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What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
January 27th, 2012
Why You Want To Pay Close Attention
To This Controversial Subject...
By Jason Boehm MS, CNS, MMC. Edited By PEERtrainer
Leaky Gut is technically classified as a "proposed condition" because it is not fully understood, especially from the perspective of "conventional medicine." However, the symptoms that are associated with leaky gut syndrome are very real.
From the perspective of some leading doctors, there is no doubt that the syndrome is real. According to Linda Lee, MD, and director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center: "We don't know a lot but we know that it exists."
If you are suffering from skin rashes and eczema, intestinal irritability, fatigue, food sensitivities or joint pain, you'd be well served to understand what is currently known about leaky gut syndrome as the evidence accumulates.
How Leaky Gut Syndrome Is Thought To Work
Imagine you're waiting to pass through airport security. Normally you must endure several inspections before passing through to your gate. As you enter today, however, you notice the TSA guys seem distracted and start letting everyone through without a check. These aren't necessarily bad people, but they need to be carefully screened before they get through.
Then, as these people pass through the detector, airport police swarms upon them and attack. Behind them await a SWAT team ready to pounce.
Something very similar occurs in your body when undigested food and other components slip get past your gut wall's security and make its way into your bloodstream.
How Leaky Gut Syndrome Is Believed To Develop
Your gut wall packs millions of cells held together by tight junctions that only allow properly digested food to pass through. Over time, conditions like stress, a high-sugar/processed-food diet, use of antibiotics, and overusing Tylenol can erode those tight junctions.
Tiny gaps develop in your gut wall, which allow undigested food, bacteria, and metabolic wastes -- things that should stay confined in your gut -- to escape into your bloodstream. That's when intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome, develops.
Once in the blood, your body releases an army of white blood cells to zap these foreign invaders. When that doesn't clear the problem, your immune system overreacts and signals an even more militant army to eliminate these invaders.
Your immune system attacks these substances with antibodies, which latch on to the substances and form an immune complex. These complexes then find homes in your brain, joints, and other tissues.
Inflammation is the end result, which only exacerbates the damage. For one, inflammation further erodes your gut wall and destroys your good bacteria. Whatever tissues these complexes lodge onto -- your brain, for instance -- also becomes inflamed.
At its worst, inflammation triggers autoimmune diseases like Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). But you might never suspect leaky gut syndrome's more subtle damage that manifests as numerous symptoms.
Related PEERtrainer Article: The Foods That Cause Inflammation
How "Healthy Foods" Can Create Leaky Gut Syndrome
Let's say you ate a vegetable omelet Monday morning. Come Wednesday afternoon, you feel bloated and fatigued as you reach for that third cup of coffee, which you then blame on your developing headache.
You might never guess an otherwise-healthy omelet could trigger delayed food sensitivities and disparate symptoms like skin problems, depression, constipation, sugar cravings, and the dreaded weight loss resistance.
How To Fix Leaky Gut Syndrome Or Reduce The Associated Symptoms
In the view of PEERtrainer, in order to solve any problem or get to the root of something that is wrong with you, you must have an open mind. This is the single biggest issue that we see that prevents people from solving a health issue or from losing weight.
Don't view anyone as the final word when it comes to your health. You need to be a detective, and carefully test test test. Approaching your health in this way also gives you some hope. PEERtrainer keeps seeing people overcoming health issues that doctors frankly are only equipped to address the symptoms of.
The area of gut health is no different. If you suffer from any of the symptoms outlined in this article, you'd be well advised to follow the protocol that many health professionals recommend.
Keep Reading: How To Fix Your Gut
How To Cure Leaky Gut Syndrome: Remove And Repair
In order to get at the root of the symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome and restore your gut wall's integrity, the first step you need to take is to remove the problematic foods and repair your gut wall with the right nutrients.
Step One: Remove The Offending Protein
The most accurate way to pinpoint exactly what foods create your leaky gut syndrome is IgG food intolerance testing, which measures 30 common antigens and then categorizes the offending foods with their severity.
You know soy, dairy, and gluten are common offenders, but you might be surprised to learn even healthy foods like nuts, eggs, and meats also create food sensitivities. When you eat these foods frequently, they linger in your system, slip through your gut wall, and trigger inflammation and the many leaky gut syndrome symptoms.
Depending on how severely these foods affect you, you either rotate or completely eliminate them for a short time from, and then reintroduce them into, your diet.
Even if you don't do the IgG testing (many doctors dismiss this test even though it is growing in popularity) you'd be well advised to to begin testing how these different foods effect you.
Leaky Gut And The Food Rotation Diet
One of the most effective things you can do is create a food rotation diet, where you eliminate and then reintroduce problematic foods. To do this, you'll want to keep a food journal and carefully monitor what you eat. Egg, for instance, lurks in many salad dressings and baked goods. And gluten hides in odd places like mustard and processed sausages.
From the perspective of PEERtrainer, there is nobody out there who would not benefit from testing the food elimination diet. Medical professionals might be successful in convincing people not to do a certain test. But there is no responsible health professional out there who would advocate not testing how individuals respond to different foods.
