Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you have an interest in health, leaky gut syndrome is probably something you've heard of. You may have even seen a healthcare practitioner who diagnosed you with the condition. Leaky gut syndrome is also known as increased intestinal permeability. It is an extremely common condition, particularly in people with immune system problems, digestive problems or fatigue.
Leaky gut means the intestinal lining has become more permeable than it should be. This is a problem because it allows wastes and toxins inside the intestines to get into your bloodstream, while also impairing the proper absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream. Professor Alessio Fasano is a pediatric gastroenterologist and a world leader in research on leaky gut and its relationship to autoimmune disease. According to Professor Fasano, a leaky gut is necessary but not sufficient to develop an autoimmune disease. That means you can’t get an autoimmune disease unless you have a leaky gut.
In a paper titled “Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases”, Professor Fasano made the following statement: “In addition to genetic predisposition and exposure to triggering non-self antigens, the loss of the protective function of mucosal barriers that interact with the environment is necessary for autoimmunity to develop.”
The lining of your intestines provides a very important barrier between your body and the outside world. The lining of your digestive tract is very much like the skin on the outside of your body; both of them protect your body against invasion by toxins or harmful organisms. The big difference is, the lining of your digestive tract is much thinner and more delicate.
Anything that’s inside your gut isn’t actually inside your body yet. If you accidentally swallow a marble it will travel from one end of your digestive system to the other end and leave your body. For anything to actually enter your body, it must get absorbed across your gastrointestinal lining. Once it has passed this barrier, it will truly be inside your body. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when too much of the bad stuff gets in, while at the same time nutrient absorption is impaired.
Amazingly, your gut lining is comprised of a single layer of epithelial cells. These cells are called enterocytes and this single layer of cells is what you’ve got protecting your bloodstream from wastes and harmful substances. Immediately across this barrier you’ve got immune cells and a large network of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, which carry absorbed nutrients to the tissues of your body.
How to know if you have a leaky gut
As mentioned, according to leading leaky gut researcher Professor Alessio Fasano, a leaky gut is necessary but not sufficient to cause an autoimmune disease. That means, if you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, in all likelihood you have a leaky gut. Interestingly, studies have shown increased intestinal permeability is also present in various other inflammatory conditions that are not autoimmune, including eczema, asthma, hay fever and autism. Individuals with those conditions are thought to be at increased risk of autoimmune disease some time in the future.
The following symptoms and conditions are common manifestations of leaky gut syndrome:
- Joint pain
- Skin problems - e.g. eczema, dermatitis, hives, skin rashes or itchy skin (remember that your skin on the outside is a reflection of what’s happening to your skin on the inside [i.e. intestinal lining]).
- Food sensitivities
- Autoimmune disease
- Cognitive problems - foggy head, poor memory, low motivation
- Respiratory problems - asthma, shortness of breath
- Muscle aches and pains (fibromyalgia)
- Poor quality sleep and unrefreshing sleep
- Adrenal gland exhaustion
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Liver problems - raised liver enzymes, fatty liver disease, ache in the liver region (right upper portion of abdomen)
- Nutritional deficiencies - particularly iron, magnesium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D
- Inability to gain weight or lose weight
What causes a leaky gut?
The short answer is many things. It could be said that living in modern society is enough to give you a leaky gut. The list below may look overwhelming and make you feel like there’s no hope in improving your gut health but please be assured, this is not the case. There are degrees of leaky gut, and you can achieve a great improvement that’s sufficient enough to heal your autoimmune disease and enable you to feel well.
The following factors all increase intestinal permeability:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) eg. aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, meloxicam
- Dysbiosis (imbalance between good and bad microbes in the gut)
- Candida infection
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Inefficient digestion resulting from deficiencies of stomach acid, bile or digestive enzymes
- Gastrointestinal infections i.e. parasites, food poisoning or gastroenteritis
- Intense or chronic stress
- A high sugar or refined carbohydrate diet
- Intense exercise, such as marathon running temporarily causes increased intestinal permeability
- Food allergy or intolerance
- Lectins, saponins and alkaloids found in some foods such as grains and legumes
- Nutritional deficiencies, particularly zinc and vitamin A
- The oral contraceptive pill
That’s quite a long list, but fortunately there are effective strategies that can heal your gut.
