What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The digestive tract is loaded with trillions of microorganisms that form a natural ecosystem commonly called the gut flora. This ecosystem is designed to be symbiotic in that it benefits both the individual and the microbes. Certain lifestyle stressors throw off the natural symbiosis and cause a rise in pathogenic microbes, chronic gut inflammation and damage to the gut lining. When this happens it can cause a condition known as intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. This article will help to uncover the question, “what is leaky gut syndrome?”
The digestive tract is a dark, moist environment that provides a steady stream of fluid and nutrition and is therefore an optimal breeding ground for microbes of all different types. There are approximately 500 different species of microrganisms within the gut (1).
This makes up anywhere from three to six pounds of weight within the individual. The vast majority of these are beneficial and help metabolize food particles and form highly absorbable nutrients for the person to digest.
Progenic vs Pathogenic Organisms:
This internal ecosystem is dependent upon certain beneficial species being widespread and in control. These good bacteria are progenic in that they support life. These bacteria provide a protective barrier that guards the intestinal wall against pathogenic bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses & environmental toxins. These organisms also create anti-microbial substances that destroy pathogenic organisms. They are very powerful natural anti-biotics, anti-virals, & anti-fungals (2, 3).
Humans would be unable to survive without a rich array of good bacteria. The critical species are the Lactobacteria that predominate the small intestine and the Bifidobacteria that predominate the large intestine. Humans depend on these organisms to absorb nutrients and fight against infection.
These organisms also support the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract, respiratory system and sinus cavities. These organisms produce what is estimated to be about 83% of the bodies immune system (4).
Bacterial Balance is Passed Down:
We initially inherit and acquire our gut flora from our mother. The most important meal a newborn has is the exposure and inoculation of microbes as the baby travels through the mucous membrane of the vaginal canal (5). These microbes travel into the warm and moist areas of the baby and begin to form large, healthy colonies that support the formation of natural immunity. Gut flora continues to transfer over to the baby through breast milk (5).
The microbial foundation of the baby is determined by the microbial balance of the mother. Mothers with poor bacterial balance give their children an inherently poor survival ability from the start. These are typically the children that are constantly sick, have food & environmental allergens as well as neurodevelopmental & sensory processing disorders (6).
Bottle fed children are at the highest risk for poor gut function due to the toxic ingredients in typical bottle based formulas. Breast feeding, whole-food based diet and natural toxin free lifestyle offer a significant defense against leaky gut syndrome (7).
Leaky Gut Syndrome:
When the gut flora is damaged from environmental toxins such as anti-biotic usage, chlorinated water, industrial meat, processed food & drinks, etc. it allows for the pathogenic species to take control. This would include Staphylococci, Streptococci, Bacilli, Clostrida, Candida Albicans, Enterobacteria & other parasites.
These pathogenic species eat through the intestinal wall and cause gaps in the gut lining. These gaps allow for large food particles, yeast, bacteria and environmental toxins to cross into the bloodstream. These things travel through the blood stream and lodge into joints, neural tissue such as the brain, the liver and other major organs.
The immune system reacts by creating an inflammatory response in these areas. Due to the gut opening the toxins continue to pour into the bloodstream and lodge in the body and the inflammatory conditions become chronic (8). This destroys brain, organ and joint tissue and rapidly ages the body.
Toxins and the Immune System:
The gut flora has two major arms. The first arm senses our environment by reading the environmental toxins that are coming into the body. When these environmental factors such as dust, chemicals, animal hair & pollen fall on the mucous membranes the progenic bacteria sense and react to them.
The second arm is responsible for immune activation and inflammatory based reactions. When the first arm is damaged the second arm begins to become hyperactive which leads to autoimmune reactions. Depending upon the genetic tendencies of the individual this can result in asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s or Graves thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, etc.
The Function of Beneficial Microflora:
The beneficial microflora digest our food and produce enzymes that metabolize protein into absorbable amino acids. These key enzymes also transport key vitamins, minerals and other nutrients through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream where they are effectively carried to cells that are in need of these nutrient packages.
