What Are Nucleotides? Part 3 - Uses

The nucleotides in your diet are taken up by the cells of your gut lining and the immune system cells associated with your gut. They can be used directly as nucleotides or as their simpler pieces like nucleosides or the nitrogen containing bases.

The cells of your gut lining are easy to understand. They are simply the cells inside your throat, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. It’s the system where food passes in, gets processed, nutrients absorbed, and waste discarded. While you can’t see them, it’s easy to grasp where they are and what they do.

Picturing the immune system cells in your gut lining is harder. Few realize that your gut contains the largest concentration of immune cells in your body and that they produce 60 percent of the antibodies used to defend your body from infection.

One way to picture their role is to see them as the thick layer of insulation in the walls of your home. They provide a barrier to protect what’s inside from the outside. In this example, your gut lining plays the role of plaster on the inside walls of your home, a thin layer covering and containing the protective middle.

This high level of protection is needed because your small intestine is the place where your body comes in most direct contact with the outside world. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Your skin provides a stable barrier protecting you from the outside world (unless you cut yourself). The inside of your small intestine is the one place where things from the outside world, nutrients, are pulled in and become part of your body.

Your gut lining and your immune system are similar. The cells in both grow rapidly. Your gut lining grows rapidly because it must replace itself every few days. It’s a high stress, high turnover environment. The cells of your immune system grow rapidly for a different reason. Every day your body is challenged by potential infections. Your immune system identifies those invaders, creates defenses against them, and surges to prevent an attack or infection.

Beyond these nucleotides taken up directly by the cells of your body there’s a third user. The good bacteria in your gut microbiome. But, that's a larger story, which will be covered in the next part of this series.

 

Also in this Series

   What Are Nucleotides? Part 1 - Basics 

   What Are Nucleotides? Part 2 - Sources 

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   What Are Nucleotides? Part 4 - Microbiome