The small intestine is the organ responsible for digestion and absorption. It also functions as a barrier that keeps toxins and harmful substances away from the blood and interstitial areas of our body. When either of these functions is disrupted, physical symptoms can result. A diet high in refined sugar, chronic stress, medications and bacterial imbalance can all play an important role in causing disruption in the GI (gastro-intestinal) tract and can contribute to leaky gut. Food sensitivities can also cause inflammation in the GI tract and this chronic inflammation can damage the lining of the small intestines.
Medications such as NSAIDs (such as aspirin ibuprofen), when taken on a regular basis, can damage the lining of the intestines, and antibiotics kill off your good bacteria, leading to a flora imbalance or dysbiosis. Other causes of intestinal permeability include intestinal infections, trauma, and the ingestion of allergenic foods on a consistent basis. Leaky gut leads to the villi in the small intestines being inflamed and irritated, which allows metabolic and microbial toxins to enter the blood stream and interstitial areas. The introduction of these toxins puts an immense pressure on the hepatic, lymphatic, immune and endocrine systems.
People with leaky gut are often intolerant to many foods, as their symptoms progress, they find that they can eat fewer and fewer foods. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea are common symptoms seen in patients with intestinal permeability issues, achy joints, fatigue and brain fog can also be seen.
To lead to a clinical diagnosis of leaky gut, an Intestinal Permeability test can be ordered. The test is a urine collection that looks at the absorbability of mannitol and lactulose, two sugar molecules. Mannitol, being a small molecule, is readily absorbed and is used as a marker of GI absorption. Lactulose, a larger molecule, is not absorbed very well, and is a used to asses if there are intestinal permeability issues.
Elevated levels of both of these markers are indicative of increased intestinal permeability, low levels of these marker points to malabsorption. Increased permeability in the intestinal mucosal barrier correlates to many chronic disorders – inflammatory bowel disease, Cohn’s disease, food sensitivities, Celiac’s disease and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammation caused by leaky gut can damage intestinal microvilli leading to malabsorption syndromes.
Increased intestinal permeability is definitely treatable using Naturopathic Treatment Modalities.
1. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, caffeine and alcohol.
2. Avoid any foods that you are sensitive to: dairy, gluten, corn, soy are top on this list. Consider getting your food sensitivities tested if they have not been.
3. Eat a diet high in fiber and fermented foods – this promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria
4. Supplements to consider:
It may take 6 weeks to several months before you start to notice improvement. Your path to wellness is determined by the amount of damage done to the intestinal lining. There isn’t a magic formula, though a combination of the above supplements at effective dosages helps most people that suffer from this condition. Anti-microbial herbs can be needed at times to help weed out bad/pathogenic bacteria. Consult with your naturopathic doctor to be evaluated for increased intestinal permeability and to have an effective treatment drafted to address your body’s needs.
Dr. Jaspreet Mundeir, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor practicing in the East Bay Area. She is the owner of East Bay Natural Medicine where she focuses on helping patients achieve their optimal health state using homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutritional supplements, botanical medicine and bio-identical hormones.
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