Leaky Gut Syndrome

The holistic approach to treating chronic disease and allergies is complex.

One of the greatest breakthroughs in research has been the recognition of the vital role that the gut plays in these conditions. The gut is surrounded by the largest concentration of immune tissues in the body, and any increase in the permeability of the gut lining, or imbalance in the gut flora, has a powerful impact on the immune system.

THE BODY’S SECURITY SYSTEM

There are 5 layers or barriers, which protect our internal environment from ingested toxins, organisms and allergens:

1st layer – Bacteria [which form the bulk of the faecal content of our intestines]

2nd layer – Mucus Coating [lining the inside of the intestine]

3rd layer – Gut Lining Cells [it is the loss of “tight junctions” between these enterocytes that is the prime factor in the development of a leaky gut]

4th layer – Immune System [which is concentrated in the extensive Peyer’s patches around the intestines]

5th layer – Liver [which receives and processes everything which is absorbed via the intestines]

CAUSES OF A LEAKY GUT

There are many factors in our modern Western lifestyles that cause these barriers to become compromised / weakened, and thus increasingly permeable.

Among the most important are:

  • Stress [mental, physical or emotional]
  • Drugs, especially alcohol, antibiotics, hormone pills and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Food allergies and sensitivities.
  • Environmental pollutants and toxins, including free radicals.
  • Surgery [and the anaesthetic], severe burns and radiation.
  • Ageing.

Altered gut permeability gives rise to allergic and other chronic diseases by making it possible for partially digested food particles, toxic wastes and even bacteria to pass directly into the bloodstream. The immune system springs into action and forms immune clusters around the foreign particles. These clusters circulate to all parts of the body, causing a wide variety of symptoms such as eczema, asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel, migraines etc. The constant drain on the immune system can then lead to an immune suppressed illness.

The burden on the liver is also greatly increased as it attempts to detoxify the blood.

Other factors, which further compromise the body, are diminished stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, which lead to sub-optimal digestion and breakdown of foods into nutrient particles. The gut lining cells have also become damaged and fail to allow the proper absorption of nutrients through them. Lack of these nutrients in the body leads to a state of “modern malnutrition”.

Great quantities of cortisol are released by the adrenal glands when under stress, and this also aggravates the leaky gut syndrome.

TREATMENT OF LEAKY GUT SYNDROME

The aim of this treatment protocol is to remove obstructions to normal metabolic processes, and to encourage the body to self-regulate these vital processes.

The 4 pillars of treatment are REMOVE, REPLACE, RE-INOCULATE & REPAIR.

A – REMOVE

[1] Parasites & bacteria & fungi

Undesirable parasites, bacteria and fungi need to be cleared out. This is best achieved by having a stool flora analysis, which gives an accurate assessment of which harmful bacteria need to be removed, and which beneficial bacteria need to be supplemented.

[2] Dietary toxins, additives, chemicals and foods to which you may be sensitive

Ideally, one should determine which foods may be problematic by having a blood test for food intolerances. This is different to a conventional allergy test based on IgE, as it uses IgG instead. Unfortunately the test is expensive, so an alternative approach is to follow a Detoxification Diet for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. This usually omits generally problematic foods such as wheat or gluten, cow’s milk, sugar and artificial additives.

B – REPLACE

[1] Insufficient stomach acid and digestive enzymes

Betaine HCl and/or digestive enzymes are usually indicated here to improve digestion processes.

[2] Nutritional deficiencies, arising from poor digestion

A Functional Food is necessary for 4-6 weeks tol replace nutritional deficiencies, help support and feed the friendly bacteria and contains ingredients that repair the damaged gut lining.

C – REPAIR

Gut lining

L-Glutamine is an amino acid necessary for the repair of the gut lining together with Essential Fatty Acids such as Omega 3 oils.

D – RE-INOCULATE

Friendly bacteria

Based the result of the stool test one must replenish the friendly bacteria.

E – LIVER SUPPORT AND DETOX

Herbal products such as those containing Milk Thistlel help to support and de-stress the overworked liver.

Correction of a leaky gut problem may take from 1 to 3 months to achieve, and is not easy without professional guidance and supervision. It is a fairly intensive and expensive programme to follow for the first 4-6 weeks. Once the leaky gut and bowel environment have been corrected, many of the chronic symptoms will have improved or disappeared. The body may tolerate certain foods again after a period of avoidance, but some foods may prove to be potent triggers to the immune system and have to be avoided in the long term. Having removed the “obstacle” of the leaky gut, the stage is set for further homeopathic or homotoxicological treatment, if needed.