Throughout our lifetime, the intestine changes. Some alterations in its form and function may be genetically determined, and some are the result of adaptation to diet, temperature, or stress. The critical period programming of the intestine can be modified, such as from subtle differences in the types and ratios of n3:m6 fatty acids in the diet of the pregnant mother, or in the diet of the weanlings. This early forced adaptation may persist in later life, such as the unwanted increased intestinal absorption of sugars, fatty acids and cholesterol. Thus, the ontogeny, early growth and development of the intestine is important for the adult gastroenterologist to appreciate, because of the potential for these early life events to affect the responsiveness of the intestine to physiological or pathological challenges in later life.