Your Intestines Make Blood Cells


Perhaps you thought blood cells only derive from bone marrow. Well, not quite. Recently scientists have found a new source of blood cells in the body and they derive from the intestines.

When doing intestinal transplants, researchers began to notice that the transplant recipients were showing signs of having the donors blood cells in circulation. The idea of having circulating blood containing two different sets of DNA is called blood chimerism.

Blood chimerism tends to be typical in any organ transplant but those blood cells received from intestinal transplants were staying around – so much so that it appears the intestines contain hematopoietic tissues which can produce blood cells themselves.

Researchers tracked 21 intestinal transplant patients over five years and found the donated intestines were cranking out hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells!

The cells were found in the mucosa of the donated intestine, and identified in sections of the small intestine, liver and lymph nodes as well.

This finding naturally led to many questions of host defense mechanisms and the immune system. Seems that the donor’s hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells were not attacked and taken out by the host immune system, but instead a syncing symbiosis was occurring between the donor and host blood cells where the new donor blood cells were learning to live in their new home.

This certainly is of interest to the medical world in thinking through immune response and getting the suppression modalities during transplants just right. For those of us engaged in natural health I think it will open up new lines of thinking as well on just what it is exactly that is going on in the gut.

For many years those in the natural health arena have had a focus to understand the many roles that diverse bacteria in the gut have to play in health. I believe now we are going to add a bit more thinking on the role the gut has in producing blood cells as well.


Today’s physiological thinking came to the conclusion of bone marrow hematopoiesis through a scientific proving in 1952 where chickens and doves were put through a 2 week starvation experiment. In this experiment it was found that blood cells were produced by the bone marrow. Since that time, it was set in health education that bone marrow hematopoiesis is where blood cells come from.

But here is something very interesting. Even at an individual’s developmental stage where it does not have bone marrow, red blood cells already exist.

In the 1950s when Dr. Keiichi Morishita was in medical school, he pondered this and figured a body is composed of three elements, body cells, a digestive system, and blood cells. As blood cells are most closely related to food, he figured the site of hematopoiesis had to be the digestive system, specifically the intestines.

To prove it to himself he took rabbits and cut off the blood supply to the bone marrow in every long bone in the rabbit’s bodies to see if they would become anemic. They did not. He did other experiments as well and concluded that primary hematopoiesis occurs in the intestine.


Dr. Morishita would say if there’s no food, if you go into starvation mode, if you have gut issues, the body cells will revert back to blood cells through compensatory actions.

The compensatory move to help you make blood cells in a starvation or gut compromised situation is taken up firstly through bone marrow hematopoiesis where the body’s cells, as in the marrow, become blood cells.

Bone marrow hematopoiesis is a compensatory mechanism to produce blood cells when intestinal hematopoiesis is having issues when there is no food or lacks a sufficient digestive capacity to turn food into blood cells. And it is not just bone marrow that can see this compensatory move.

So here new light is shed on other ‘issues with the tissues’ as we like to say.

Dr. Morishita’s theories have been out in the world for decades, the bulk of it, certainly as it applies to his phase contrast microscopy work which we began exploring in 2019 in our workshops, is written in Japanese. For several years I’ve had some hard to find translations sitting on my shelf given to me by a Japanese acupuncturist that also works with the microscope and knows Dr. Morishita.

Like so many other things sitting on my shelf, I often say, “one of these days I am going to find a place to squeeze that into the workshop”. Well, with the recent research confirming intestinal hematopoiesis making it into the mainstream med press, one of ‘those days’ is here to plug that bit of information in.

I hope you can make it to an upcoming workshop to explore this and a whole lot more at our live hands-on Biortorium learning lab. As always, we learn a lot and have a lot of fun doing it.

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