Gastrointestinal surface protection and mucosa reconditioning

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1995 Sep-Oct;19(5):410-5. doi: 10.1177/0148607195019005410.


Background: There is increasing evidence that preservation of the ecology of the gastrointestinal tract and the surface protection system--surfactants, mucus, and fiber--is important for the outcome in postoperative trauma patients, patients after bone marrow and liver transplantation, and patients with HIV or AIDS. Approximately 50% of the nourishment of the small intestine and > 80% of the nourishment of the large intestine comes from the lumen. This is especially deleterious to the large intestine. Within less than a week of intestinal starvation--even in the presence of intense parenteral nutrition--a mucosal atrophy is observed, promoting translocation of potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Enteral nutrition is crucial to the outcome in many of these conditions. If however, such a nutrition is based on simple carbohydrates, peptides, amino acids, or fatty acids, most of the nutrition administered will be absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Complex fibers and proteins can be regarded as nutrients especially destined to the lower gastrointestinal tract. They are fermented by the probiotic flora, normally colonizing the colonic mucosa, and the necessary nutrients: short-chain fatty acids and amino acids such as arginine and glutamine are produced at the level of the colonic mucosa. Careless antibiotic treatment reduces or eliminates this flora, induces local mucosal starvation, and makes the patients vulnerable to opportunistic infections and microbial intestinal translocation.

Methods and results: In this review the role of the different ingredients of the surface protection system are discussed. A program to recondition the intestines, particularly the colonic mucosa by resupply of species-specific lactobacilli, surfactants, amino acids (especially glutamine), and oat fiber (beta-glucans) is suggested. Extensive experience in animal models and early experience in a patient population are summarized and discussed. Oat has been chosen as a substrate for fermentation because it contains 100 times more of membrane lipids (surfactants) than any other food, has a favorable amino acid pattern (rich in glutamine), and is rich in water-soluble, fermentable-fiber beta-glucans. More than 1000 isolates of human-specific lactobacilli have been studied. Some strains, especially those of plantarum type, have proven effective in colonizing the colonic mucosa, suppressing the potentially pathogenetic flora, and may have other probiotic effects as well.

Conclusion: A totally new enteral formula has been designed based on probiotic bacteria and fiber and aimed at colonizing the intestinal mucosa with a local probiotic effect and fermentation of fiber.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avena
  • Digestive System / chemistry
  • Digestive System / microbiology
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Fermentation
  • Glutathione / administration & dosage
  • Glutathione / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / chemistry
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Mucus / physiology
  • Phospholipids / analysis
  • Phospholipids / physiology


  • Phospholipids
  • Glutathione