By Sarah Axtell, ND • April 8, 2013
All disease begins in the gut. -Hippocrates
Food allergens in the diet may contribute to the “leaky gut” syndrome. This means that the intestinal lining has become more porous. One of the functions of the gut is to be a barrier to the outside world. When the barrier becomes permeable, undigested food molecules and other waste products and microbes enter the bloodstream.
This increased gut permeability causes an increased load on the immune system and can result in symptoms and can increase the risk of developing additional allergies and autoimmune processes.
How does my gut become leaky?
Diet: Eating foods that are inflammatory can cause irritation to the gut lining. The most common inflammatory foods include wheat (gluten), corn, dairy (casein), sugar, eggs and soy. You can think of these foods causing a constant irritation or scratching the mucosal layer of the GI tract. This results in a porous intestinal lining.
Stress: When the body is stressed, cortisol is secreted. Excessive chronic cortisol output results in decreased amount of Secretory IgA (SIgA). SIgA is a protective immune barrier that lines the gut. Therefore, when there is chronic stress present, the immune function of the gut is decreased.
Poor digestion: Any undigested foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream are considered enemies, causing the immune system to attack these foods. Common causes of poor digestion include lack of pancreatic enzymes and decreased stomach acid.
Medications:Pain-relievers, such as Aspirin or NSAIDS irritate the intestinal lining and decrease the mucosal protective layer lining the gut.
What is the result of a leaky gut?
This irritation causes the cells lining the digestive tract to no longer be tightly packed. The cells become loose and then allow large, undigested food particles and/or bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungus to cross the barrier into the blood stream. When these foreign particles are in the bloodstream, your immune system is on high alert. This immune dysregulation results in symptoms and/or chronic health conditions.
Symptoms or Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut:
Depending on the level of damage in the gut, symptoms vary from person to person. Here are some common symptoms:
-Autoimmune diseases- MS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Hashimoto’s, Celiac disease
-Skin rashes, eczema, prsorasis
-Multiple chemical sensitivity
-Multiple food sensitivities
How do I heal my leaky gut?
Follow the 4 R Approach to Gut Healing:
1. Remove– Remove the following highly inflammatory foods:
These foods can create inflammation in your gut lining, causing loose junctions in between cells of the GI tract. This is characteristic of leaky gut syndrome. Remove these foods for a minimum of 4 weeks, and then re-introduce one food group at a time and monitor symptoms. Alternatively, there is food sensitivity testing available that identifies your individual sensitivity. When multiple foods come up as reactive on a food sensitivity panel, the gut is likely leaky.
2. Reinoculate the gut with a high quality probiotic.
3. Replace- Once the gut has been cleaned up, we want it to stay that way. Supplement HCl or Apple Cider Vinegar. Consider digestive enzymes. Liver and gallbladder support (especially if gallbladder has been removed) is also important.
4. Repair– Repairing leaky gut is a long road that requires patience and persistence.
Licorice, L-glutamine, colostrum, aloe, slippery elm, and marshmallow root are all soothing herbs and nutrients that repair the lining of the GI tract.
Stay on these supplements until leaky gut is repaired. A leaky gut can be monitored using a lactulose/manniol test, measuring the degree of permeability. Degree of improvement is also an appropriate way to measure progress.
Your gut is the foundation of health. If your foundation is leaky, your other organ systems such as your endocrine system, cardiovascular system, nervous system and immune system will be weak. A healthy gut translates to a healthy overall well-being.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.