Understanding Intestinal Permeability or ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’

This month Dr. Bowen helps us understand Intestinal Permeability aka Leaky Gut.Intestinal health is key to leading a healthy and pain-free existence. The intestines are comprised of semi-permeable barriers that determine which nutrients get absorbed into the bloodstream and which do not. The Mucosal lining of the intestines also provides a protective barrier against harmful pathogens or disruptive molecules. In essence, certain things need to be allowed to pass through the intestines and certain things should never be able to gain access to the blood stream.

In the event that the mucosal lining or the junctions between the cells in the intestines become damaged, molecules that should not be allowed through are able to pass freely into the blood stream. Many of these harmful molecules have a high binding affinity for our tissues and move to those sites in the body. When the immune system surveys the body it finds these complexes (foreign substances bound to our own tissues) and it destroys them. To an outsider, this may just look like the system is attacking itself for no apparent reason.

This situation described above, where the intestines become compromised and foreign molecules are allowed to be absorbed is also known as “Leaky Gut” or Intestinal Permeability. This condition may be the underlying cause for a whole host of serious illnesses such as (but not limited to): Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Auto-Immune conditions, mood disorders, food allergy, and chronic skin diseases. The cause of intestinal permeability is under scrutiny. My belief is that it is multifactor and may be caused by such things as smoking, stress, food allergies/intolerance, antibiotics, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (or exposure to other toxic medications), alcohol, aging, increased toxic burden and much, much more. Regardless of the cause, the diagnosis and treatment are consistent across the board.

To diagnose Intestinal Permeability, we have our patients drink a benign liquid preparation containing Mannitol and Lactulose followed by a 6 hour urine collection. Lactulose is a large molecule that should not be able to pass into the blood stream in large amounts. Its presence and quantity in the urine specimen show the degree of permeability and helps us to establish a baseline for healing the intestine. Mannitol is a small molecule that passes easily through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. If the level of Mannitol is less than usual, this also tells us that the absorption mechanisms in the intestine are compromised.

Treatment for Intestinal Permeability most commonly involves the following nutrients, though the program may vary from person to person. Please speak to myself or Jocelyn about establishing your personal program.

Fiber: helps to bind toxins in the intestines and remove them. Also helps to turn over new cells in the lining of the intestines.

Probiotics: beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus comprise normal bacterial populations in our digestive tract. “Good Bacteria” are necessary for breakdown and absorption of essential nutrients. These helpful bacterial populations are wiped out with antibiotics, stress, alcohol and other physical stressors.

N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine: like glucosamine sulfate for the joints, this type of glucosamine provides specific building blocks needed to repair the connective tissue of the intestines.

L-Glutamine: this amino acid, found in cabbage, is necessary for repair and healing of the digestive tract. It also is very useful in helping ulcers and reflux to resolve. Source of food for colon cells.

Ginkgo Biloba: enhances circulation to the digestive tract, is a potent antioxidant, and has been shown to be protective against intestinal damage.

Antioxidants: protects intestines from damage. Promotes repair of tissues (especially bioflavonoids, Vitamin A and Vitamin C).

Digestive Enzymes: this product assists in breaking down food into absorbable molecules and also will take some of the digestive burden off of the system during this period of intestinal repair.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine: potent anti-oxidant helps to neutralize heavy metal toxins. Assists in normal immune system function.

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