These beneficial species also help the body produce and metabolize vitamin K2, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folate & pantothenic acid. Without adequate microflora production the body will suffer from poor calcium metabolism, neuromuscular function and chronic inflammatory conditions due to deficiencies in these very important nutrients.
Once the gut membrane is damaged, we need to help support the healing of the damaged intestinal tract. This is a 4 step process of:
1) Remove Toxins, Inflammatory Foods and Bad Microbes
2) Repair the Gut Membrane
3) Replenish the Mucosal Membrane
4) Reinnoculate with Health Microbes.
Many individuals fail to ever effectively repair their gut membrane and replenish the gut membrane. My go to supplement for the repair & replenish process is Gut Repair which is loaded with natural compounds such as L-glutamine, Aloe Vera, Arbinogalactin, DGL, etc. These nutrients and herbs help to heal and seal the gut membrane and replenish the mucosal membrane. This has been a core product for individuals who are trying to improve their gut function, reverse auto-immunity, reduce pain, etc.
Avoid Anti-Biotics and Use Probiotics:
Antibiotics are the most lethal thing for our microbial balance (9). After a round of anti-biotics it will take at least four to eight weeks to reestablish the gut (10). This time period is an opportunistic window for parasites to establish themselves on the gut wall. Eating conventional meat, dairy and poultry products can be as dangerous as taking anti-biotic prescriptions due to the amount of anti-biotics present in these products.
A diet high in fermented foods and essential fats and low in sugar and other toxic food sources will speed this process up. Probiotic supplements are especially important to speed the re-inoculation time as well.
Medications of all types including contraception pills and corticosteroids are extremely hazardous to the gut flora (11). Dental fluoride treatments and fluoride based toothpaste are damaging to the microbial balance. Chlorinated water is particularly dangerous as it sterilizes our gut and repeated exposure destroys the progenic bacteria in the gut.
The best probiotic I have found for challenging digestive health cases is Prescript Assist. This is a combination of hypoallergenic, soil based organisms that are rich in fumic an humic acids. I have all of my sensitive gut cases on this supplement.
Sources For This Article Include:
- Science Direct: Gut Flora in Health and Disease Link Here
- Science Direct: Potential of Selected Lactic Acid Bacteria to Produce Food Compatible Antifungal Metabolites Link Here
- Science Direct: A Novel Eukaryotic Cell Culture Model to Study Antiviral Activity of Potential Probiotic Bacteria Link Here
- Furness JB, Kunze WA, Clerc N. Nutrient tasting and signaling mechanisms in the gut. II. The intestine as a sensory organ: neural, endocrine, and immune responses. Am J Physiol. 1999 Nov;277(5 Pt 1):G922-8. PMID: 10564096
- Mead MN. Contaminants in Human Milk: Weighing the Risks against the Benefits of Breastfeeding. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008;116(10):A426-A434. Link Here
- Mercola: How Your Gut Flora Influences Your Health Link Here
- Mercola: Four Dangers to Infants You Need to Be Aware of Link Here
- Maes M, Leunis JC. Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Dec;29(6):902-10. PMID: 19112401
- Grönlund MM, Lehtonen OP, Eerola E, Kero P. Fecal microflora in healthy infants born by different methods of delivery: permanent changes in intestinal flora after cesarean delivery. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Jan;28(1):19-25. PMID: 9890463
- Fouhy, C.M. Guinane, S. Hussey, R. Wall, C.A. Ryan, E.M. Dempsey, B. Murphy, R.P. Ross, G.F. Fitzgerald, C. Stanton, and P.D. Cotter, 2012. High-throughput sequencing reveals the incomplete, short-term recovery of infant gut microbiota following parenteral antibiotic treatment with ampicillin and gentamicin. Antim. Agents Chemother. 56:5811-5820.
- Hassan T. Pharmacologic considerations for patients taking oral contraceptives. Conn Dent Stud J. 1987 Mar;7:7-8. PMID: 3155374