Leaky Gut

Leaky gut syndrome, is not generally recognized by conventional physicians, but evidence is accumulating that it is a real condition that affects the lining of the intestines. The theory is that leaky gut syndrome (also called increased intestinal permeability), is the result of damage to the intestinal lining. As a consequence, some bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream and generate all sorts of chemical reaction, resulting in to illness.
This one layer intestinal physical barrier of our gut is as large as 2 tennis courts. Like our skin it is the principal interface between body and all what we eat and drink. Other factor that helps with gut integrity is ,gut microflora–microbiome–it helps the barrier by forming healthy biofilm. As shown in illustration below, gastric acid, mucus, some antibodies and enzymes and immunological barrier are all at the to protect our body and blood stream to get exposed to toxins.
Some of the Factors that the alter and damage both these barriers are stress, toxins, inflammation, infection, poor diet, chemicals, heavy metals, and much more, causing leaky gut–intestinal permeability.(fig-1)

Layers of Normal barrier (Fig 1) [with permission from IFM]
Layers of Normal barrier (Fig 1) [with permission from IFM]
As the barrier is compromised that allows foreign material into our body, tissue, blood stream and automatically our body starts the process to eliminate this foreign material. This causes inflammation and upper regulates our own immune system. In that process are body forearms immune complexes, they themselves with the chemical reaction, cause inflammation and damage organs. A lot of times these invading foreign material, antigen often mimics specific protein complex of specific organ( just to give you some examples,) thyroid tissue or joint tissue, resulting in to thyroiditis or arthritis.

Altered Intestinal Permeability
Altered Intestinal Permeability

This increased permeability does not just happen in intestinal tract. As different toxins get access into our body, because of increased intestinal permeability, it affects all membrane interface, such as blood brain barrier giving access to immune complex affecting our brain, resulting in to multiple symptoms like difficulty with memory, confusion, “foggy brain” etc. If it affects kidney it can cause renal problems, if it affects lung, it can cause allergy, asthma, and other conditions.

Healthy Gut
Healthy Gut

There is a great deal of research linking leaky gut and multi organ system failure.
Increased permeability or leaky In itself is not disease, but it is a dysfunction of the lining which in turn increase the toxic burden for body, and the process of dealing with this toxic burden causes myriads of symptoms and diseases.

Alessio Fasano, world leading researcher on celiac disease proposed without increased intestinal permeability (Leakey gut), genetic predisposition and antigenic load (Gluten), alone is not enough to cause celiac disease ( which is one of the autoimmune conditions ). All 3 conditions are needed for autoimmune illness.

Damaged Cell Junctions
Damaged Cell Junctions

Usually one may not think following conditions do not have any common link but they do, partly because of leaky gut being one of the major root causes of these symptoms and conditions (2,3)

Allergies, asthma,
Food sensitivities, and food allergies,
Digestive disorder, constipation, IBS, diarrhea, bloating, dyspepsia, abdominal pain
Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis
Autoimmune conditions , chronic joint pain chronic muscle pain
Hashimoto thyroiditis,
Environment illnesses, multiple chemical sensitivities
Eczema, acne, rash, psoriasis, hives
Fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome
Sleep disturbances,
Fuzzy memory, foggy brain,
Cognitive disorder
Migraines,
Anxiety, depression, mood changes,
Food allergies and sensitivities.

Any one of these symptoms and illnesses can developed depending on your own susceptibilities determined by your own physiology, detoxication ability, genetics, nutrition…

Relatively noninvasive test exists to diagnose increased intestinal permeability. The test is performed by giving patient lactulose and mannitol. These are type of sugars. These sugars are not metabolized by our body so the amount absorbed is excreted in the urine over 6 hours. Because of their differential absorption, their ratio of excretion in the urine helps us determine possibility of leaky gut.

First step in approaching these conditions is to have a thorough knowledge about this condition and tools to approach this illness. Functional medicine approach is systematic way of thinking about your condition and personalized way to evaluate, and help you get to the recovery.

Author: Admin

Dr Shah practices Functional & Integrative medicine. She is Board certified by American Board of Medical Specialists in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. She is also a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner.

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