“Regulating intestinal inflammation is of great significance for intestinal health.” 1)Multiple factors contribute to gut inflammation, including diet and lifestyle habits, microbial balance and the presence of toxins.
A 2016 study on pigs fed oregano essential oil (Origanum vulgare L.) revealed a reduction in inflammation throughout the small intestine and colon. The study concluded that “Oregano oil supplementation can be a promising approach for protecting the intestinal barrier." 1)
“Gut microbiota (flora) contain trillions of microbial cells, influencing our physiology, metabolism, nutrition and immune function. The disruption of these cells has been linked with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.” 2)
The reduction of inflammation in pigs fed oregano oil preserved the integrity of the intestinal barrier (epithelium), increased overall nutrient absorption, and produced a significant decrease in endotoxins. The endotoxin, E coli, “a potent inducer of intestinal inflammation”, was significantly lower in pigs fed the oregano oil, compared to those in the control. 1)
The intestinal barrier is a thin mucosal cell wall that lines the gut (epithelium). The permeability of this wall controls the passage of substances from the gut to the rest of the body, ensuring that only friendly substances enter the bloodstream. When permeability increases due to inflammation, gaps are opened and allow for the penetration of undigested foodstuff and toxins into the bloodstream, “a potential factor of gastrointestinal dysfunction and pathology, including Crohn's disease, multiple organ dysfunction, bacterial translocation, food allergies, and acute pancreatitis”. 1)
Gut inflammation also has a profound effect on the absorption of nutrients, via intestinal mucosa and villi. Our body is equipped with a nutrient transport system (villi), microscopic hairs that carry nutrients from digested food to the bloodstream. When inflammation is present, the villi hairs flatten, decreasing the overall nutrient absorption area, contributing to cell death.
Intestinal villi line the small intestine to absorb nutrients from digested foodstuff. Inflammation "flattens" villi, decreasing the absorptive surface area for nutrients. Chronic inflammation can lead to deficiencies in iron and vitamin B12, and subsequent anemia.
This study showed an increase in villus height in pigs fed the oregano essential oil, providing an increased surface absorption area. “Significantly decreased levels of the inflammatory substances involved in mucosal inflammation” were also noted as contributing to the increased nutrient absorption area.
The results of this study "indicate that supplementation with oregano oil can be a promising approach for protecting the intestinal barrier in pigs. These results show oregano’s ability to reduce inflammation throughout the small intestine and colon, promoting the integrity of the intestinal barrier, likely due to its effects on intestinal bacteria and immune status.” 1)