Alternative names: Leaky Gut Syndrome, LGS, Intestinal Hyper-Permeability, Increased Intestinal Permeability
Leaky gut is a poorly recognized but very common problem, which is rarely tested for. This condition results from an overly-permeable intestinal lining with spaces between the cells of the gut wall. These spaces allow 'foreign' material (bacteria, toxins and food particles) to leak into the bloodstream where they should not be, placing an additional burden on the immune and detoxification systems.
The barrier maintained by a healthy intestinal mucosa is an incomplete one to begin with. Small numbers of molecules of different sizes and characteristics do cross the intact epithelium by both active and passive mechanisms. Generally, the larger the molecule, the less likely it is to be allowed across. Once the gut lining becomes inflamed or damaged, it becomes more difficult to keep foreign, larger particles out. As the spaces between cells open up, larger particles are allowed to be absorbed into the body.
Normally the body sees only tiny food antigens and limited amounts of bacteria. When it sees these new, larger ones, it considers them foreign invaders. Antibodies are then produced against once harmless foods and your immune system becomes increasingly occupied with chores it should not have to be performing. Your health becomes more difficult to maintain as increasing numbers of foods must be avoided for you to feel well.
Even though the gut is becoming leakier, vitamin and mineral absorption becomes reduced – not increased, as you might expect – because some carrier mechanisms of absorption become damaged as part of the process. Many nutrients have to be carried across the barrier and will not otherwise be absorbed.
The junctions between cells not only need to be 'tight' but the surface area of the small intestine must be large for normal nutrient processing to occur. Continued irritation and inflammation of the gut lining causes an even greater malabsorption by reducing the overall surface area of the lining. Even when consuming the healthiest of diets, inadequate nutrient absorption may compound the problem of having to deal with all these new foreign invaders.
Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when the wall of the GI tract is damaged. A healthy intestinal wall allows only nutrients to pass into the bloodstream; when it is damaged, larger molecules – such as incompletely digested fats, proteins and toxins – slip through as well. The body recognizes these substances as foreign and forms antibodies to them, which is why a person can suddenly become allergic to foods they have always eaten without a problem. LGS also causes 'environmental allergies' which make an individual respond negatively to various inhalants from the environment.
Furthermore, a compromised gut barrier with poor mucosal immune function causes inflammation, and can lead to autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. The immune system can form antibodies to proteins which are similar to (or the same as) human proteins, and then start to attack parts of the body. This is how autoimmune diseases – such as MS or arthritis – 'work'. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common in those with leaky gut because they lack sufficient cells to move minerals and vitamins from the gut to the blood.
Candida albicans is a major cause of leaky gut. A person with Candida overgrowth in the GI tract will also suffer from Leaky Gut Syndrome. When Candida changes from yeast to fungal form it forms rhizoids – root-like structures – that break through the intestinal walls. Even when Candida is balanced and the gut heals, food allergies will remain for a while because the antibodies to that food still exist.
Stress. The intestinal lining replaces itself, on the average, every 14 hours. To replace intestinal walls requires blood and the first organ to lose blood during stressful situations is intestinal tract. In those who experience a lot of stress, the intestinal lining will not regenerate and leaky gut becomes more likely.
Hormonal imbalance allows Candida to proliferate, a primary cause of LGS.
Alcohol and caffeine decrease number of friendly bacteria, and again allow Candida to proliferate.
Food allergies aggravate LGS.
Chemicals in fermented or processed food.
If the gut is not healthy, the rest of the body cannot be either. LGS makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of wellness. Chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia and escalating food allergies are among the many manifestations of a leaky gut.
The leakage of toxic waste from the gut into the bloodstream is believed to be a primary cause of Multiple Sclerosis.
The leakage of toxic waste from the gut into the bloodstream is believed to be a primary cause of Chronic Fatigue.
According to research published in June, 2017 in the Australian sports journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, long periods of intense exercise can trigger Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Types of roundworm called Strongyloides and Ascaris lumbricoides can cause increased intestinal permeability.
The overuse of pain medication can eventually lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Removal of wheat and dairy products from the diet will produce temporary relief of some of the symptoms of increased intestinal permeability. Patients suffering from this condition as well as reduced amounts of normal gut flora have high levels of antibodies to gliadin and casein.
See the link between Intestinal Permeability and a Gluten-free diet.
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