What is gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is a common condition characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the stomach and the intestines. It is often referred to as “stomach flu” or “stomach bug”, although it is not caused by the influenza virus. Gastroenteritis can be caused by a variety of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, as well as non-infectious factors such as certain medications, toxins, and food allergies.


What is the relationship between gastroenteritis and oxidative stress?

The relationship between gastroenteritis and oxidative stress involves complex interactions between various factors that contribute to tissue damage, inflammation, and the body’s response to infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Here’s how oxidative stress may be related to gastroenteritis:


  • Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) Production: Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidant defense mechanisms in the gastrointestinal mucosa. ROS, such as superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals, can be generated during the body’s immune response to infection or inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Excessive production of ROS can overwhelm antioxidant defenses and lead to oxidative damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA in the gastrointestinal epithelial cells.


  • Inflammation and Immune Response: Oxidative stress can activate inflammatory pathways and stimulate the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and inflammatory mediators in the gastrointestinal mucosa. During gastroenteritis, the body’s immune system responds to the presence of infectious agents (such as viruses, bacteria, or parasites) by initiating an inflammatory response to clear the infection. However, chronic or excessive inflammation can exacerbate oxidative stress, disrupt mucosal integrity, and impair tissue repair mechanisms, leading to prolonged symptoms and tissue damage.


  • Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction: Oxidative stress can compromise the integrity of the intestinal barrier, which normally acts as a physical and immunological barrier to prevent the entry of harmful substances into the bloodstream. Disruption of the intestinal barrier function during gastroenteritis can lead to increased permeability (leaky gut), allowing toxins, pathogens, and inflammatory molecules to pass through the intestinal lining and enter systemic circulation. This can further exacerbate inflammation, oxidative stress, and tissue injury throughout the body.


  • Antioxidant Defenses: The gastrointestinal mucosa possesses natural antioxidant defense mechanisms to neutralize ROS and maintain redox homeostasis. However, during gastroenteritis, the balance between ROS production and antioxidant defenses may be disrupted, leading to oxidative stress and tissue damage. Inadequate intake of dietary antioxidants or depletion of antioxidant reserves due to inflammation, malabsorption, or diarrhea may further exacerbate oxidative stress in individuals with gastroenteritis.


Overall, oxidative stress plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of gastroenteritis by promoting inflammation, disrupting mucosal integrity, impairing tissue repair mechanisms, and contributing to systemic complications.