, thereby modulating function of the GI system. Accordingly, GI function varies depending on whether a person is fasted or in the postprandial state. Adequate fasting and postprandial perfusion, motility and exocrine secretion are required for ‘normal’ functioning. The protective mechanisms of the GI system consist of physical (intact gut mucosa), non-immune (gastric acid, intestinal mucin, bile and peristalsis) and immune (gut-associated lymphoid tissue, GALT) elements. Disruption of GI protection is a putative mechanism underlying the development of multiple-organ dysfunction syndrome. Maintenance of GI function is increasingly recognised as an important factor underlying survival in critical illness.

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