Stem cells in the intestinal epithelium give rise to enterocytes, goblet cells, enteroendocrine cells, and Paneth cells. Each of these cell lines plays a role in cytoprotection of the intestinal mucosa. In particular, it has been demonstrated that mature enterocytes can act as antigen presenting cells. Parenteral and enteral nutrition are used to nourish critically ill patients. However, these regimens are unfortunately associated with gut atrophy. Glutamine, the preferred intestinal nutrient, reverses this gut atrophy and plays a key role in maintaining the barrier function of the gut. Specific nutrients (putrescine, spermidine, spermine) have been used to modulate intestinal adaption. In addition, ornithine has been shown to act as a regulator of intestinal adaption. In this review, we discuss the relationship between the biology of enterocytes and failure of the gut barrier.