Leaky Gut Syndrome is getting a lot of attention these days and for good reason. It affects so many individuals and has a profound affect on our overall health. Most issues associated with leaky gut syndrome occur in the small intestine, but in fact, all of the organs of the digestive system are involved and impacted. One of the most important functions of the gut is to create a barrier to prevent foreign and toxic substances from entering the body. When the intestinal barrier weakens and becomes permeable ( leaky gut syndrome) large proteins can escape and enter the bloodstream. These proteins which should not exist outside the gut, forces the body to create an immune response to destroy them. This process of destruction plays a major role in the development of autoimmune disease like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and Hashimoto’s. The breach of the intestinal barrier by food toxins like gluten and BPA causes an immune response that also affects other organs and tissue ( pancreas, liver, kidneys and brain).
The Food Allergy Connection: As mentioned above. with leaky gut, larger than normal molecules of food pass into the bloodstream. If a particle of undigested corn, for example, leaks through, your body may treat this like an foreign invader and attack it. Researchers say at this point , corn receives a physiological tag instructing your immune system it is an intruder. And so a food allergy is born!
The Autoimmune Connection: According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD: “every autoimmune disease has three components – a genetic predisposition, an environmental trigger and a leaky gut.” The presence of undigested food particles and other toxic substances can be instrumental in pushing your immune system into hyper drive and turning the body against itself. This is by definition the “classic onset of an autoimmune disorder.”
Breaking Down The Anatomy of Leaky Gut:
1. Mouth: Chewing your food thoroughly is essential, and not doing so sets you up for digestive problems. Breaking your food down to a liquid state makes the stomach’s job much easier. This also triggers salivary action which mixes in digestive enzymes that help with breaking down proteins, fats and carbs.
2. Stomach: The stomach uses enzymes and acids to digest food and prepare it to enter the small intestine. If digestion is incomplete, food particles, as mentioned earlier, enter the small intestine. If the gut lining is irritated ( permeable) the particles enter the bloodstream, setting you up for inflammation and food sensitivities. Poor digestion can impact the assimilation of nutrients and set the stage for bacterial and yeast overgrowth (SIBO).
3. Lymphoid Tissue: Lymphoid tissues called Peyer’s patches , which line the small intestine, act as your first defense against any pathogens trying to permeate the gut lining. As such, they play a crucial role in the immune system. The average person eats about 5 pounds of food daily – a great deal of work that needs to be done effectively by our digestive and immune systems. It has to sort out and extract good nutrients and filter and neutralize the bad and harmful food borne chemicals and bacteria.
4. Small intestine: The small intestine is a 25 foot long ” conveyor belt”. In a healthy digestive system – only tiny, digested molecules of proteins, fats and carbs are absorbed through the intestine walls into the bloodstream. With leaky gut, the filtering system is damaged and large molecules get into the bloodstream, and are attacked by the immune system!!
5. Large Intestine: The large intestine continues the digestive process. The colon then extracts water from the “slurry” ( which all started in the stomach) for use elsewhere in the body. A solid stool of waste the forms and is sent to the rectum. In the absence of adequate water and fiber some of the slow moving waste can reenter the system, which triggers a plethora of inflammatory issues throughout the body.
5. The Gut Lining: The lining ( mucosa) has some remarkable features: It is one-cell thick and has a total surface area of a tennis court!! As one can imagine keeping and maintaining the integrity of the lining is a monumental job – considering the ongoing abuse it takes to fight off irritation and inflammation caused by food intolerances, processed sugars and foods, stress, toxins, infections, etc.
Bottom Line: Chronic inflammation of the gut lining leads to leaky gut syndrome.