- Remove problematic foods
The worst offenders are gluten, dairy products, legumes and sugar. Other potentially problematic foods include all grains, eggs and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant). These foods contain various proteins that may inflame the gut lining in some people. Lectins, saponins and enzyme inhibitors can impair digestion and increase intestinal permeability. This is explained thoroughly in our book Healing Autoimmune Disease. In addition, any food to which you have an allergy or intolerance can inflame your gut when you consume it.
- Correct dysbiosis and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
Dysbiosis means having too much bad bacteria, candida or other microbes in the bowel and not enough good microbes. These harmful bugs inflame the gut lining and inhibit nutrient absorption. It is important to correct this imbalance with an herbal anti-parasitic formula, and with the diet changes mentioned above. Another common problem is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This means there are too many microbes growing in the small intestine, where they shouldn’t be. They aren’t necessarily bad bugs, they’re just living in the wrong place. SIBO commonly causes nutrient deficiencies and it is strongly linked with restless legs syndrome. Sometimes a low FODMAP diet is necessary in order to overcome SIBO.
- Improve digestive function
Deficiencies of stomach acid, bile and digestive enzymes are almost always present in people with a leaky gut. It is critically important that you digest your food as thoroughly as possible. This will enable you to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from your food, but there’s also another reason. If you don’t digest your food properly, it will literally rot or ferment inside your gut. The residues of undigested carbohydrate in particular, will act as food for harmful gut microbes, or encourage their growth in the small intestine, creating SIBO and a leaky gut. These wastes that aren't being digested properly will also leave you feeling dreadful. Common symptoms include bloating, gas, foggy head, low mood, anxiety or low motivation. Supplementing with hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and ox bile can be immensely helpful.
- Heal and seal the gut
There are specific foods and nutrients that help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and restore the health of the intestinal lining. We need to make it a stronger barrier, so that you don’t keep absorbing toxins and wastes into your bloodstream.
The most important substances to heal a leaky gut are our ultimate gut health powder, bone broth, berberine, zinc and vitamin A. For more information about leaky gut see the book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Have a fresh raw vegetable juice daily! Here are some recommended juice recipes from my book "Raw Juices Can Save Your Life".
Anti-Allergy Juice number one
- 1 radish
- 1 clove garlic or 1/2 small red onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 pear or 1 orange
- 2 cabbage leaves
Anti-Allergy Juice number two
- 1/4 medium pineapple
- 1 red chili (optional)
- 1 red or green capsicum
- 1 pear
- 1 lime
Anti-Allergy Juice number three
- 1 cm (1/2 inch) fresh ginger
- 1 apple
- 1 carrot
- 2 dandelion leaves or 2 cabbage leaves
- 1/4 red onion
- 1 lemon
- Wash all ingredients, trim and cut into pieces to fit juicer.
If you find these juices too pungent or strong, you may dilute them with water or cold herbal flavored teas.
Anti-Allergy Smoothie Drink
- 1 cup rice milk, almond milk or coconut milk
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 pear
- 1 tbsp cold pressed flaxseed or coconut oil
- 1 tbsp freshly ground flaxseed (use food processor or coffee grinder)
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Also, carrot juice is particularly beneficial for those with allergies, as this is an excellent source of beta carotene – a precursor to vitamin A. This vitamin helps to soothe inflamed mucous membranes of the nose, throat and eyes.
- "Healing Autoimmune Disease" - This book contains detailed information on the causes and solutions for leaky gut.
Recommended supplements for leaky gut syndrome
- Super Digestive Enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules with meals 3 times daily - Digestive enzymes enhance sluggish digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They also assist in improving symptoms of poor digestive function such as bloating, excessive flatulence or burping, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, heartburn, malabsorption, acid reflux, food intolerance or candida overgrowth.
- Livatone Plus Powder or Capsules
Take 1 teaspoon twice daily or 2 capsules twice daily - A powerful liver tonic consisting of St Mary's Thistle, B vitamins and taurine will help assist and enhance the liver's ability to break down toxic chemicals via the phase one and phase two detoxification pathways.
- Intestinal Para Cleanse
- Take 2 tablets twice daily. Use a formula with barberry, wormwood and thyme which has been traditionally used to alleviate gastrointestinal infections and is the basis of any protocol to treat a sluggish or under-functioning digestive system.
- Ultimate Gut Health powder
Take 1 level scoop daily. Ultimate Gut Health keeps your intestines as healthy as possible. Designed to soothe, heal and repair the gut lining, you will find your intestines love this powder.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.