Leaky Gut is becoming an increasingly known term for something that has been known for years by functional medicine and naturopathic doctors as intestinal hyper-permeability. The conventional medical community in the past has always written it off as pseudo-science woo-woo non-sense, however, with new information coming to light over the past few years we now have scientific evidence that leaky gut, now known as intestinal permeability, does exist. Not only that, but many studies show that the integrity of the intestinal barrier is a major factor in the development of autoimmune disease.
In fact, leaky gut research experts like Alessio Fasano PHD now believe leaky gut is a precondition to developing autoimmunity:
“There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including [celiac disease] and [type 1 diabetes]. Therefore, we hypothesize that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity.”
Researchers have identified a protein called zonulin that increases intestinal permeability in humans and other animals. This led to a search of the medical literature for illnesses characterized by increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Imagine their surprise when the researchers found that many, if not most, autoimmune diseases – including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease – are characterized by abnormally high levels of zonulin and a leaky gut. In fact, researchers have found that they can induce type 1 diabetes almost immediately in animals by exposing them to zonulin. They develop a leaky gut, and begin producing antibodies to islet cells – which are responsible for making insulin.
So what exactly is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The term Leaky Gut Syndrome is used to describe the condition of “Intestinal Hyper-permeability” which basically means the intestinal lining has became more porous, with more holes developing that are larger in size and the screening out process of the intestine is no longer functioning properly. This results in larger, undigested food molecules, proteins, and other toxins like LPS (lipopolysaccharides), yeast, environmental toxins, and all other forms of waste that your body normally doesn’t allow through, to flow freely into your bloodstream
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Leaky Gut?
Healing a Leaky Gut is one of the foundational approaches used by functional medicine and naturopathic doctors to treat many common complaints including:
1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
2. Seasonal allergies or asthma.
3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.
5. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
6. Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
7. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
8. Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
9. Food allergies or food intolerances
How To Heal A Leaky Gut
Step 1: Remove the common triggers of Leaky Gut
Researchers have found there are 19 common triggers of Leaky Gut including:
- Chronic antibiotic, steroid, acid blocking drugs (like Prilosec or Zantac) or NSAID use (like Motrin or Advil)
- Mercury Fillings or Heavy Metals
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Chemo or Radiation Treatments
- Cesarean Birth
- Gut Dysbiosis from candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Hormone Imbalance
- Chronic Inflammation
- Vitamin and Nutrient Deficiencies
13. Inflammatory Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio
14. Industrial Seed Oils
15. Environmental Toxins
16. Sleep Deprivation
18. Chronic Stress
19. Liver Toxicity
Step 2: Rebuild the Gut
Addressing these 3 aspects are crucial to rebuilding the gut and restoring health.
Eat a healthy personalized paleo diet high in plants like fruits and vegetables.
Individualization is to supplementation is key and not everyone responds to the same supplements but common nutrients used to heal a Leaky Gut include L glutamine, colostrum, curcumin, zinc, vitamin A, B vitamins, and glutathione.
Stress management is a key aspect to healing a Leaky Gut and can include a wide range of activities from daily exercise, meditation or journaling to adequate sleep and nurturing social relationships.
Step 3: Fix the Root Causes.
A stool test is the best way to evaluate the root causes of Leaky Gut. The most common root causes include dysbiosis, or an imbalance in gut flora, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
The 5 R Gut Healing Program
The approach I have seen to be the most effective in patients with Leaky Gut is without a doubt the well-known 5 R Approach to Gut Healing.
Remove – We remove the stressors and get rid of things that are negatively affecting our GI tract including food allergies and food sensitivities, parasites, Candida, dysbiosis, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and other bacterial overgrowths.
Replace – We add back in things that may be deficient like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, or bile acids, which are needed for proper digestion.
Re-inoculate – Good bacteria help our immune system to function properly. We can use probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods to restore proper ecology in the gut and restore immune balance.
Repair – The lining of our GI tract will need to be repaired. Supplying key like glutamine, aloe vera, zinc carnosine, glutathione, and other nutrients allows the cells in our digestive tract to repair and heal.
Rebalance – Our sleep, exercise, methylation status, liver detoxification, hormonal balance, neurotransmitters, and stress levels all impact our digestive function.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a common cause of so many of the complaints I see in patients. Using a comprehensive gut rebuilding protocol, the patients I have seen were finally able to get relief from their troublesome symptoms and get back to feeling their best.