Meet your mucosal lining

Your mucosal lining is actually more than one thing; it’s linings (plural), and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. This is the moist layer that aids in the absorption and secretion of substances in the body. And if your mucosal linings aren’t happy, that’s a problem.

Mucosal lining covers two really important systems in your body: your intestinal tract and your respiratory system. That’s right, the same stuff that lines your intestines also lines your lungs. In both Eastern and Western medical philosophies, these two systems are linked: If the mucosal lining in your intestine has a problem, then you might also have a lung issue. I see this connection frequently in my clinical practice—for example, it’s not uncommon for people with asthma to also suffer from constipation.

Let’s take a closer look at how the mucosal lining functions in your intestines.

Your GI tract mucosal lining

When food hits your digestive tract, it’s beginning a journey — it’s broken down in stages, and can take up to 50 hours for what remains of a meal to leave your body. That means that food is in contact with your mucosal lining — the stuff that lines your intestines — for a long time. Some people are more efficient at this than others. For example, women typically take longer to digest food than men. Vegetarians and vegans also tend to digest food more quickly.

In my clinics, I find that people experiencing weight loss plateaus often aren’t digesting their food as efficiently as they could be. That means food is in contact with their mucosal lining for a longer period of time, and that can mean more time for problems to arise.

When you eat food, it goes on a journey, deep down through your body. Your first exposure to food can cause inflammation, and when this happens, I usually suspect that the I-Burn is in order because it is a fast-acting plan. After your initial reaction to food, as you begin to digest it and your body begins to assimilate the nutrients, you can experience some other problems. These are primarily related to the food’s contact with your mucosal lining.

For both your GI tract and your lungs, the mucosal lining is sort a gatekeeper; it decides what gets absorbed, and what gets rejected. So when you eat foods, those nutrients are absorbed and enter your bloodstream because the mucosal lining allows them through. This is the main way nutrients get into your system, because the mucosal lining manages this interaction between gut, lungs, and bloodstream. The mucosal lining also aids digestion by secreting enzymes to help you digest food. A healthy mucosal lining also provides a home for friendly gut bacteria (that further helps with digestion) and it helps keep your immune system humming.

When something goes wrong

When your mucosal lining isn’t functioning properly, however, it can lead to a whole series of problems. For example, if food substances, particularly proteins, get through and into the bloodsteam where they shouldn’t be, this can trigger anything from allergic reactions to autoimmune disease (called leaky gut syndrome). In short, your body can become a metabolic mess without a healthy mucosal lining.

And if a mucosal problem becomes an ongoing issue, the body responds by developing solid yellow fat — which can often settle around the torso — giving you a barrel-chested look, or a solid protruding belly. It’s almost as if you have a blanket of fat lying over your whole body — it’s not lumpy fat like cellulite, but thick, hard yellow fat that become hard, substantial rolls.

Next, your digestion will often stop working correctly. Good bacteria loses the battle to pathogenic bacteria. Your immune system can suffer, and the production of those helpful enzymes can grind to a halt. Your body begins to build up toxins in the intestinal tract. And when those fat-soluble toxins aren’t processed and eliminated through the bowels, they begin to build up. That’s when the body begins to store then as — you guessed it — fat.

Keep your mucosal lining happy

Sounds really bad, right? It doesn’t have to be, if you’re eating healthy, whole, real foods that keep your mucosal lining and metabolism healthy and happy.

  • Eat whole foods. These take less time to digest compared to processed foods.
  • Get your fiber. A fiber-rich diet helps keep foods moving efficiently through your GI tract.
  • Embrace pre-biotics and probiotics. Consuming kombucha, kefir and cultured vegetables are a great way to nourish healthy gut bacteria. (See our recipe for cultured salsa.)
  • Add digestive herbs. Parsley, cilantro and basil are three wonderful fresh herbs that aid digestion. Use them liberally.
  • Drink up. Be sure to drink half your body weight, in ounces, of plain spring water each day. Adequate hydration is key to digestion.

If you’re living the Fast Metabolism Lifestyle or The Burn, these will all look familiar. The foods we eat on the diet are designed to keep your digestion humming, your mucosal lining happy, and your metabolism singing a happy tune.