The digestive tract consists of a long tube, which connects the mouth to the anus. After food is swallowed it passes through the esophagus to the stomach, where it is churned up with acid and stomach enzymes into small particles. This then passes into the small intestine, which is around 20 feet long. The most important function of the small intestine is to digest and absorb nutrients from the food particles that arrive from the stomach. In the upper part of the small intestine, secretions from the liver and gallbladder (bile), and the pancreas (enzymes), are inserted through a small tube (duct), situated near the pancreas gland. A vital function of the intestines is to act as a barrier to prevent the re-absorption into the blood circulation, of toxins, microbes and macromolecules.
When the lining of the digestive tract (also known as the intestinal mucosa) is inflamed, you can develop what is called a “leaky gut”. This means that the intestines become too permeable, so that large food molecules, bacterial and fungal toxins and wastes can pass straight into the bloodstream and travel back to the liver for detoxification. They should not be in the blood – so the immune system reacts to them, immune complexes are formed and these complexes travel to the liver where they are broken down. This places an enormous burden on the liver, stressing its detoxification capability. As a result these substances may only be partially processed, and they can accumulate in the liver and fatty (adipose) tissues.
When the gut lining is leaky, more of the wastes in the bowel can seep into the bloodstream, while less of the nutrients that are supposed to be absorbed can get in. Therefore vitamin, mineral and essential fatty acids deficiencies can develop.
Research in recent years has uncovered the important connection between the health of the immune system and the integrity of the gut wall. It is now well established that inflammation of the intestines and the resultant increased permeability of the intestinal mucosal wall, has a connection with conditions such as frequent infections, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, dermatological conditions, colitis, and all auto-immune diseases.
If the filtering and/or detoxification systems within the liver are overloaded or inefficient, this will cause toxins, dead cells and microorganisms to build up in the blood stream. This will then increase the workload of the immune system, which will become overloaded and irritated. The immune system will then produce excessive inflammatory chemicals, and in some cases, auto antibodies, because it is in a hyperstimulated state. This may lead to symptoms of immune dysfunction such as allergies, inflammatory states, swollen glands, recurrent infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or auto-immune diseases. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases are systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), sclerosing cholangitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, vasculitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Immune dysfunction is common in the chemically overloaded environment we live in today, and is exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies inherent in processed and high fat diets. Suppressive drugs are often used to treat symptoms of immune dysfunction.
Clinical Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Accelerated Aging
- Intestinal Infections
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Increased risk of cancer
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Joint Disease
- Food Allergies
Causes of leaky gut
Some of the most common causes of a leaky gut are: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) usage (eg. Aspirin and ibuprofen), antibiotic use, intestinal infection, dysbiosis, parasites, alcohol consumption, deficient immunoglobulins, ingestion of allergenic foods, oral contraceptive use and high sugar diets.
Identifying the cause is an important first step in reversing altered permeability.
How do I know if I have a leaky gut?
It is possible to measure the permeability or ‘leakiness’ of the gut wall by a simple test called the Indicans test. You are likely to have a leaky gut if you suffer with one of the “Clinical Conditions with Altered Intestinal Permeability” listed above.
How can you improve the integrity of the gut wall?
Treatment of altered intestinal permeability is very important for several reasons. Intestinal inflammation can cause malabsorption and malnutrition, leading to a wide range of conditions relating to deficiencies. Correcting the altered permeability can have an immediate effect on relief of symptoms and a gradual improvement in the underlying condition. There are a number of supportive therapies, some listed below, which can be used for mucosal support to correct excess intestinal permeability.
Maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in your bowel
It is important to be aware that your bowels may be harboring excessive populations of unfriendly microorganisms such as fungi (most commonly yeasts such as Candida albicans), bacteria, viruses and parasites. The term parasite is used to describe a great variety of creatures that vary in complexity from single celled organisms, all the way up to worms that may be several inches or longer. Common disease causing parasites are Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, Blastocystis hominis and Cryptosporidium, which can be very difficult to detect with routine stool analysis and cultures. When a stool specimen is examined for parasites many of the yeasts that are seen are already dead. Stool cultures therefore often fail to reveal the presence of fungi even when the gut is heavily infected. Some laboratories will examine repeated fresh stool specimens obtained after inducing mild diarrhea with laxatives and this will increase the chances of detection.
