By: Kurt Stradtman, CFNC, CPT
By this day and age, you've probably heard the phrase "Leaky Gut Syndrome", medically referred to as "Intestinal Permeability". This is a serious condition that effects millions of people, and probably even you! Fortunately, it can be treated, and with time and mindful diet choices and supplements, this condition and the symptoms it brings with it can be greatly improved. But what is Leaky Gut Syndrome and how does it happen, you ask? Well it all starts with a simple protein called Zonulin.
Zonulin is a protein that is produced inside the small intestine. This protein modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the small intestines. When given the right environment, this protein can be dangerous! Eating foods that you unknowingly have an intolerance to can damage these tight junctions allowing microbes, toxins, and partially digested food leak into the blood stream (hence "Leaky" Gut Syndrome).
Inside your small intestines, where most of nutritional absorption takes place, there lies a barrier, a barrier dividing up your intestinal chute and your bloodstream. What’s inside the intestines needs to stay inside the intestines where it can be properly processed and metabolized. However, certain foods we eat can begin wreaking havoc on the digestive system, damaging the cells that are the barrier for the intestines from the bloodstream. Not only does partially digested food leak out into your bloodstream (where it doesn’t belong!), but other critters like microbes, toxins and bacteria can leak out too! Once these microbes and toxins get into the bloodstream as partially digested food escapes the small intestines, your immune system kicks in, and releases inflammatory inducing eicosanoids that are released to eradicate this new foreign attacker. After these eicosanoids are released, inflammation begins and inadvertently begins to cause chaos on your digestive system, creating an autoimmune attack. The result is your body having a difficult time to absorb the much-needed nutrients. But it doesn’t stop there! It gets worse. Much worse.
At some point, this partially digested food will then join IgG antibodies and create immune complexes. These immune complexes float around the body via the bloodstream until finally, tissues absorb them, and more inflammatory eicosanoids are released creating target inflammation. This is how food intolerance's cause joint pain, headaches, and other physically painful side effects. As Leaky Gut continues throughout your life uncorrected, more and more symptoms appear. Many of us chock it up as a normal part of the aging process, when the reality is aging shouldn’t have symptoms.
As you continue to keep eating the foods that are preventing your Leaky Gut from healing, you begin to crave the very foods that are damaging your digestive system. These IgG antibodies that your body created, are now roaming around, programmed to attack the foods that are causing your reaction, they’re hungry, thus you begin craving the foods that are hurting your digestive symptom. Pretty ironic, huh?
Leaky Gut Syndrome can be considered a cycle. And a vicious one at that! You see, once you consume a food like gluten or dairy that begins to break away the cell wall of the small intestine (exposing the bloodstream), your body can repair these cells efficiently, within three days or so. No big deal. But when you continue to consume these foods (in most cases, multiple foods), your body has a hard time to keep up with the repair demand. So, like a pick axe at a rock, one or two whacks is no big deal. Continue to take repeated whacks, and soon, there will be nothing left.
The cycle begins with foods that cause these cells to break up, causing intestinal permeability. This then causes inflammation (hence inflammatory foods). Next, this inflammation causes nutrient malabsorption. Your body then has a hard time absorbing nutrient’s such as Vitamin B-12, Magnesium, Iron, etc., potentially causing vitamin deficiencies. Because your body is having a hard time absorbing these nutrients, your immune system kicks in thinking you’re sick, sending antibodies and attacking where the “damage is happening”. This immune response is then triggering various GI issues, thus creating food intolerances. After repeated attacks by your own immune system, autoimmune diseases begin to develop. After these autoimmune disease symptoms begin, consuming certain foods will trigger intestinal inflammation even more, thus completing, and at the same time, restarting this inflammatory auto-immune cycle.
If you have symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chronic constipation, nausea, or any other digestive disorder, you could be dealing with Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many people do, so you are not alone! Fortunately, with simple diet changes and lab testing, you can initiate the healing process of Leaky Gut Syndrome. As I have mentioned before, the healing of the gut is a process. It won’t happen immediately, however, once you continue this journey to wellness, and modify your lifestyle, you will begin paving the way to healing your gut and regaining your life.
Contact me and we can work out a plan of action to begin regaining control of your health. Simple blood tests can reveal food intolerance's you might have that could be jeopardizing your gastrointestinal health.