Leaky Gut Syndrome is usually caused by exposure to substances which damage the integrity of the gut lining of the small intestine. The commonest causes of damage are antibiotics; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Diclofenac, Neurofen etc; alcohol; and infection by virus, bacteria or parasite.
Symptoms Associated with Increased Intestinal Permeability
Fevers of unknown origin
Poor memory and difficulty learning
Poor exercise tolerance
What is Leaky Gut?
The small intestine is a tube that would be around 21 ft long, if you stretched it out. It is where food is digested. The lining of the small intestine is rather like a fine sieve, which allows only the breakdown products of digestion to pass through the gut wall and into the bloodstream and keeps undigested food molecules, microbes like bacteria, yeast etc; and toxins out.
The walls of the small intestine are lined with finger-like projections called villi. These have hair-like projections called microvilli, which serve as a point of absorption of nutrients. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol or infection can cause the intestinal lining to become inflamed and the microvilli to become damaged or altered, losing their hair-like projection - so in effect, getting bald patches. The damaged microvilli cannot then produce the necessary enzymes and secretions that are essential for a healthy digestion and the absorption of nutrients. This can lead to malabsorption.
When an area becomes inflamed in this way, the actual structure of the lining which keeps out large molecules, undigested protein, bacteria etc from passing into the bloodstream is weakened. Gaps appear between the cells. The fine sieve has now become more of a colander allowing large particles and toxins to escape into the body. This puts the immune system on red alert and in response it produces antibodies to locate and attack foreign objects to fight off the molecules, as they are perceived as an invader. This can initiate allergic reactions. Large amounts of this material can overwhelm the system and a cascade of inflammatory events may ensue that can trigger or exacerbate autoimmune disease.
As the blood is filtered by the liver, this increase in toxins which have leaked out of the gut results in an overburdened liver. The liver is the largest organ in the body and plays a very important part in detoxification as well as having many other functions. Leaky Gut Syndrome completely overworks the liver because it floods it with additional toxins, reducing the liver's ability to cope. When it cannot cope with this high level of toxins, the liver expels them back into the bloodstream. The circulatory system then pushes the toxins into the connective tissues and muscles where the body stores them to prevent major organ damage.
What conditions are associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome?
In a very interesting article by the American Herbalist, Paul Bergner, he states that the theory of Leaky Gut Syndrome being associated with various illnesses, including autoimmunity, has been postulated by alternative medicine since the mid-1980s and that studies and trials that support the theory now abound in the scientific literature. He also states that “research studies indicate that gut permeability may be pathologically increased by antibiotic therapy (Rutgers et al; Whang et al), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Jenkins et al; Louis et al; Nylander et al; Wallace), food allergies (de Boissieu et al; Louis et al; Troncone et al,1994), alcohol (Bjarnason et al), stress (Saunders et al), and poor nutrition (Rodriguez et al).
Research also shows that the gut does not increase in permeability due to normal aging (Saltzman et al), that mother’s milk can protect against permeability-inducing injuries (Crissinger et al.). Various researchers have also linked increased intestinal permeability with autoimmune diseases in general (Parke; Zananian), arthritis (Paganelli et al; Parke); ankylosing spondylitis (Martinez-Gonzales et al); collagen autoimmune diseases (Tsutsumi et al), Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative colitis (Geboes; Ma; Stevens; Zanjanian), and autoimmune skin disorders (Kieffer and Barnetson; Paganelli et al; Parke.)”
Conditions Associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome (Increased Intestinal Permeability) include:
Inflammatory bowel disease
Irritable bowel syndrome with food intolerance
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Rheumatoid arthritis treated with NSAIDs
Multiple food and chemical sensitivities