(photo courtesy of: http://holisticsquid.com/leaky-gut-syndrome-quiz/)
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a disorder involving increased intestinal permeability or hyper permeability. There are tight junctions in the intestines that control what is allowed to pass through the small intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. When the junctions are compromised, the intestinal lining can “leak” bacteria, toxins, undigested proteins, fats, and waste into the bloodstream. When excess substances leak into the blood, it can cause an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as abdominal swelling, gas, bloating, cramps, pain, distention, food sensitivities, fatigue, malaise, diarrhea, skin rashes, brain fog, toxic feelings, joint aches/pain, and poor exercise tolerance.
Some diseases associated with increased intestinal permeability include:
Dr. Leo Galland refers to Leaky Gut Syndrome as a vicious cycle that involves 4 major stages.
Cycle one is Allergy. Many people with Leaky Gut Syndrome accrue food sensitivities. He explains that “the relationship between food sensitivities and leaky gut is complex and circular” (http://www.mdheal.org/leakygut.htm). Exposure to allergenic foods causes a sharp increase to intestinal permeability.
Cycle Two is Malnutrition. “Malnutrition can also be defined as the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/179316.php). Leaky gut can cause the intestinal lining or epithelial wall to become damaged, which can then cause malnutrition. The epithelium or gut lining has a normal cell turnover every 3-6 days. If malnutrition persists, it can inhibit the regrowth of the epithelium and hyperpermeability can intensify. Dr. Galland also explains that there is a relationship between intestinal hyperpermeability and pancreatic dysfunction; therefore, pancreatic enzymes could be beneficial for leaky gut sufferers (http://www.mdheal.org/leakygut.htm).
Cycle Three is Bacterial Dysbiosis. Bacterial dysbiosis refers to a microbial imbalance in the body. Dysbiosis can lead to imbalances of normal gut flora in the intestines with an overgrowth of bacteria and other microorganisms. This can alter immune responses in the body. If there is hyperpermeability, bacteria sensitization can occur and then lead to inflammation. Inflammation can lead back to hyperpermeability, which explains the circular, vicious cycle of leaky gut syndrome.
Cycle Four is Hepatic Stress. The word “hepatic” is defined as “of or relating to the liver (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hepatic). With Leaky gut sydrome, the functions of the liver are stressed and working overtime to remove toxic substances that have leaked out of the intestines and into the bloodstream. The inability of the liver to keep up with removing the toxins can lead to an excess of endotoxins in the body, which then leads to toxicity. Toxicity in the body can lead back to exacerbating the hyperpermeability of the gut, and once again, perpetuating the leaky gut cycle.
Hyperpermeability generates a vicious cycle that can affect the functions of the digestive tract, liver, pancreas, and immune system. Leaky gut syndrome is a complex health condition that requires the attention of a qualified health practitioner to develop a customized treatment plan to minimize damage and strategize toward healing and recovery.