Holes in our Gut: Altered Immunity & Leaky Gut Syndrome
by Doug Wyatt
Holes in the gut, also called leaky gut syndrome and intestinal permeability are epidemic in modern society, and virtually no one can escape the health consequences. Without intervention, leaky gut syndrome leads to a lifetime of chronic conditions, pain, and misery. The term "leaky gut syndrome" is the name given to a very common health disorder in which the gastrointestinal lining that separates our waste from our bloodstream is more permeable (porous) than normal. The abnormally large spaces present between the cells of the gut wall allow the entry of toxic material into the bloodstream that would, in healthier circumstances, be blocked and eliminated. The gut becomes leaky in the sense that bacteria, fungi, parasites and their toxins, undigested foods such as proteins, nerve and connective tissue, fat and waste normally not absorbed into the bloodstream in the healthy state, pass through a damaged, hyper permeable, porous or "leaky" gut.
This can be verified by special gut permeability urine tests, microscopic examination of the lining of the intestinal wall, as well as the bloodstream with phase contrast or dark field microscopy of living whole blood, and food allergy testing. But lifestyle examination can provide a quicker and simpler diagnosis. If you have food or airborne allergies; gastrointestinal distress such as IBS, heartburn, Crohn's disease; or any autoimmune condition such as fibromyalgia, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, etcetera, then; You have Leaky Gut Syndrome. These conditions are all leaky gut symptoms.
Why is the Leaky Gut Syndrome Important?
Leaky Gut leads to infection that can leave the body more susceptible to chronic diseases. Leaky gut syndrome is almost always associated with allergies and autoimmune conditions. Halting the damage and potentially reversing an autoimmune condition depends on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Any other treatment is just symptom suppression. An autoimmune condition is defined as one in which the immune system makes antibodies against its own tissues. Diseases in this category include rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, lupus, alopecia areata, polymyalgia rheumatica, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren's syndrome, scleroderma, vitiligo, thyroiditis, vasculitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, urticaria (hives), Alzheimer's and Reynaud's disease. Physicians are increasingly recognizing the importance of the gastrointestinal tract in the development of allergic or autoimmune disease. Understanding the leaky gut phenomenon not only helps explain why allergies and autoimmune diseases develop, but also helps identify safe and effective therapies to bring the body back into balance.
Due to the enlarged spaces or holes between the cells of the gut wall (it's only 1 cell thick), larger than usual protein molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream before they have a chance to be completely broken down, as occurs when the intestinal lining is intact. The immune system starts making antibodies against these larger molecules because it recognizes them as foreign, invading substances. The immune system starts treating them as if they need to be destroyed. Antibodies are made against these proteins derived from previously harmless food substances.
Human tissues have antigenic sites very similar to those on foods, bacteria, parasites, candida or fungi. The antibodies created when a person has leaky gut syndrome against these antigens can get into various tissues and trigger an inflammatory reaction when the corresponding food is consumed or the microbe is encountered. Auto antibodies are thus created and inflammation becomes chronic. If this inflammation occurs in a joint, autoimmune arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) develops. If it occurs in the brain, myalgic encephalomyelitis (a.k.a. chronic fatigue syndrome) may be the result. If it occurs in the blood vessels, vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) is the resulting autoimmune problem. If the antibodies end up attacking the lining of the gut itself, the result may be colitis or Crohn's disease. If it occurs in the lungs, asthma is triggered on a delayed basis every time the individual consumes the food which triggered the production of the antibodies in the first place. When this occurs in the gums, periodontal disease results and heart disease follows with infection of arterial walls. Nearly every organ or body tissue can be affected by food allergies created by leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut symptoms, especially those seen in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, can be multiple and severely debilitating.
The inflammation that causes leaky gut syndrome also damages the protective coating of antibodies of the immunoglobulin IGG and IGA family normally present in a healthy gut. Since immunoglobulins help ward off infections, with leaky gut problems we become less resistant to viruses, bacteria, parasites and candida. These microbes are then able to invade the bloodstream and colonize almost any body tissue or organ.
In addition to the creation of food allergies, the bloodstream is invaded by bacteria, fungi and parasites that, in the healthy state, would not penetrate the protective barrier of the gut. These microbes and their toxins, if present in large enough amounts, can overwhelm the liver's ability to detoxify. This results in symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, brain fog or facial swelling when the individual Is exposed to a perfume or to cigarette smoke that he or she had no adverse reactions to prior to the development of leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome also creates a long list of mineral deficiencies because the various carrier proteins present in the gastrointestinal tract that are needed to transport minerals from the intestine to the blood are damaged by the inflammation process. For example, magnesium deficiency (low red blood cell magnesium) is quite common in patients with fibromyalgia, despite a high magnesium intake through the diet and supplementation. If the carrier protein for magnesium is damaged, magnesium deficiency develops as a result of mal-absorption. Muscle pain and spasms can occur as a result. Similarly, zinc deficiency due to mal-absorption can result in hair loss or baldness as occurs in alopecia areata. Copper deficiency can occur in an identical way leading to high blood cholesterol levels and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, bone problems develop as a result of the mal-absorption of calcium, boron, silicon and manganese.
