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Home > Articles > The Treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome

Unless specifically investigated, Leaky Gut Syndrome often goes unrecognized, yet this is quite a common health problem. This condition has been associated with many serious diseases and can often lead to an inappropriate immune response, giving rise to an allergic reaction. Deborah's approach to this condition has been featured in The Guardian newspaper.


What causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?Treatment For Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome is usually caused by exposure to substances which damage the integrity of the gut lining of the small intestine. The most common causes of increased gut permeability are extensive use of antibiotics, which compromise immune function and disrupt the gut flora by causing an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast; anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief - NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) including the over the counter one, Ibuprofen, which are said to increase intestinal permeability by damaging the villi in the intestine and blocking prostaglandins that stimulate tissue repair; steroids, which are said to suppress the immune system, kill 'friendly' bacteria and cause the proliferation of yeast in the gut, all of which contribute to the development of a leaky gut; alcohol, which is an irritant to the gut lining; stress; infection by virus, bacteria or parasite; and a poor diet laden with refined carbohydrates.


Symptoms Associated with Increased Intestinal Permeability

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Allergies
  • Bloating
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Anxiety
  • Heartburn
  • Fevers of unknown origin                  
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Mood swings
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Chronic allergic rhinitis
  • Sluggishness
  • Recurrent skin rashes
  • Insomnia
  • Recurrent infections
  • Difficulty learning
  • Joint pain
  • Depression
  • Poor immunity
  • Anal irritation
  • Poor exercise tolerance
  • Foggy brain
  • Muscle pain
  • Sluggish liver
  • Poor memory
  • Multiple chemical sensitivities
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abdominal spasms
  • Migraines
  • Diarrhoea
  • Malnutrition
  • Constipation

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

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:


  • Celiac disease            
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Malnutrition
  • Autism
  • Psoriasis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Anyklosing spondylitis
  • Chronic Allergic Rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Schizophrenia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Dermatitis
  • Allergies
  • Candidiasis
  • Hives
  • Alcoholism
  • Food allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Accelerated Aging
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivities              
  • Acne
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Endotoxemia
  • Eczema
  • Colon cancer



The Treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome

Many patients attend the Gastro Clinic for the safe and usually effective treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome. They have usually done the rounds of GPs and Consultants but have not found any answers to their worrying and uncomfortable condition, yet they continually sense that something is wrong. Patients presenting with symptoms, which suggest leaky gut, are tested to ascertain the integrity of their gut wall and also to measure the extent of any increased permeability of their gut. Knowing the extent of the increased permeability helps to tailor the treatment to meet the patient's unique needs and also helps in that progress can be monitored by retesting.

Patients may also be tested to find out if anything else is fuelling this increase in permeability. An extensive case history is taken, including drug history. Leaky Gut can be improved by avoidance of drugs that cause this problem and foods that cause an allergic reaction. Diet, dietary supplementation and Herbal Medicine are the mainstay of the treatment for Leaky Gut Syndrome. Support is also given to the liver to help it with the detoxification process. Where Leaky Gut is present, the liver is usually overworked trying to take out all the toxins, which are escaping through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. This often impairs liver function. 

Every patient’s experience of this complex condition is different so there are no set prescriptions. Instead, treatment for Leaky Gut Syndrome is formulated and dispensed to meet each patient’s unique needs. This approach works better than a one-size-fits-all approach.


If you feel that you may have Leaky Gut Syndrome, call for an appointment to discuss your health concerns and to be tested. Tests are non-invasive.





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