Leaky Gut Syndrome
clinically referred to as intestinal permeability
What is it?
Leaky gut, or what I prefer to refer to as "intestinal permeability", is a condition in which the tight junctions binding the enterocytes of the small intestine together (controlling what passes through its lining) have been compromised. This ultimately leads to the passage of food particles, as well as other substances (toxins, viruses, bacteria, etc), into the bloodstream. However, this condition is not one taught in traditional medical schools or even Naturopathic schools, and while it is a hot topic in the alternative - or functional - medicine field at the moment, methods for diagnosis are lacking.
Leaky gut syndrome is said to be correlated to gas, bloating, cramping, food sensitivities, brain fog, aches and pains, and skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, acne, hormonal imbalances, and so on. While the evidence is still trying to understand the connection between hyperpermeability and health outcomes, we do know that poor digestion and malabsorption of vital nutrients can contribute to degenerative diseases, compromised immune status and nutritional deficiencies, and compromised GI barrier can result from a number of causes including:
• Low gastric acid production
• Chronic maldigestion
• Food allergen impact on bowel absorptive surfaces
• Bacterial overgrowth or imbalances (dysbiosis)
• Pathogenic bacteria, yeast or parasites and related toxic irritants
• The use of NSAIDs and antibiotics
Common Symptoms Include:
Chronic diarrhea, constipation, or bloating
Skin problems, such as acne, rashes, or eczema
The small intestine's role is primarily that of nutrient absorption, and therefore overgrowth in this area allows the bacteria to rob you of essential nutrients. Vitamin D, K, iron and b12 deficiencies are popular among these patients.
The inflammation produced by the endotoxins of the bacteria is also an attributing cause of leaky gut syndrome and the development of multiple food sensitivities. Furthermore, SIBO can inhibit nutrient absorption and lead to carbohydrate intolerance, malabsorption/malnutrition, anemia, weight loss, and so on. Bacterial imbalances can also change the way hormones are metabolized and excreted and have been correlated with acne, irregular periods, and other hormonal issues like adrenal fatigue.
Patients with gastrointestinal distress may benefit from SIBO testing, especially those with a history of chronic constipation, diarrhea, weak stomach acid, or generalized maldigestion. Successful eradication of SIBO has been shown to significantly reduce bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in patients.
Dr. Holmberg, ND's management approach involves assessment involving a throughout overview of symptoms experienced, as well as investigation for the underlying pathogenesis of intestinal permeability. Laboratory testing such as a Comprehensive Stool Analysis can aid in identifying bacterial imbalances and intestinal malabsorption. IgG Food Sensitivity Testing can help identify which foods have been isolated as" inflammatory", and to what severity of permeability is being experienced.
Therapies target both the removal of provocative agents worsening the potential permeability, as well as managing the root of its development, all while supporting proper tight junction formation and intestinal regeneration. Treatment incorporates dietary modifications, as well as nutraceutical therapies when necessary.