Step Two: Get The Right Nutrients To Repair Your Gut Wall
You also want to heal your gut wall so those proteins can't slip through and wreak havoc. Zinc, curcumin, and aloe are among the nutrient arsenal to help repair leaky gut syndrome. Other nutrients to restore your gut wall include:
Glutamine This amino acid is your small intestine's preferred source of fuel, so it makes sense glutamine can also help repair your gut wall. A study in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN), for instance, showed glutamine reduced gut permeability and strengthened mucosal-cell integrity.
Quercetin Found in apples and onions, quercetin works as a powerful antioxidant to reduce histamine, an inflammatory compound your immune system releases with leaky gut syndrome. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, therapeutic amounts of quercetin are anti-inflammatory and can help stabilize the cells that release histamine in your body.
Ginger You've probably had ginger tea or used a ginger supplement for nausea. Ginger also packs powerful anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce gut inflammation.
N-acetylglucosamine (NAG) A study in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) showed NAG could help your gut develop and maintain a normal mucus barrier to prevent offending proteins from slipping through. NAG also helps your gut maintain optimal levels of the probiotic Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Probiotics Probiotics help reduce inflammation, repopulate beneficial bacteria, and strengthen your gut wall. A study in The Journal of Pediatrics, for example, showed that using probiotics could stabilize your gut barrier and, in this study, decrease gut-related problems in children. Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends a very high dose of probiotics for people who have leaky gut syndrome.
Finally, consider digestive enzymes, which ensure your food breaks down efficiently so it doesn't irritate your gut lining or activate your immune system. Digestive enzymes also help remove pathogens, toxins, and other harmful substances that erode the gut wall and trigger inflammation.
The Link Between Leaky Gut Syndrome And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
A study published in 2008 showed "significant clinical improvement" among a majority of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome "after intake of natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative substances (NAIOSs), such as glutamine, N-acetyl cysteine and zinc, in conjunction with a leaky gut diet."
The Link Between Leaky Gut Syndrome And Depression
Another study published in 2008 showed that among people who were diagnosed with major depression, clinical indicators for leaky gut syndrome were "significantly greater." The study concluded that people with major depression should be "checked for leaky gut" via a test for immune system antibodies, and treated accordingly.
New Understanding Of The Link Between Leaky Gut Syndrome And Autoimmune Disorders
An article published in February of 2012 discusses how a certain protein called "zonulin" has been identified as key actor in the functioning of the "tight junctions" that hold the cells together that comprise the wall of the intestine. When zonulin is "deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, autoimmune disorders can occur."
When the function of zonulin is "normalized" the tight junctions begin to function in a more proper way. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what causes zonulin to "go haywire" but there is general agreement that the protocols to combat leaky gut do help.
We reference these studies at the end of this article to show people that there is a great deal of research being done in this area. Because this is a relatively new area of focus for the medical community, there is skepticism and confusion. But a consensus is starting to come into focus about how to identify and treat leaky gut syndrome.
[Editorial Note: To assist in the repair of the intestine and help fix leaky gut syndrome, a nutritional cleanses can be very helpful. This aids the body with detoxification and balance, but also helps with weight loss reduction. But there are some things to be aware of before you cleanse. Nutrition, health and weight reduction expert, JJ Virgin PhD, has spent the last 15 years educating doctors and patients on how to cleanse properly.
She recently held an extremely popular webinar for the PEERtrainer community, sharing the "real deal" on cleansing to overcome weight loss resistance and more. To get this webinar, plus a free report containing JJ's top tips for cleansing, detoxifying, and dieting as well as the free PEERtrainer Cheat System, illustrating which foods to avoid when cleansing, enter your email address here and click submit:]
Derrien M, et al. Akkermansia muciniphila gen. nov., sp. nov., a human intestinal mucin-degrading bacterium. IJSEM 2004 Sept; 54(5): 1469-76. dos Santos RG, et al. Glutamine supplementation decreases intestinal permeability and preserves gut mucosa integrity in an experimental mouse model.
JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010 Jul-Aug;34(4):408-13.
Foley S, et al. Characterisation of glutamine fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase (EC 22.214.171.124) and N-acetylglucosamine metabolism in Bifidobacterium. Arch Microbiol. 2008 Feb;189(2):157-67.
Grzanna R, et al. Ginger -- an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32.
Resta-Lenert S, et al. Probiotics and commensals reverse TNF-alpha- and IFN-gamma-induced dysfunction in human intestinal epithelial cells. Gastroenterology. 2006 Mar;130(3):731-46.
Rosenfeldt V, et al. Effect of probiotics on gastrointestinal symptoms and small intestinal permeability in children with atopic dermatitis. J Pediatr. 2004 Nov;145(5):612-6.
Shen L, et al. Role of epithelial cells in initiation and propagation of intestinal inflammation. Eliminating the static: tight junction dynamics exposed. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006 Apr;290(4):G577-82.
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