Leaky Gut Syndrome

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

It is a proposed condition characterized by intestinal hyperpermeability. It is also known simply as “Leaky gut.”

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

  • Eating without chewing foods properly
  • Eating while stressed or on the run
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Low stomach acid levels
  • Smoking
  • Deficiency of digestive enzymes due to consumption of cooked foods (the enzyme content of most foods is depleted once cooked)
  • Eating plenty of fast foods and processed foods (such as processed grains and meat)
  • Stressed and overworked liver, pancreas and gallbladder due to excessive intake of processed food
  • MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella immunization vaccine)

The disease may also arise due to use of the following drugs:

  • Antibiotics
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, aspirin) [1]
  • Steroid drugs
  • Chemotherapeutic agents
  • Antacids
  • Birth control pills

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?

The condition is marked by bowel hyperpermeability, due to disruption of the zonula occludens or tight junctions (the fluid resistant barrier formed by joining of the cell membranes within the intestinal tissues). The damaged tight junctions allow partly digested food particles to move through the intestinal linings, leading to various symptoms.

These involve:

  • Bloating [2]
  • Gas
  • Muscle cramps
  • Brain fog
  • Flatulence
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Weight gain and obesity

The disease may hamper the functioning of the immune system, leading to various liver and bladder problems, as well as conditions like fever, food allergies and malnutrition. It may also cause recurrent vaginal infections (such as yeast infection) in women.

What are the Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Rather than considering it as a separate disorder, doctors regard leaky gut syndrome as an indication of the presence of some of the following chronic or acute diseases.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome)
  • Autism
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Systemic candidiasis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple chemical sensitivities
  • Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Psoriasis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Colon Cancer
  • Eczema
  • Acne

Leaky Gut Syndrome Tests and Diagnosis

No diagnostic test is required to confirm it. However, doctors may perform some or all of the following procedures to detect any underlying disorder. These include:

  • PolyethelyneGlycol (PEG) test [3]
  • Digestive stool analysis, for monitoring the functioning of the digestive system to observe the absorption of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the colon as well as to detect the presence of any bacterial infection like candidiasis and any other digestive dysfunction
  • Blood tests, for detecting high levels of antibodies like IgA, IgG and IgM
  • Skin allergy and sensitivity testing, such as skin prick test, patch test and blood radioallergosorbent (RAST) test
  • Food allergy testing, involving elimination diet that rules out certain foods from the diet if suspected to be responsible for the symptoms
  • Urine tests, for calculating the levels of eight essential amino acids that need to be absorbed from food as the human body is unable to produce them
  • Live blood cell analysis, for monitoring the movements of the RBCs and the WBCs as well as the functioning of the immune system, the presence of free radicals and pathogens, functioning of the digestive system, presence of harmful bacteria, fungus and parasites, vitamin or mineral deficiencies and liver or pancreatic disorders

How to Treat Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Treating the underlying condition generally helps to get rid of the symptoms of a leaky gut. However, certain dietary restrictions may be recommended to prevent further deterioration of the condition.

Dietary Measures

These involve:

  • Increasing the intake of fresh raw fruits and vegetables to get enough enzymes
  • Including proper food combinations in the diet, avoiding protein-sugar combinations and fruit-oil combinations
  • Drinking at least two liters of water per day outside of mealtimes; one can drink lukewarm water along with some lemon juice if preferred
  • Leaving 4-hour long gaps between meals to allow the food to be digested properly [4]
  • Replacing few meals with fresh, sugar-free fruit and vegetable juice
  • Consuming high quality animal proteins such as fresh meat, fish and eggs
  • Including healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil in one’s daily diet

Foods to Avoid

These include:

  • Sugars and sweeteners
  • Bread
  • Vinegar
  • Packaged and processed foods
  • Dairy products like yoghurt
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverage
  • Canned or dried fruits
  • Foods containing garlic (as garlic may aggravate the condition of the already damaged intestinal lining)
  • Grains including wheat, rice, oats, corn and barley
  • Beans, lentils and nuts
  • Potatoes, tomatoes and mushrooms

In breast-feeding infants, treatment for leaky gut syndrome [5] may vary from one patient to another. It is advisable to consult a pediatrician regarding the foods ideal for sealing the damaged intestine. In most cases, it is recommended to delay the introduction of all starchy foods until an affected baby is at least 18 months old.

Health Supplements

Certain nutritional and natural supplements are often recommended for healing an damaged intestine. It is advisable to seek immediate medical attention in case of any adverse side effects due to the use of these supplements.

  • Glutamine
  • Zinc
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamins A, B, C and E
  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Betaine Hydrochloric Acid
  • Caprylic Acid

Alternative Treatment Options

These include the following herbal supplements:

  • Slippery Elm
  • Liquorice
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Marshmallow root
  • Aloe Vera
  • Plantain
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile

Homeopathic [6] and Traditional Chinese medicines [7] also claim to be effective in healing the intestinal damage.

Leaky Gut Syndrome in Animals

It is known to occur in animals like dogs, cats and horses, and cause various symptoms including ear infections, respiratory allergies, hair or coat problems, diarrhea and itchy skin.

References

 

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