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Those who suffer with an overgrowth of unhealthy microorganisms in the bowel are said to have “intestinal dysbiosis”. It can be difficult to eradicate intestinal parasites completely and many sufferers find that they keep on recurring.
|To reduce bowel infections with unfriendly bacteria, parasites and yeasts:|
The most powerful natural antibiotic for the gut is, you guessed it, RAW garlic. Oh no you say, not that again! If you can manage to eat 4 to 6 cloves every day for 4 weeks you will be amazed at the creatures that can be eradicated and expelled from your bowels. Garlic is able to kill bacteria, parasites and yeasts. If you have a large overgrowth, even higher doses may be required. Raw garlic cloves can be grated, chopped very finely or pressed in a garlic press, and then mixed well throughout your cooked food and salads. It tastes nicer with some cold pressed olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Raw onions, leeks, and the herbs rosemary and oregano also have valuable antibiotic effects in the bowel, and if you cannot tolerate garlic you may find that these things work well for you.
This friendly bacterium fights the bad bacteria and helps to maintain ecological balance. It is particularly good after antibiotic therapy.
Typical herbs used to destroy and expel worms from the body are black walnut hulls, chaparral, cloves, liquorice, gentian and wormwood. There are natural anti-parasite remedies that can sometimes be quite helpful.Use a combination of herbs such as Wormwood flower and leaf (artemisia vulgaris) and Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra). Start with one capsule three times daily. After two weeks use two capsules three times daily for up to two months. For more information see our parasite cleanse.
Anti-parasitic remedies are often more effective if they are followed by a purge, during which many dead parasites may be expelled in the feces. To achieve the required laxative effect you can take 1 to 2 teaspoons of epsom salts with four glasses of water, two hours after finishing the antiparasitic medication.
Those who are frequent international travelers are more at risk from infections such as hepatitis B and gut infections, and although vaccinations against many of these things are available today, it is still wise to protect your liver and immune system so that they can cope with this increased challenge. Practise good hygiene, avoid contaminated water supplies, avoid raw foods and boil your water. While traveling take a good liver tonic and garlic.
Improve Dietary Habits
One of the most important and yet often overlooked strategies to improve bowel function for all people, is to drink more pure WATER. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen over the years with bowel problems who are chronically dehydrated. This causes the bowel contents to harden and stagnate, which can lead to overgrowth of bacteria and inflammation of the bowel lining. I recommend at least 70 ounces (2 liters) of pure water daily, and in those with inflammatory bowel disease, even more may be needed.
By following the principles of: The Liver Cleansing Diet, you will have the basic tools for a diet that is conducive to healthy bowels. Many people lack fiber because they eat refined sugars and carbohydrates, and too much animal meat and dairy products. Without fiber, the contents of the bowel will stagnate, which can lead to inflammation from excessive toxin formation. Lack of fiber will also force the bowel muscles to contract too strongly in an effort to move the feces along to the rectum to stimulate a bowel movement. These excessive contractions will increase the pressure inside the bowel, which leads to spastic colon and the formation of pockets in the bowel wall (diverticula). Avoid excess alcohol, as this can cause inflammation of the bowel wall. In some people alcohol causes a form of colitis and must be avoided completely. Avoid gastric irritants such as excess coffee, foods containing gluten, found in wheat, rye, oats and barley, and all foods containing these. Avoid smoking.
50% of the diet should consist of vegetables and fruits (cooked and raw), with the ratio of vegetables to fruits being 4 to 1. In severe cases of Candida, it may be necessary to greatly reduce the amount of fruits and increase raw vegetables for several weeks. Raw foods contain living enzymes, antibiotics and phytonutrients that improve digestion, fight unfriendly microorganisms and reduce inflammation of the bowel wall.
Improve digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.
- Chew food thoroughly and have teeth and jaw problems checked out early.
- Do not eat very much if you are angry or stressed and do not over eat.
- Drink only small amounts with meals because fluids will dilute the gastric juices needed for digestion.
