In recent years, the evidence has been accumulating to support the concept of the ‘leaky gut’ as the root of many debilitating symptoms and diseases.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), type 1 diabetes, allergies, asthma, autism and heart failure have all been associated with intestinal hyper-permeability.
In their natural semi-permeable state, the intestines are able to selectively absorb nutrients while preventing antigens and pathogens entering mucosal tissue and the bloodstream.
Playing a crucial role in regulating the permeability of the mucosal barrier are complex structures between the intestinal epithelial cells called tight junctions.
Also significant in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining are billions of microbes, known as the microflora, which inhabit the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).
Injury to either the tight junctions or the intestinal cells themselves results in intestinal hyper-permeability or “leaky gut”, which allows pathogens, their toxins, and potentially harmful food particles to indiscriminately cross the intestinal barrier and enter the circulation.
Once these substances have broken through the intestinal barrier, they interfere with cell and organ functions by triggering immune and inflammatory responses, as well as activating various cell signalling systems.
This is the mechanism by which intestinal hyper-permeability is implicated in the development of autoimmune, inflammatory and atopic diseases.
The Initial Stage
In the early stages of intestinal cell injury, the ability to produce enzymes necessary for digestion and absorption of food is compromised.
Partially digested food begins to feed unfriendly bacteria, allowing them to proliferate and cause further inflammation as well as many of the initial “leaky gut” symptoms such as intestinal gas, bloating, cramps, food sensitivities, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn.
Too often, these early symptoms are ignored and intestinal inflammation worsens.
The Advanced Stage
The intestinal cells and tight junctions begin to degenerate, allowing larger gaps to form in the lining.
Harmful products such as bacteria and their toxins, along with incompletely digested proteins and fats, begin to “leak” into the bloodstream.
Symptoms become more noticeable and hard to ignore: food allergies, chronic fatigue, attention disorders, headaches, migraines, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, joint pain, early stages of autoimmunity and digestive issues.
Resolving intestinal hyper-permeability calls for a treatment of repair and prevention to further injury to intestinal cells, remove problematic overgrowth of candida and parasites, and inhibit inflammatory responses.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics inhibit pathogenics infections and maintain intestinal integrity by assisting microflora balance following antibiotic use and other causes of dysbiosis.
The primary beneficial bacteria in the GIT are the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria species.
These species produce lactic acid to create an acidic gut environment that discourages the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Additional immune protection is provided by stimulation of immune processes and the production of substances called bacteriocins, which act as natural antibiotics.
Probiotic bacteria are also able to control pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines, to assist in the management of intestinal and systemic inflammation.
Glutamine is the principle fuel used by the rapidly dividing cells of the small and large intestine. With oral ingestion of glutamine, intestinal cells are able to increase in number to repair areas of hyper-permeability. in one human study, glutamine decreased intestinal permeability caused by NSAIDS.
Another study showed how this protective effect of glutamine can attenuate systemic inflammatory responses in postoperative patients.
Metagenics Anti Inflammatory Mucosal Support provides Glutamine, Licorice root, Aloe Vera and zinc to restore intestinal gut lining.
Heavy training athletes often suffer from “leaky gut”. New research demonstrates how colostrum – rich in antibodies, immunoglobulins and other immune-boosting factors to ward off infection and protect the intestinal tract – reduces intestinal permeability and cell injury in exercising subjects.
As well as immunoglobulin G (IgG), colostrum contains lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase, all of which are responsible for overall gastrointestinal health and strong bactericidal activity against pathogens.
Lactoferrin, for example, up-regulates the proliferation of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, inhibits the attachment of E. coli to intestinal cells, and itself demonstrates antiviral and anti-fungal activity in the GIT.
Metagenics Ultra Probioplex is a premium colostrum product which prevents harmful microbes from adhering to the gut wall.
Early Treatment Is The Key
Intestinal hyper-permeability becomes increasingly difficult to heal the further it progresses.
Early treatment with probiotics and synergistic nutrients such as glutamine and colostrum offers significant benefits to the repair of a “leaky gut” and overall GIT health.
Testing For Leaky Gut
Using Computerised Electro Dermal Screening (CEDS) and measuring Urine Indican, leaky gut can be detected and a rehabilitation program undertaken. Testing for food sensitivities using the CEDS is very important to identify and remove the insulting foods that aggravate leaky gut.