Intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) lining the gastrointestinal tract establish a barrier between external environments and the internal milieu. An intact intestinal barrier maintains gut health and overall good health of the body by preventing from tissue injury, pathogen infection and disease development. When the intestinal barrier function is compromised, bacterial translocation can occur. Our gut microbiota also plays a fundamentally important role in health, for example, by maintaining intestinal barrier integrity, metabolism and modulating the immune system, etc. Any disruption of gut microbiota composition (also termed dysbiosis) can lead to various pathological conditions. In short, intestinal barrier and gut microbiota are two crucial factors affecting gut health. The gastrointestinal tract is a complex environment exposed to many dietary components and commensal bacteria. Dietary components are increasingly recognized to play various beneficial roles beyond basic nutrition, resulting in the development of the functional food concepts. Various dietary modifiers, including the consumption of live bacteria (probiotics) and ingestible food constituents such as prebiotics, as well as polyphenols or synbiotics (combinations of probiotics and prebiotics) are the most well characterized dietary bioactive compounds and have been demonstrated to beneficially impact the gut health and the overall well-being of the host. In this review we depict the roles of intestinal epithelium and gut microbiota in mucosal defence responses and the influence of certain functional food components on the modulation of gut health, with a particular focus on probiotics, prebiotics and polyphenols.
Keywords: Bacterial translocation; functional food; gut health; gut microbiota; intestinal integrity.