So many of our clients come to us seeking help with gastrointestinal issues. We would estimate that 75% of our clients come to see us with gut based problems and at least half of those that don’t we end up treating the gut anyhow. Hippocrates himself said all disease begins in the gut and countless greats since his time have confirmed this. Leaky gut syndrome is incredibly common.
We specialise in gut health, autoimmune conditions and hormones. The latter two of these are often linked to gut health and all three often have leaky gut/intestinal permeability in common.
Clinical Importance of Intestinal Integrity
When barrier mechanisms break down, and undesirable substances penetrate the intestinal barrier, known as “leaky gut” syndrome, the body’s immune system may become exposed to large dietary and bacterial macromolecules which may trigger or contribute to immune reactions underlying a wide range of clinical conditions
Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome:
inflammatory and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), Ulcerative Colitis, Inflammatory Joint Disease, ie Rheumatoid Arthritis, Food sensitivities ,IBS, Eczema, Urticaria and other skin problems, Crohn’s Disease, alcoholism, Coeliac Disease and gluten sensitivity bacterial & fungal infections, all autoimmune conditions dementia, cognitive decline and depression.
You can see from the above so many health problems can be helped by evaluating and treating gut health.
How Altered Permeability Occurs
When mucosal cells become exposed to bacterial, dietary or chemical toxins, the tight junctures between the mucosal cells expand, creating a “hole”, enabling the absorption of larger molecules across the gastrointestinal tract mucosa into the bloodstream and general circulation. These antigenic molecules can provoke detoxification and/or immune reactions, contributing to the toxic load of the system.
Common Causes of “Leaky Gut”
It doesn’t necessarily take infection, toxins or trauma to create deterioration in the function of gastric mucosal integrity. Even natural ageing leads to the atrophy of mucosal wall cells, a decrease in hydrochloric acid secretion and changes in the balance of the colon bacterial population. Furthermore, depending upon our individual biochemical and genetic makeup and particular exposure to various foods and environmental chemicals over our lifetime, with repeated insults over time, the integrity of the gastric mucosal barrier is likely to deteriorate.
Some of the various potential causes of “leaky gut” include:
intestinal infection, intestinal dysbiosis – disruption of intestinal flora balance, NSAIDs – used extensively by arthritis sufferers, Intestinal parasites – including yeasts, poor digestion, ingestion of allergic foods, Chemotherapy and gastroenteritis
Inflammatory Joint Disease
Since all material crossing the intestinal mucosa is inspected by the immune system, the consequences of increased gut permeability are that antigenic macromolecules enter the general circulation; antibodies may be created which cross-react with host tissues, leading to the development of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The development of food sensitivities is mediated by factors unique to each individual – heredity, intestinal permeability, immune responsiveness and exposure to food over a lifetime.
Normally, the intestinal tract acts as an effective barrier against the excessive absorption of bacterial and food antigens and large molecules. When permeability is altered, excessive amounts of food antigens enter the system, leading to the sensitisation of the immune system and the potential development of food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are a symptom not a cause.
When foods are not properly digested and broken down, larger food fragments (proteins, carbohydrates) are increasingly absorbed, increasing antigenic response, activating detoxification and/or immune responses, and creating toxic overload. Undetected Gluten sensitivity is often key in gut health.
Detection and Measurement of Intestinal Permeability
We use a combination of a case history and highly sensitive blood testing to evaluate permeability. For further info regarding the blood test please see Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications. (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2012, 10(10): 1096–1100. The blood test can be used for monitoring treatment effectiveness and can be repeated after say 6 months.
Therapeutic Restoration of Intestinal Permeability
Clinical research from numerous disciplines associated with gut permeability has demonstrated the role and therapeutic efficacy of a variety of substances – nutrients, enzymes, herbs and essential fatty acids – which play a role in preventing mucosal damage, nourishing the growth of favourable bacteria conducive to mucosal integrity and repairing damage and stimulating regeneration of damaged intestinal mucosal cells.