The term Leaky Gut Syndrome means the lining of the intestines has became porous, with holes developing that are large enough to allow undigested food molecules and things like yeast, toxins, and other forms of waste to flow right into your bloodstream. Leaky gut has been found in association with several diseases including: asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, eczema, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. Now we have a better understanding of how it happens. Harvard celiac researchers found that our bodies make a protein called zonulin that essentially unzips the tight junctions that seal the intestinal lining, which is the first mechanism of defense for our immune system. During the normal digestion process, the tight junctions stay closed forcing all molecules to be thoroughly screened and only pass into the blood stream through the mucosa cells. When these tight junctions become “open” or “permeable” it allows un-screened molecules to flow directly into the bloodstream.
So, Then What Happens? The first reaction your body has to these foreign invaders in your blood is to fight like heck. Initially, your Liver is called into action to try and screen out all the particles that your intestinal lining was supposed to be taking care of. In most cases, the liver has no chance of keeping up with the constant flow of waste into your blood and all the toxins, undigested food molecules, yeast, and other pathogens start to accumulate in your body. Now your immune system wakes up, and it is not happy. It goes into full battle mode to fight the intruders and get them out of the body ASAP. More often than not, the body cannot keep up and the majority of these foreign objects absorb into tissues throughout the body, causing them to inflame. Inflammation is also an immune response and causes even more stress on your system. Now that your body is focused on fighting this big, problem, little problems are starting to be ignored, like filtering your blood, calming inflamed areas of the body, fighting bacteria, etc. This process can lead to your body fighting itself causing autoimmune diseases, such as, Chronic Fatigue, MS, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis & Fibromyalgia. Your body then begins to produce antibodies designed to fight against foreign objects, such as protein in milk, or proteins in nuts, grains and eggs. Even chemicals normally found in foods can now trigger immune responses. Any undigested foods that are absorbed into the blood stream are now considered enemies, and your immune system will develop reactions to them, causing food intolerances.
Nutritional deficiencies are a sign of lacking vitamins and minerals from the improper breakdown of food in your intestines. When you have a Leaky Gut condition, the damaged microvilli along the intestinal lining cannot manufacture the digestive enzymes they need to break down the food for proper digestion. The resulting condition allows food molecules to flow into the bloodstream that have not been completely broken down into the nutrients your body needs. Chronic diarrhea and constipation are signs of inflammation of the intestinal walls from Leaky Gut. Skin rashes are your body’s way of trying to dump the toxins through the skin. A poor immune system will result from your body trying to wage war on itself and ignoring all the virus and bacteria we encounter on a daily basis, allowing you to get sick more often. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss, and excessive fatigue are a result of the inflammation of tissue and toxin build up. Yeast overgrowth (Candida) will cause cravings for sugar and carbs, gas, bloating, and anxiety. All of these things add up to a host of symptoms all leading back to one thing: the constant river of foreign objects being allowed to enter your bloodstream.
What Causes Leaky Gut? The cause of Leaky Gut is widely debated in the medical community. However, there is some level of consensus that the following are the basic contributors: Diet - Consuming high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours, and flavorings introduces massive amounts of chemicals into the body that are toxic. If your body has a hard time keeping up, toxins start to build up and cause inflammation. Chronic Stress - Chronic stress almost always results in a suppressed immune system. A weakened immune system cannot handle doing it’s normal job and gets overrun with pathogens very quickly. This increases overall gut inflammation leading to increased permeability of the intestinal lining. Inflammation - Any type of inflammation in the gut can lead to leaky gut. This can be brought on by low stomach acid (which passes undigested food into the small intestine irritating everything it passes by), yeast overgrowth (Candida), bacteria overgrowth, infection, parasites & excessive environmental toxins. Medications - Any medication, including over-the-counter pain relievers with Aspirin or Acetaminophen, (Tylenol) irritate the intestinal lining and decrease the mucosal layer (a natural protective barrier). This continues the inflammation cycle and promotes an increase in permeability. Yeast - Yeast is found in normal gut flora but as soon as it begins to get out of hand it mutates into a multi-celled fungus (usually Candida) that grows tentacles to grab onto the intestinal lining and stay put, consequently making its own holes in the lining. Lack of Zinc - Zinc is a crucial for maintaining a strong intestinal lining. There are studies showing that supplementing with Zinc can dramatically improve intestinal lining integrity.
There Is Help For Leaky Gut! Nutritional Supplementing - The conditions that lead to leaky gut can also cause mal-absorption and improper digestion, both of which are going to leave you with nutritional deficiencies. First and foremost, supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, large amounts of vitamin D, and Zinc will help the intestinal lining return to normal. Omega 3’s from fish oil have also been shown to really help improve the condition of the intestinal mucosal lining (omega-3’s greatly reduce inflammation among a host of other benefits). Probiotics - A solid foundation of probiotics, and more specifically, the friendly bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus is a must. To get rid of the bad bacteria, you need a constant replenishment of the good bacteria to replace it. Friendly bacteria stop the inhabitance of bad bacteria and yeast, heal the gut lining, help nutrients get absorbed. Studies suggest that keeping a ratio of 85% good to bad bacteria in the gut will improve not only intestinal health, but overall health. A good, non-dairy lactobacillus acidophilus will be very beneficial. Digestive Enzymes - Digestive enzymes are critical to properly breaking down the foods we eat. They are found naturally in the raw form of foods to help break them down. Unfortunately, cooking fruits and veggies renders them useless for enzymes. They have multi-faceted skills to help alleviate leaky gut. First, plant based enzymes will break down food into very small particles before it leaves the stomach, preventing large undigested molecules from irritating the intestinal lining and increasing nutritional uptake. They also work through your intestines acting as garbage collectors by removing toxins, bacteria, and damaged cells of the mucosal lining. The whole process gives the gut a clean slate of healthy cells to rebuild with. While the leaky gut permeability remains, they do the same garbage collecting in the bloodstream if they are passed through the intestinal lining. Bromelain and papain enzymes are shown to reduce inflammation in the gut lining and throughout other tissues in the body, allowing the immune system and the liver some reprieve.