Leaky gut syndrome is basically caused by inflammation of the gut lining. This inflammation is usually brought about by the following:
- Pathogens that colonize the gut causing infection
- Antibiotics because they lead to the overgrowth of abnormal flora in the gastrointestinal tract (bacteria, parasites, candida, fungi)
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, Vicodin, and other prescription pain medications
- Alcohol and caffeine (strong gut irritants)
- Gluten and other proteins from wheat
- Foods that have been contaminated with herbicides (primarily wheat and corn)
- Mold and fungal mycotoxins in stored grains, fruit and refined carbohydrates
- Foods and beverages contaminated by parasites like giardia lamblia, cryptosporidium, blastocystis hominis and others
- Foods and beverages contaminated by bacteria like helicobacter pylori, klebsiella, citrobacter, pseudomonas and others (food poisoning)
- Chemicals in fermented and processed food (dyes, preservatives, peroxided fats)
- Enzyme deficiencies (e.g. celiac disease, lactase deficiency causing lactose intolerance)
- Prescription corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone)
- High refined carbohydrate diet and sugars that feed candida and bad bacteria (e.g. candy bars, cookies, cake, soft drinks, white bread)
- Prescription hormones, such as birth control pills
Leaky gut syndrome can cause the mal-absorption of many important micronutrients. The inflammatory process causes swelling (edema) and the presence of many noxious chemicals all of which can block the absorption of vitamins and essential amino acids. A leaky gut does not absorb nutrients properly. Bloating, gas and cramps occur as do a long list of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Eventually, systemic complaints like fatigue, headaches, memory loss, poor concentration or irritability develop.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics wipe out all the friendly gut bacteria that provide protection against fungi and amoebic (parasitic) infections, help the body break down complex foods and synthesize vitamins like B12 and biotin. Since this friendly bowel flora is killed off, the body now has no local defense against the parasites or fungi that are normally held in check. This then causes an inflammatory reaction leading to leaky gut syndrome. Food allergies quickly develop and these may trigger the signs and symptoms of arthritis, eczema, migraines, asthma or other forms of immune dysfunction including auto-immune diseases. Other common symptoms of this bowel flora imbalance and leaky gut syndrome are bloating and gas after meals and alternating constipation with diarrhea. This set of symptoms is usually called IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or spastic bowel disease and treated symptomatically by general practitioners and gastroenterologists with antispasmodic drugs, tranquilizers or different types of soluble (inulin) and insoluble (oat and wheat bran) fiber.
Leaky Gut Syndrome and IBS
Mainstream thinking on IBS has been that it is caused by emotional stress. Irritable bowel syndrome is the number one reason for general practitioner referrals to specialists. In well over 80% of the cases, tests like the intestinal permeability test (a special urine test involving the determination of absorption rates of two sugars called lactulose and mannitol), CDSA or live cell dark field microscopy reveal the presence of an overgrowth of fungi, parasites or pathogenic bacteria. The one-celled parasite, blastocystis hominis and different species of candida are the most common microbes seen in IBS. The only stress associated with IBS is that which is generated by infection and leaky gut syndrome. If allowed to persist without the adequate treatment, IBS can progress into more serious disorders like the candidiasis syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, many autoimmune diseases and even cancer. If treated with conventional medicine, IBS is rarely cured. To treat it properly, natural treatments work best and must include the removal of the cause, improvement of gastrointestinal function and most importantly, healing the lining of the gut.
How to Reverse Leaky Gut Syndrome
Band-aid treatments with corticosteroids, prescription antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs may be temporarily life-saving for acute episodes of pain, bleeding or severe inflammation as occurs in Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus. In the long run, however, none of these treatments do anything to heal the leaky gut problem. To reverse leaky gut syndrome, the diet must be completely changed to one which is as hypoallergenic as possible. This includes eliminating sugar, white flour products, all gluten-containing grains (especially wheat, barley, oats and rye), milk and dairy products, , caffeine products, alcohol, GMOs, and pesticide or herbicide-contaminated foods, especially wheat and corn. When food crops are sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvest, this herbicide gets directly into the G.I. tract where it can kill off the good bacteria, in the same way glyphosate kills weeds. Therefore, it is essential to avoid glyphosate-contaminated foods; eating organic (and non-GMO foods) is our best strategy to do this, along with taking bovine colostrum to repair the existing intestinal damage.
Leaky gut treatment should begin with bovine colostrum, specifically one that is standardized to contain high levels of immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, PRPs, growth factors and that has a protective and delivery mechanism such as liposomal delivery(LD); the phospholipid coating protects the colostrum's healing components from digestion and ensures the delivery of nutrients and anti-pathogenic action of colostrum to the cells in the lining of the intestine. Published peer review studies with colostrum show its unique ability to eliminate and prevent infections of all types and help eliminate the attendant inflammation. It has also been clinically proven to prevent and heal leaky gut syndrome in human trials conducted at the Royal Hospital in London. It is the only substance to provide these proven benefits. With appropriate and consistent colostrum supplementation, it is rarely necessary to require prescription drugs for these infections and inflammation; thus, use of such medications should be discouraged. The drugs are usually expensive, have unpleasant side effects (including prolonging and acerbating the disease causes), and are best reserved for life-threatening conditions.
Patients can help themselves by taking colostrum for leaky gut. A preventative dose of bovine colostrum is one teaspoon twice daily taken on an empty stomach twenty to thirty minutes before a meal. A therapeutic dose is one tablespoon twice daily taken in the same manner. Chronic conditions are best treated first with a three-day bovine colostrum fast -- taking colostrum four times a day to allow the gut time to heal before adding food and beverages other than water. Since probiotics may cross into the bloodstream via a leaky gut, the leaky gut must be healed prior to supplementation. Probiotics may be introduced only after four to six weeks of taking bovine colostrum for leaky gut.
It is important that diagnosis and evaluation of chronic symptoms be determined by qualified health care professionals either natural health care practitioner or complimentary care physician. The above is not intended to diagnose or treat disease and the statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.