I’ve Got a “Gut” Feeling: Leaky Gut Syndrome

Learn how to restore intestinal integrity
By Michelle Tonkin, ND

How many times have you heard the phrase “Listen to your gut” or “Go with your gut?” Your gut is symbolically the center of all right and wrong, and if it’s not considered when you make a decision, that decision can lead you to the wrong choice. Why is it that your gut seems to govern the rest of your body?

Most medical professionals would agree that if the gut is not healthy, the body isn’t either. In fact, many of them have come to the understanding that chronic disease begins with the gut, and Leaky Gut Syndrome is more common than people think.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is the result of an imbalance of beneficial gut flora (more bad bacteria than good) that can result in reduced immunity and is present in most disorders of the GI tract.

When the cells of the small intestine become damaged, it can cause spaces within the small intestine to become larger. These microscopic holes allow food particles, bacteria, viruses, parasites, funguses, and yeast-like candida to flow freely into the bloodstream. The body sees these particles in the bloodstream as foreign invaders and goes on the offensive, producing antibodies to attack the intruders. This can result in the development of food allergies, environmental/chemical sensitivities, and ultimately, autoimmune disease processes.

Leaky Gut Syndrome Triggers

These are some common culprits that, over time, can be a causative factor in triggering leaky gut syndrome:

Drugs:

• Antibiotics

• NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.

• Birth-control pills

• Steroid drugs

• Chemotherapeutic agents

• Antacids

Diet:

• A diet that is high in refined sugar and flour, processed foods, chemical food additives, caffeine, soda, or alcohol. These all can irritate the intestinal lining as well as overburden the liver and immune system.

Microorgan isms & Free Radicals:

• Various parasites, bacteria, mold and mycotoxins can damage the intestinal lining. The toxic byproducts set off immune responses which can further increase inflammation.

Nutrient Deficiencies:

• Zinc and vitamin B6 are needed to maintain intestinal wall integrity as well as produce hydrochloric acid.

• Vitamin A is needed to build healthy mucosal linings, including those of the intestines.

• The amino acid l-glutamine (found in protein) plays a part in the normal repair process of the intestines.

• Enzyme deficiencies to properly absorb and digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

• Lack of beneficial bacteria needed to restore proper microbial balance.

Various Diseases and Disorders:

• Inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's Disease, Colitis, Celiac, and Pancreatitis can increase intestinal permeability. The increased intestinal permeability often aggravates these conditions.

• HIV/AIDS can also create a leaky gut as can the medications used to manage the disease.

• Candidiasis

• Cancers of the gastro intestinal tract

• Food allergies that cause an immune response along the gastro intestinal tract

• Liver disorders and poor liver function

• Bacterial conditions (eg. Lyme disease, recurring Streptococcus and Staphlococcus infections)

• Viral conditions (eg.Epstein Barr, mononucleosis, and herpes) place more burden on the immune system and the gut is a major player in the body’s immunity.

Healing Leaky Gut and Restoring Intestinal Integrity

There are many types of solutions to help restore your intestine and heal Leaky Gut Syndrome. Below are a few excellent examples.

Betaine HCL: Betaine hydrochloride, also known as hydrochloric acid (HCl) or stomach acid, helps the body digest foods such as protein and fats by breaking them apart. The stomach’s naturally low pH also destroys ingested bacteria and microorganisms and keeps the gut free of invaders.

However, without adequate stomach acid, these organisms can cause many types of infections and even pave the way for full-blown disease. Without adequate levels of HCl, proper absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and iron is dramatically decreased. Without the proper amount of stomach acid, even the healthiest of foods cannot be properly digested, which in turn can lead to serious health issues. Symptoms of low hydrochloric acid are:

• bloating or belching, especially after eating

• burning in the stomach, especially after eating

• fullness or heaviness in the stomach after eating

• nausea after eating or taking supplements

• intestinal gas

• indigestion

• bad breath

• diarrhea or constipation

• food allergies

• itching around the rectum

• weak or cracked fingernails

• dilated blood vessels in the cheeks or nose (in nonalcoholics)

• skin break-outs or acne

• iron deficiency

• chronic intestinal parasites

• undigested food in the stool

• chronic Candida infection

Bowel Cleansing: Periodic cleansing of the bowel and affiliated organs is essential to health. There are many bowel cleansers on the market today, from herbal to ozone. Most are safe, effective, and non-habit-forming. The best product I have found that works effectively as a bowel and internal cleanser is a magnesium-oxide product called Bioxy Cleanse. It is important to note that stool softeners, laxatives, and enemas are not considered cleanses. Colonics are also a great option especially when dealing with chronic constipation.

Colostrum: the second immune system: Colostrum is a newer recognized supplement on the market that has proven beneficial to the immune system. Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced from the mother's mammary glands during the first 72 hours after birth. It provides life-supporting immune and growth factors that ensure the health and vitality of the newborn. Research shows that colostrum has powerful natural immune and growth factors that help bring the body to a state of homeostasis, or well-being. Colostrum has also been shown to help support healthy immune function, and enables us to resist the harmful effects of pollutants, allergens, bacteria, and viruses.

