Leaky Gut Syndrome – The Key to Your Immune System by Keith Sherman
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition that develops when the mucous lining of the small intestine becomes too porous, allowing entry of toxins, micro-organisms and food particles, as well as pathogens into the bloodstream. When you eat food passes through the stomach into the small intestine. It is here that nutrient absorption occurs through the semi-permeable mucous lining of the intestinal wall. This membrane also sheilds the bloodstream from unwanted toxins, pathogens and undigested food. In this respect, the gut lining is a vital part of the body’s immune system because it limits the entry of potential invaders. The function of the mucous lining of the small intestine is like a window screen which lets air in but keeps bugs out. It also resembles the skin, in that it sloughs off a layer of cells naturally every 3 to 5 days and grows new cells to keep the lining semi-permeable. Once toxins enter the bloodstream through a leaky gut, their first stop is the liver. When the liver is called upon to work overtime due to toxic overload, toxins either recirculate or are deposited in the liver. When they re-circulate to the intestines they further irritate the lining, increasing its permeability. The re-circulation of toxins is medically known as enterohepatic re-circulation.
What Causes Leaky Gut? When digestion is impaired by such factors as stress, processed food consumption, inadequate chewing, excessive fluid intake with meals, improper food combining and overeating, it can lead to an excessively permeable (leaky) gut. Here’s why – when bacteria present in the intestine act upon undigested food particles, they produce toxic chemicals and gases. These intestinal toxins known as endotoxins can damage the mucosal lining, resulting in increased intestinal permeability. As a result of repeated attacks by these toxins, the gut lining eventually erodes. Leaky Gut can also be caused or aggravated by a number of other factors including stress, alcohol, caffeine, parasites bacteria, chemical food additives, lack of enzymes, a diet of refined carbohydrates, prescriptive hormones, mold and fungal mycotoxins, free radicals, heightened exposure to enviromental toxins and dental toxins.
Perhaps the Greatest Contributions to Leaky Gut Syndrome are:
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and Motrin)
- Steroids (includes prescription corticosteroids such as prednisone and hydrocortisone)
- Antiobiotics (which lead to overgrowth of bad bacteria in the GI tract).
According to respected author and holistic healer Elizabeth Lipski, MS, CNN, author of Digestive Wellness (Keats), “NSAIDS can cause irritation and inflammation of the intestinal tract leading to colitis and relapse of ulcerative colitis. (They) can cause bleeding and ulceration of the large intestine and may contribute to complications of diverticular disease”. Prolonged use NSAIDS blocks the body’s natural ability to repair the intestinal lining. Once endotoxins have eroded this membrane, it becomes permeable, rather than semi-permeable. (The “screen” on your “window” gets holes in it). Now the toxins, pathogens and food particles which would normally not be permitted to enter the system, leak into the bloodstream. The body then becomes confused and attacks its own cells developing antibodies to fight them, as if they were foreign substances, which can lead to autoimmune disorders.
Who Gets Leaky Gut? People of any age can develop Leaky Gut Syndrome. Those who regularly take any of the drugs listed previously are more likely to suffer from the syndrome as well as those who routinely use large amounts of alcohol and caffeine and those who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates and chemical food additives.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome? Many researchers believe that the net result of a Leaky Gut is autoimmune disease, when the body attacks its own tissues. There are some 80 recognized autoimmune diseases. These include Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Diabetes, Alopecia Areata, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Thyroiditis, Vasculitis, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Autoimmune disorders can be understood as allergic reactions. Allergies often develop when the body produces antibodies to combat undigested proteins that enter the bloodstream through a leaky gut. These antibodies can enter any tissue and trigger inflammatory reactions whenever that food is eaten. According to Zoltan P. Rona, MD (www.health-n-energy.com/ronagut.htm), “If inflammation occurs in a joint, auto immune arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) develops. If it occurs in the brain, myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) may be the result. If the antibodies end up attacking the lining of the gut itself, the result may be colitis or Crohn’s Disease.” Other disorders associated with a leaky gut include eczema, psoriasis, pancreatic insufficiency, and candidiasis while symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, fever and abdominal discomfort may be caused by Leaky Gut.
As Dr. Leonard Smith, a leading gastrointestinal surgeon points out, “increased intenstinal permeability, whether it be intermittent or chronic, may be a major contributing factor to most diseases. Maintaining a well nourished intestinal lining and overlying mucus, with beneficial bacteria from birth throughout life, is of paramount importance in controlling intestinal permeability. Suffice it to say that a balance of soluble and insoluble fiber, the right ratio or essential fatty acids, beneficial bacteria, digestive enzymes and supplements for building and maintaining the gut lining would be a very wise dietary choice for everyone to make on a regular basis.”
How is Leaky Gut Syndrome Diagnosed and What is the Standard Medical Treatment? The intestinal permeability assessment, which measures levels of mannitol and lactulose (two non-metabolized sugars), can be found at www.gsdl.com. Since Leaky Gut Syndrome is not an accepted medical diagnosis, there really is no standard medical treatment. Conventional medical doctors usually focus on treating conditions that arise from Leaky Gut Syndrome and that treatment likely employs drugs and/or surgery. Nutritionally oriented physicians familiar with Leaky Gut take a different approach.