The lining of the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, which provides the correct acidity for digestive enzymes including pepsin, as well as those secreted in the small intestines to break down food. Hydrochloric acid is also required for efficient liberation of the important nutrient vitamin B 12.
Deficiency of stomach hydrochloric acid is common in those over 60 years of age and people of any age who are chronically stressed. This can lead to weakened digestion and deficiency of vitamin B 12. In these cases it is desirable to increase stomach hydrochloric acid, and this can be done with tablets of Betaine Hydrochloride. The usual dose is between 60 and 500 mg of Betaine Hydrochloride taken in the middle of a meal. Once dissolved in the stomach Betaine Hydrochloride yields 25% of its weight as hydrochloric acid. Another tablet to increase hydrochloric acid is Glutamic acid Hydrochloride, which is slightly less potent and requires a dose of 600 to 1800 mg during meals. Those with a severe deficiency of stomach hydrochloric acid, known as achlorhydria, may have an increased risk of stomach cancer and for this reason antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and selenium should be part of the daily supplementation program.
Another useful technique to increase stomach acidity during a meal is to sip a glass of water containing 2 to 3 tablespoons of good quality organic apple cider vinegar with the juice of half a lemon added. Some people find that this practise really improves their digestion and reduces flatulence and abdominal bloating.
If you find that you feel uncomfortable after eating a regular or large sized meal it is most worthwhile to try a supplement containing digestive enzymes. The pancreas produces vital enzymes called protease, lipase and amylase, without which it is impossible to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It is not uncommon for a slight to moderate deficiency of these pancreatic enzymes to occur, especially in those over 50 years of age. Lack of these enzymes will result in poor breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, leaving only partially digested food to pass through the bowel. This reduces absorption of vital nutrients from the lining of the gut and malnutrition of some degree will result. Furthermore, only partially digested proteins will be absorbed from the gut, which will overload the liver and may cause allergies. The growth of unfriendly microorganisms is more common inside intestines containing only partially digested foods.
The body can also obtain enzymes from ingested food. Unfortunately food enzymes are extremely sensitive to heat, and even low to moderate heat destroys most of the enzymes in foods. This is one of the reasons I encourage people to eat more raw salads and fruits, as their natural enzyme molecules will improve digestion and reduce the workload of the liver and pancreas. Foods that are high in enzymes are pineapples, papaya, avocados, mangos and kiwifruit. Sprouts are a potent source of digestive enzymes. Enzymes extracted from papaya and pineapples are available in tablet form and are called papain and bromelain respectively. Although they are proteolytic enzymes and can help with the digestion of proteins, they are not as powerful as a whole pancreatic supplement.
Intestinal parasite cleanse
The colon can become easily overloaded with waste material and parasites, which produce toxins. If these toxins recirculate from the bowel back to the liver via the entero-hepatic circulation, the liver must work harder to break down these toxins. These toxins can overload the body causing immune dysfunction and poor general health. If you are constipated the waste products left behind after digestion may stagnate inside your colon and decay.
This is why it’s important to “sweep the walls of your colon” regularly to eliminate stagnant and toxic waste. Dietary fiber can give your colon a thorough spring clean because it acts like a “broom” sweeping the walls of the colon free of encrusted waste material.
When you have a complete evacuation and all the waste products are swept out of the colon, you will notice that your bowel actions are larger, softer and more fibrous. After a complete bowel action your abdomen will flatten out so that the bloating will go away. Fiber stimulates natural healthy contractions in the colon so that the bowels do not become lazy.
Increased dietary fiber can help to:
- Lower cholesterol
- Increase elimination of toxins via the bowel actions
- Reduce the risk of bowel cancer
- Reduce constipation
- Reduce irritable bowel syndrome
- Prevent hemorrhoids
- Improve weight control by carrying fat out of the body through bowel actions. This reduces the amount of fat recirculating back to the liver via the entero-hepatic circulation.
- Take 1 teaspoon twice daily. Glutamine is used as fuel by the cells of the intestines and helps to heal and seal the gut lining.
- Take 1 capsule three times daily with meals. Berberine has powerful antimicrobial properties and helps to correct dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which are a common cause of leaky gut.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases.