Leaky gut, also referred to as intestinal hyperpermeability, is a primary cause of chronic disease. It has been linked to asthma, allergies, autoimmune conditions, Crohn’s, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and other assorted gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. However, those who understand the implications of leaky gut and pursue diagnostic testing for it can properly identify and address this growing health problem.
What Is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut occurs due to a malfunction of the intercellular spaces in the gut wall. Tight junctions serve as the gateways between the intestines and control what is allowed to pass into the bloodstream. Generally, they help keep undigested food proteins, microbes, toxins, and other harmful particles out of the bloodstream. But if a person suffers from a leaky gut, foreign particles will pass through the tight junctions. When these particles enter the bloodstream, the inflammatory reaction can be severe, and when it becomes chronic, autoimmunity can develop.
Leaky gut can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications
- Oral antibiotics that lead to the increased growth of abnormal bacteria
- Meat and poultry that contains antibiotic residues from routine animal injection and animal feed laced with antibiotics
- Chemicals found in processed foods
- Foods that have been contaminated by herbicides, particularly glyphosate
- High-refined carbohydrates and sugars
- Alcohol and caffeine
- GMO foods
A Norwegian medical journal study noted that leaky gut may lead to acute and chronic pediatric conditions, including autism, eczema, and type 1 diabetes. The prevalence of leaky gut appears to be quite high based on the explosion of chronic and immune-related health conditions in the Western world. Those who have it may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Musculoskeletal tissue damage
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas)
- Food allergies
- Respiratory allergies
Inappropriate or excessive inflammation may damage the protective coating of immunoglobulins that are present in a healthy gut. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that help the body combat infection. Thus, if immunoglobulins are damaged, the body may become more susceptible to bacteria, parasites, and viruses. This increases the likelihood that harmful microbes can invade the bloodstream and colonize in any body tissue or organ, resulting in cellular damage.
Are You Dealing with Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut often goes undiagnosed for many years, and in some cases, especially to doctors who are not familiar with the condition, leaky gut can be difficult to pinpoint. Fortunately, individuals who know the warning signs associated with leaky gut may be better equipped to resolve this issue.
Common warning signs of leaky gut include:
- Chronic Fatigue: Research indicates there may be a direct correlation between leaky gut and chronic fatigue. In one study of blood samples of chronic fatigue syndrome patients, researchers found markers of inflammation likely due to a leaky gut from intestinal problems that enabled bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
- Headaches: Brain fog, memory loss, and headaches may occur due to inflammation of tissue and toxin build-up.
- Skin Rashes and Acne: Oftentimes, skin rashes are a sign that the body is trying to eliminate bodily toxins through the skin.
- Chronic Constipation and Diarrhea: Individuals who experience chronic constipation and/or diarrhea may be dealing with inflammation of the intestinal walls.
- Arthritis or Joint Pain: Gut dysbiosis is prevalent among many individuals who suffer from arthritis or joint pain. Moreover, several studies indicate there is a strong connection between poor gut health and arthritis and joint pain.
- Weakened Immune System: Chronic stress has been shown to weaken the immune system over time and makes it tough for an individual to combat foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Therefore, if a person is dealing with chronic stress, this individual may also be suffering from leaky gut.
- Sugar Cravings: Candida, a fungal (yeast) organism, is a leading cause of leaky gut. Candida feeds on sugar, replicates, and proliferates throughout the gut. Individuals who consistently eat a high-sugar diet, are likely to have Candida in the gut and elsewhere in the body, such as the genitals, mouth, and throat.
Anyone who experiences one or more of the aforementioned warning signs should get tested for leaky gut. If leaky gut is confirmed, individuals should seek medical care from a healthcare provider who has experience in treating the root cause of leaky gut, not just the symptoms.
Leaky Gut Test Options
Three generally accepted laboratory tests for leaky gut include (1) Intestinal Permeability Test (Lactulose/Mannitol Test) and (2) Food Sensitivities Test (Food Intolerance Test), and more recently, (3) Zonulin Test
The Intestinal Permeability Test is a urine test for leaky gut that measures the ability of lactulose and mannitol (two non-digestible sugars) to pass through the intestinal (gut) lining. The patient drinks a solution containing lactulose and mannitol and provides a urine sample after six hours; the amounts of lactulose and mannitol are measured to determine the presence and degree of leaky gut. This test is available from Genova Diagnostics.
The Food Sensitivities Test utilizes blood or saliva to test for leaky gut. Different laboratories have different names for their versions of the leaky gut test depending on their specific analysis. BioHealth Diagnostics‘ leaky gut test is called the Intestinal Barrier Function Test, and it analyzes the presence and quantity of antibodies to bacteria, yeast, and common allergy-producing proteins (cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, corn, and soy). The Food Safe Allergy Test from Life Extension offers a comprehensive blood test for leaky gut that analyzes antibodies for 95 commonly eaten foods; this test can be ordered without a doctor’s prescription.
Food Sensitivities Testing is generally performed as a means of determining which foods a person should avoid. In some instances, the greatest clinical response to a Food Sensitivities Test occurs when the humoral part of the immune system is evaluated using all four levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG). A Food Sensitivities Test also may be used to examine the innate part of the immune system. The test may even involve the use of blood spot technology that measures both the delayed humoral and innate response to different foods, emulsifiers, food additives, and chemicals.
In addition to the Intestinal Permeability Test and Food Sensitivities Test, a new evaluation is being adopted to examine individuals for leaky gut: the Zonulin Test. This test may be requested as part of a Food Inflammation Test (FIT) and requires a blood draw; it is available from KBMO Diagnostics.
The Zonulin Test measures levels of the zonulin protein present in the stool or blood to indicate the presence and degree of intestinal hyperpermeability. Zonulin is a protein that opens the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining. When an individual’s zonulin level increases, the seal (the tight junctions) between the intestinal cells deteriorates, leading to intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut.
When this happens, large protein molecules, microbes, and other intestinal contents can enter the bloodstream, resulting in immunological reactions.
Two significant triggers of zonulin release are exposure to bacteria and gluten in the small intestine. Gliadin, a class of proteins found in wheat, causes zonulin levels to increase. It may affect the zonulin levels of people with or without diagnosed celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which individuals suffer small intestine damage due to gluten consumption.
Other possible causes of increased zonulin levels include:
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Candida overgrowth
- Fungal dysbiosis
- Parasite infections
Increased levels of zonulin have been linked to the following conditions:
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Type 1 diabetes
Although these are commonly utilized leaky gut tests, the argument has been made that such tests really aren’t necessary. They only serve to confirm what is already known and require a financial expenditure. Anyone with food sensitivities/allergies or an autoimmune condition has a leaky gut or abnormal permeability of the tight junctions that comprise the gut lining. When undigested food proteins, pathogenic microbes, and other toxins cross the intestinal lining into the bloodstream, they trigger an allergic reaction in which the immune system creates antibodies against those substances. Those same antibodies are also measured in the Food Sensitivities Test. Now that you know how to test for leaky gut, you can make an informed decision. However, it’s even more important to take steps to remedy your leaky gut and get on the path to better health.
What Are the Best Ways to Treat Leaky Gut?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treat leaky gut. Instead, an individual may require a series of dietary and lifestyle changes to achieve the best possible results.
Removing foods that contribute to intestinal hyperpermeability offers an excellent starting point.. Sugars, grains, and GMO foods are among the suspect foods that an individual may want to consider removing from his or her diet. Also, incorporating the following foods may help improve gut health:
- Bone Broth from Grass-Fed Sources: Contains collagen, proline, and glycine, all of which have been shown to help heal damaged cell walls.
- Fermented Vegetables: Feature organic acids that help balance the body’s intestinal pH level, as well as probiotics that support good gut health.
- Sprouted Seeds: Serve as great sources of fiber and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut; chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are among the top sprouted seeds available to help address intestinal hyperpermeability.
Let’s not forget about the potential benefits of using bovine colostrum supplementation, either. Bovine colostrum contains an unparalleled blend of immune components, growth factors, minerals, nutrients, and vitamins that may help improve gut health while modulating and enhancing immune function.
Is It Possible to Prevent Leaky Gut?
Unfortunately, gastroenterologists frequently struggle to properly detect and resolve leaky gut. Many medical schools fail to educate students about the concept of leaky gut. Meanwhile, patients sometimes go months or years without a leaky gut diagnosis and may be forced to turn to alternative practitioners to get the support they need.
Although many medications may claim to help a person treat the SYMPTOMS of a leaky gut, these medications may actually do more harm than good. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription pain medications, and oral antibiotics have been connected to leaky gut. And if people try to take medications to control leaky gut pain, they may be causing this pain to worsen over time.
The time and resources required to identify and treat leaky gut can add up quickly. Thankfully, a Colostrum-LD® is helps protect against damage to the GI lining.
With the addition of Colostrum-LD® to daily nutrition, an individual may help restore a leaky gut to normal permeability levels. For healthy adults, 1 teaspoon powder twice daily of Colostrum-LD® may provide the nutrients necessary to potentially keep leaky gut at bay. For people with a condition related to intestinal hyperpermeability, 2 teaspoons twice daily are recommended. Colostrum-LD® contains verified quantities of growth factors that may help your body and immune system heal a leaky gut. These growth factors have been shown to prevent and heal stomach and GI damage. Bovine colostrum has been proven in clinical studies to prevent and heal damage caused by pain medications. It may also help reduce GI infections and gut issues while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and helping to optimize nutritional uptake from food by increasing surface area in the small intestine.
Colostrum-LD® uses a proprietary LD Liposomal Delivery™ system for superior results. The LD system ensures colostrum bypasses digestion and its bioactives are distributed throughout the body. As a result, Colostrum-LD® remains biologically active at the cellular level for optimal effectiveness.
To find out more about Colostrum-LD® and how it helps address the root causes of leaky gut, please check out our website. Sovereign Laboratories is a world leader in the development of liposomal delivery and has been in the colostrum supplement business for more than 25 years.