Effects of dietary components on intestinal permeability in health and disease

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2020 Nov 1;319(5):G589-G608. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00245.2020. Epub 2020 Sep 9.


Altered intestinal permeability plays a role in many pathological conditions. Intestinal permeability is a component of the intestinal barrier. This barrier is a dynamic interface between the body and the food and pathogens that enter the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, dietary components can directly affect this interface, and many metabolites produced by the host enzymes or the gut microbiota can act as signaling molecules or exert direct effects on this barrier. Our aim was to examine the effects of diet components on the intestinal barrier in health and disease states. Herein, we conducted an in-depth PubMed search based on specific key words (diet, permeability, barrier, health, disease, and disorder), as well as cross references from those articles. The normal intestinal barrier consists of multiple components in the lumen, epithelial cell layer and the lamina propria. Diverse methods are available to measure intestinal permeability. We focus predominantly on human in vivo studies, and the literature is reviewed to identify dietary factors that decrease (e.g., emulsifiers, surfactants, and alcohol) or increase (e.g., fiber, short-chain fatty acids, glutamine, and vitamin D) barrier integrity. Effects of these dietary items in disease states, such as metabolic syndrome, liver disease, or colitis are documented as examples of barrier dysfunction in the multifactorial diseases. Effects of diet on intestinal barrier function are associated with precise mechanisms in some instances; further research of those mechanisms has potential to clarify the role of dietary interventions in treating diverse pathologic states.

Keywords: diet; food; gut barrier; microbiota; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Disease
  • Food
  • Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Permeability*