Leaky Gut Syndrome.

by drkelseydc

This week’s blog topic is on leaky gut syndrome. Some of you may have heard of this and this may be new to some others. With the long holiday weekend coming up, it can become easy to pick foods that may further harm our digestive tract, thus leading us to feel bloated, fatigued, irritable and it can even hinder your ability to exercise if you’re an active individual.

So, what is leaky gut syndrome? This is a tricky question, and here’s why: leaky gut syndrome is a digestive disorder but it is not well understood by conventional medicine, and this may be why you’ve never heard of it. We must first understand why it happens and what exactly is occurring in the digestive tract of the human body. Before this occurs, it is imperative to know that digestion is one of the foundations of your health! In fact, your body’s ability to digest and absorb food is directly related to your health. This may be the first time you’ve heard this, and that’s okay! You see, inflammation that occurs in our gut can actually lead to inflammation elsewhere in the body (ie: think heart disease, Alzheimer’s, neurological disorders, arthritis, etc).

In a healthy digestive tract, we have cells that are sealed tightly together (these are called tight junctions). These tight junctions act as “gate keepers” in that they control the particles that move from the gut’s interior to the blood stream. If these cells and tight junctions become compromised, particles will “leak” inappropriately (hence the term, leaky gut syndrome). When these particles leak, they enter our blood stream and lymphatic system. These particles can be anything from pathogens, wastes, toxins, incomplete digested food items, and even microbes. {The lymphatic system has multiple functions, including the removal of interstitial fluid from tissues (think bloating), absorbing and transporting fatty acids and fats from the digestive system, transporting white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes into our bones, and keeping our immune system strong.} Now, when these particles leak your body is immediatly alerted that something is wrong. This activates your lymphatic system which responds by sending inflammation to help “clean up the mess.” Well, when the inflammation in the gut increases, the good bacteria in your gut (which assists in the process of breaking down and absorbing our food) actually decreases, which will ultimately make the problem worse. Does this make sense that if you’re constantly exposed to foods/toxins that compromise your cells and tight junctions in your gut, the amount of inflammation in your gut, and elsewhere in your body, will increase as well? At this point it becomes a cycle. Some can have this going on for years and they’ve learned to deal with the excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc. But to be clear: none of these symptoms (that occur on a REGULAR basis) are normal. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong in your digestive tract.

Now, there are a couple of consequences that can occur from leaky gut syndrome if it goes untreated. The inability for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients can lead to failure to thrive in children, and other issues in adults (ie: think osteoporosis). Your immune system is also compromised. The altered immune system function is one of the most common symptoms that women feel who have leaky gut syndrome. You see, your gut plays a crucial role in immune function (as stated earlier) because it contains special areas called gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT). GALT protects you from allergy-causing food antigens and disease-carrying microbes. When leaky gut syndrome occurs, these and other harmful substances can gain access to your blood stream and travel far and wide throughout the body. To be clear, having a toxin or harmful substance enter your bloodstream is not a good thing. Once something enters your bloodstream, it will (at some point) affect every organ in your body.

To be honest, there are many things that can alter or damage your mucosal lining of your digestive tract. Antibiotics are a HUGE offender of the gut. This is why it is so important to take a probiotic if you are currently taking an antibiotic or just finished taking one. Probiotics provide good bacteria to assist the gut with the breakdown of foods/particles, etc. Antibiotics are systemic, which means that will kill bacteria (good or bad) throughout the entire body. Not all bacteria are created equal; our bodies have bacteria on our skin to help protect from the bad bacteria (think MRSA) and this is true in other areas throughout the body as well. Children and infants should also taking an antiobiotic if they are/just finished a probiotic. Their growing bodies need to have the tight junctions cells working properly, so they can absorb their nutrients! Radiation and chemotherapy will also damage the digestive tract, along with steroids, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or othe NSAID’s. These all cause the cells and tight junctions in the gut to become permeable, or in other words to “leak.”

Leaky gut syndrome can lead to food allergies and sensitivities. You see, with leaky gut syndrome, the body is caught in a self-perpetuating, semi-infectious, inflammatory state. When your immune system is contstantly being stimulated by specific food antigens that are leaking into your circulation, and you continue to consume those foods, you could easily develop an allergic response or sensitivity to those foods. Basically the following will happen: intestinal lining is compromised –> particles/toxins/microbes enter the blood stream and lymphatic system –> increased immune response –> inflammation occurs –> inability to absorb nutrients and decreased immune response –> disturbing gut symptoms –> systemic symptoms occur, including food allergies, sensitivies, inflammation, infections, illnesses, and eventually diseases.

Now, if you find yourself with similiar symptoms as stated above (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, always catching a cold or being sick many times throughout the year) you obviously have some imbalances and/or damage to your digestive tract. But there is good news! Leaky gut sydnrome is REVERSIBLE! In the recovery to this condition, there will need to be some elimination of the foods that trigger a response, but it likely will not be forever. So how does one recover for leaky gut syndrome? An elmination diet must take place first. This will assist the gut by ridding the body of the infectious and inflammatory toxins that cause damage to the GI tract. It will also help pinpoint which foods are causing the most damage/discomfort. A probiotic will also need to be taken to help replenish the bacterial flora in the gut. {Here’s a very important note to take: the best probiotics are the single strand and Lactobacillus Acidophillus is the main strain in the gut. AND L. Acidophillus is a live culture and MUST BE REFRIDGERATED. The bacteria will die at room temperature. So, if you are currently taking a brand that you bought at Wal-mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc. and the main ingredient is L. Acidophillus and it was kept at room temperature for more than 30 minutes, you’re not doing anything for you digestive tract.} With an elimination diet and probiotic, the GI tract will stop having attacks and increased inflammatory reactions, but it needs assistance with healing. This is why glutamine or methionine should be taken. Either of these amino acids will increase the cell-turnover that allows the gut to heal quickly. Glutamine has been shown to improve the cell damage caused by radiation and chemotherapy as well! Once all symptoms have subsided, adding different foods back to your diet can happen. This must happen slowly though! Many times people will discover that they are sensitive to dairy, or soy, or wheat, or corn and once they have this knowledge about what makes their digestive system susceptible to damage, they are able to make decisions about what they eat and how it will affect their overall health.

At the Chiropractic Center for Healthy Living, we have the supplements to guide you in your recovery from leaky gut syndrome. As chiropractic physicians, we also have the ability to do a nutritional consultation that can help identify what is going on in an individual’s digestive tract. A nutritional consultation is a one-on-one meeting with a chiropractor that allows us to sit down with the patient and make a nutritional plan together for the best needs of the patient.

Have a great and safe holiday weekend! Questions/comments are always welcomed! As always, I hope you learned something from this week’s blog topic!
Dr. Kelsey