Causes of “Leaky Gut”
The causes of leaky gut will surprise many people. They go well beyond nutrition and can be found in many obscure places. I consciously and even subconsciously think about the foods I eat and the lifestyle I live each and every day. I have to be aware of all the possible triggers for a leaky gut because I have seen the consequences in my practice. This first trigger starts with stress and this represented in increased or severely suppressed cortisol. Increased catecholamines (neurotransmitters) from stress also play a role in breaking down your mucosal lining. I can personally relate as I ran the adrenal profile on myself in 2014 and found that my low levels of cortisol (prolonged stress) were leading to a leaky gut as I completed the Genova IP test and saw my numbers trending toward a permeable gut. Thankfully I had this data in time to implement solutions to help me heal and get better.
The second trigger that will disrupt your gut health is medications. These include antibiotics, antacids, corticosteroids and a variety of different drugs. You see when you take medications, they don’t just work on the intended target. They will also destroy the beneficial gut bacteria and can cause a variety of other health issues. This is the exact reason why every single pharmaceutical commercial has a disclaimer. ” Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin have been shown to increase intestinal permeability within 24 hours of use and long-term use can contribute to a leaky gut condition. Antibiotics wipe out the beneficial gut flora, which can lead to leaky gut. It’s important to always follow up antibiotic use with probiotics to reinoculate the gut. “1 Now I am not saying I am against all medications as some save lives and are absolutely necessary for some patients. Patients should continue to consult with their medical doctor on progression. I have just seen too many cases where the expected result did not happen and the patients had severe side effects.
In our practice, we get to see hundreds of labs each year and that means detection of parasites, bacteria, and yeast which is the third trigger/factor. H-Pylori is a predominant bacteria we see as well as yeast and various parasites. The stool culture we run from Bio-Health is fantastic at detecting these health issues and helps clients uncover their root causes. Once we eradicate these bugs, we see a direct improvement in their gut health. I just had a patient remove H-Pylori and his energy levels and overall gut health noticeably improved to where he is feeling like a different man. You need to really focus on this as these infections contribute to poor guts. So what is bacteria? In the context of the human body, bacteria are microscopic organisms that consist of a ring of DNA surrounded by cellular components contained within a fatty membrane. They are very small (microscopic) and are categorized by size and shape. They grow in food and in the body and they get their energy from the same sources as humans which include sugars, proteins and fats. Some examples of bacteria we find are lactobacillus, biffidobacterium, helicobacter pylori as mentioned above and staphyococcus. The reason why people care about bad bacteria in the gut and body is that it can lead to diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, lyme disease, salmonella, staph infections, e.coli, leprosy and many more. Parasites are another concern we see when looking at the third major cause of leaky gut. They are organisms that grow, feed and shelter in another organism. They are variable in size, complex and cannot grow in food rather only in the body. They feed on the nutrients, organs and cells of the host. Some examples of parasites (groups) are tapeworms, fleas, barnacles and protozoa. They can cause some serious issues like giardiasis, cyclosporiasis and cryptosporidiosis, trichinosis, anisakiasis, etc. Many of my clients start by feeling weaker, fatigued, general malaise and some discomfort in their gut. This is not true for everyone but something you should be aware of.
The fourth factor that contributes to leaky gut and likely the most relevant is nutrition and diet. Poor nutrition plays an essential role in the deterioration of the gut and microbiome. Some examples of foods and drinks that will harm your gut are alcohol, gluten containing products like bread, bagels, cereal, dairy, processed foods, sugar, and many of the fast food restaurants that use poor oils and trans fats. This is how the process unfolds when you consume these aforementioned foods. “When your meal reaches your intestines, tissue transglutaminase (tTG), an enzyme produced in your intestinal wall, breaks down the gluten into its protein building blocks, gliadin and glutenin. As these proteins make their way through your digestive system, your immune system in your gut, the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), reviews them for potentially harmful substances. In people who have no issues with gluten, the proteins are absorbed. In those with gluten sensitivity, the GALT identifies gliadin as a dangerous substance and produces antibodies to attack it. In celiacs, these antibodies don’t just attack the gliadin, they attack the tTG as well, which is what originally broke down the gluten into its two parts. This enzyme, tTG, has a number of jobs, including holding together the microvilli in our gut. Your body collects nutrients by absorbing them through the walls of your intestines, and the more surface area there is, the more they can absorb. Imagine trying to soak up a gallon of water with a paper towel versus a bath towel. Microvilli, which look like hairy fingers, exist in your intestines to increase the surface area and absorb nutrients. When the antibodies your body produced to defend itself against gliadin attack your tTG, these microvilli can atrophy and erode, decreasing your ability to absorb nutrients and allowing the walls of your intestines to become leaky. “ 2
The fifth contributor to leaky gut is hormonal issues. A poor thyroid, sustained elevation of cortisol levels, too much or too little of estradiol, testosterone and progesterone can all impact the gut lining and make it permeable for antigens to have access to your bloodstream. The final one we will discuss is neurological. I have seen a few of these in my practice where brain trauma, concussions, stroke and brain disease have contributed to a poor gut. The reason why this can happen is because of the gut-brain access. The brain can send signals to the gut and the gut can send signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. “These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety. That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.” 3 Most of my patients never suspect this and think the two organs are independent of each other. They are not and we must look at both of them if we want to help you achieve your goal of healing and optimal health. These five main causes of leaky gut can be contributing to your poor health and something you should be aware of. We are always here to help you correct these imbalances and start healing your body.
Mike, FDN, PT
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About the author:
After 15 years in Corporate, he graduated from the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program in California and is now the CEO of Interactive Body Balance where he oversees a vibrant functional medicine health practice. Transitioning from Corporate to the entrepreneurial paradigm has involved seeing patients and clients via the conventional method but also virtually. He has authored the popular self-help book titled “The Transformation From Within”, a functional medicine book called ” How To Restore Your Health” and hosts the highly ranked ITunes Podcast called Interactive Body Balance.