Changing Flows Balance Nutrient Absorption and Bacterial Growth along the Gut

Small intestine motility and its ensuing flow of luminal content impact both nutrient absorption and bacterial growth. To explore this interdependence we introduce a biophysical description of intestinal flow and absorption. Rooted in observations of mice we identify the average flow velocity as the key control of absorption efficiency and bacterial growth, independent of the exact contraction pattern. We uncover self-regulation of contraction and flow in response to nutrients and bacterial levels to promote efficient absorption while restraining detrimental bacterial overgrowth.