I’ve only ever thought of mucus as a quick-n-dirty way to measure intestinal inflammation. Looks like the bowel/mucus/bacteria relationship is a bit more complex:
Viscous mucus covers the intestinal wall, disables bacterial movements, and protects epithelial cells from contact with bacteria. Leukocytes migrate into and patrol within the mucus layer executing surveillance functions without any collateral damage. The sticky outer mucus surface offers the opportunity for probiotic strains to grow and build protective interlaced layers, making it even more difficult for pathogenic strains to reach the mucosa.
The inflammation takes place only after the mucus barrier is broken and the defence is overwhelmed
I need to spend more time with the article to tease out a few of the themes, but the authors make an interesting case that the integrity of the mucus lining the intestines is critical in keeping bacteria (both good and bad) from invading the healthy epithelial cells that line our guts.
Which means that part of a healthy gut is a healthy layer of mucus (I know, eww). Mucus is broken down by emulsifiers in our foods, which are added to nearly everything processed. Common offenders include dairy products and toothpaste. The good news is that if you’re following a Paleo, low-FODMAP, or Specific Carbohydrate-type diet, you’re already on the right track. The SCD specifically bans emulsifiers like carrageenan and soy lecithin. Basically, if you aren’t eating processed foods, you aren’t eating emulsifiers.
Just don’t swallow your toothpaste.