Apart from mother’s milk, the only known viable source of colostrum is from cows (bovine). As we age, our bodies gradually produce less immune and growth factors that help our bodies fight off disease and heal damaged body tissue. Because of the HGH (human growth hormones) in colostrum, it has the ability to help with tissue repair and healing, and is especially helpful in cases of compromised intestinal tracks, like LGS.

Candida Cleansers: Cleansing the bowel of candida will help restore microbial balance in the intestinal tract, especially when one is dealing with candida overgrowth. There are many candida cleansers on the market today. The better ones usually have some or all of the following: grapefruit-seed extract, pau’d arco, olive leaf, oregano, berberine, caprylic acid, and garlic.

Enzymes: Enzymes are protein molecules that are present in all living things and contain two parts. The first part is protein, a long chain which contains hundreds of amino acids in a specific arrangement. The other part is a coenzyme, usually a vitamin or mineral (or it may contain a vitamin, or perhaps a molecule which has been created from a vitamin). The enzymes found in food are responsible for breaking down the food particles as well as the biochemical reactions that make them ripen.

There are two different types of supplemental enzymes available: animal and plant. Animal enzymes are derived from the pancreas of beef or pork. They do not spare the body’s own production of digestive resources and therefore the body must contribute a large amount of its own enzymes to help digest food, especially in the early stage of the digestion process.

Plant enzymes are preferable because they work in a broader pH range than animal enzymes and are able to predigest food in the stomach. They are also derived from a natural source and not potentially laden with the animal toxins. While manufacturers are careful to put back vitamins and minerals that are lost during food manufacturing, they do not replace the enzymes. Therefore, unless supplemental forms of enzymes are taken, our diets will continue to be deficient in these nutrients, which are essential for overall health.

Essential Fatty Acids: There are two classes of essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. Essential fatty acids, or EFAs are “essential” for health. A membrane composed of special types of fats surrounds each cell of our body. These EFAs come directly from the foods we eat.

EFAs are important to prevent many health problems including skin disorders, heart disease, arthritis, and PMS. They are also great at reducing inflammation in the body; this is critical for healing LGS. Most people do not take in enough essential fatty acids, so it becomes essential to supplement. Good sources of EFAs are flax oil, primrose oil, borage oil, and fish oils.

L-Glutamine: L-Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid that circulates in the blood and skeletal muscles. This important amino acid is utilized in numerous vital functions and is required by our body for rapidly dividing cells, as well as repairing and restoring muscle and mucosal tissue. L- Glutamine plays an important part in intestinal integrity as it can help to tighten the intestinal holes caused by LG. Supplementation can be found in both capsules and powder. Powder is usually suggested as it covers the entire intestinal tract on its way down.

Probiotics (aka “friendly” bacteria, intestinal flora, beneficial bacteria): Our gastrointestinal tract houses more than 400 types of different microorganisms. These "friendly" microorganisms help protect our GI tract from "unfriendly" microorganisms, bacteria, parasites, viruses, yeasts, and fungi. They also act to improve immune system function, and have numerous health benefits.

The ratio of flora in the intestines should be of a ratio of 85 percent friendly bacteria to 15 percent harmful bacteria. Many of the chronically ill have the ratios reversed. Regular supplementation of a high-quality probiotic that contains numerous strains of living lactic acid bacteria will help produce good bacteria that encourages growth of a healthy colony of bacteria in the digestive tract. Research shows us that probiotics are of vital necessity as they:

• improve digestion and nutrient absorption

• dramatically improve human immune function

• protect against invasion of foreign pathogens and infectious agents

• enhance the immune system's ability to fight infections

• provide a main source of vitamin K

• lower cholesterol by metabolizing it

• control bowel toxicity and decrease the risk of bowel cancer

• reduce gas production by non-disease-producing microorganisms

• protect the body from the devastating effects of accumulated toxins

• produce short-chain fatty acids that are converted into energy

• help protect against unhealthy cholesterol buildup LGS can be controlled. Keep your entire body healthy by listening to your gut, and there will be no doubt you are making the right decision.

 

Michelle Tonkin, ND, CNC, MH, MI, MR, graduated with a degree in natural health and received a diploma for her Doctor of Naturopathy from Trinity College in 2005.

 

The Seven Stages of the “Inflamed” Leaky Gut

1. It cannot absorb nutrients properly and usually results in fatigue and bloating.

2. Large food particles pass through the lining and cause an autoimmune response. This results in food or environmental/chemical allergies or sensitivities.

3. The carrier proteins are damaged and cause nutrient deficiencies, which can also be the cause of many symptoms (eg. a magnesium deficiency may induce muscle spasms, a copper deficiency, or high cholesterol).

4. Chemical sensitivities can develop. This leakage of toxins can overburden the liver, and make the body less able to handle the elimination of chemicals/toxins.

5. The protective coating of IgA (immunoglobulins A) is adversely affected and the body is not able to ward off protozoa, bacteria, viruses, and yeasts, such as candida.

6. Bacteria and yeasts are able to trans-locate, meaning that they can pass from the gut lumen or cavity into the bloodstream. This enables the parasite to setup infection anywhere in the body.

7. The formation of antibodies can leak across and look similar to antigens on our own tissues. When an antibody is produced to attack it, it also attacks our tissue. The result is autoimmune disease.

For a list of suggested supplements and protocols, please visit naturalsolutionsmag.com, where we have created a special page with additional information.