Why Healing Your Gut So Important
Even if a patient isn’t complaining of digestive concerns, I always start by addressing and healing the gut. Our instincts don’t necessarily associate brain fog or rheumatoid arthritis with gut problems. Conventional medicine usually isolates these symptoms to the brain or joints, respectively. However what’s going on in your gut is of vital importance to the rest of your body’s health; if your gut function is out of balance, then so is the rest of you.
We know there is a connection between intestinal permeability and autoimmunity. We also know that along with intestinal permeability comes a lengthy list of associated health problems. While leaky gut hasn’t gotten much attention from the medical field, that is all about to change as drug companies are working to develop a new medication to treat intestinal permeability.
Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? Strong gut health is fundamental to your entire body’s health because without it, you can’t have a healthy immune system. We rely on our immune system to fight off infection, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
Your gut plays an important role as the gatekeeper of what enters your body from the outside world. Your gut absorbs nutrients from the foods you eat while screening out harmful bacteria, pathogens, and undigested food. So when your gut is having difficulty discerning the good from the bad, it can no longer be an effective gatekeeper which leads to leaky gut syndrome.
What is a Leaky Gut, or Intestinal Permeability?
The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb nutrients in your food. In fact, regulating intestinal permeability is one of the basic functions of the cells that line the intestinal wall.
The GI tract is comprised of tiny epithelial cells that, together, form a tightly woven barrier between the interior of the body (your blood and circulatory system) and the exterior (or the GI tube). This barrier performs two critical roles. First, it takes in micromolecules from digested food particles that the body then uses as a source of fuel. The epithelial cells directly absorb these micronutrients. The second important task is to restrict the passage of larger macromolecules into the bloodstream. When the intestinal barrier is sound, toxins and bacteria or larger undigested food particles cannot enter the bloodstream. But when the lining starts to become porous as the intestinal mucosa begins to break down, you now have a “leaky gut”. As the larger compounds pass through into the circulatory system, the underlying intestinal immune system reacts against the foreign undigested proteins. This results in an amplified overall immune response, increased intestinal inflammation, and a cycle of further damage & permeability to the intestinal lining.
When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The constant onslaught of inflammation from your immune system causes a widespread immune response throughout your body
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
- Digestive issues, gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, fat malabsorption
- Season allergies, asthma
- Hormonal imbalances, PMS, PCOS
- Diagnosis of autoimmune disease
- Mood imbalances, anxiety, depression, ADD, ADHD
- Skin issues, acne, rosacea, eczema
- Gut infections, SIBO, candida overgrowth, parasites
- Excess weight, obesity, diabetes
- Nutritional deficiency, anemia
- Brain Fog
- Osteoporosis, osteopenia
- Frequent colds
- Joint pain, muscle pain
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Toxic and Inflammatory Foods:
- Grains and Pseudograins
- Nightshade vegetables
Medications that cause leaky gut:
- NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen)
- Birth control pills
- Acid blocking drugs
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- Mycotoxins (toxic mold)
- Emotional stress
- Physical stress
- Chemical Stress (medications, foods, environment)
Consider these facts:
Over and over, the literature shows that intestinal permeability promotes autoimmune reactions, flare-ups and irritability of the immune system:
“A more attentive analysis of the anatomic and functional arrangement of the gastrointestinal tract, however, suggests that another extremely important function of this organ is its ability to regulate the trafficking of macromolecules between the environment and the host through a barrier mechanism.”1
“When the finely tuned trafficking of macromolecules is dysregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune disorders can occur.”2
“It is now apparent that tight junctions are dynamic structures that are involved in developmental, physiological, and pathological processes. As a result, particular attention is being placed on the role of tight junction dysfunction in the pathogenesis of several diseases, particularly autoimmune diseases.”3
The literature shows a close connection between increased food sensitivities and intestinal permeability:
“Intestinal permeability is increased in patients with food allergy, suggesting that the uptake of food antigens is elevated in food-allergic patients.”4
One of the things researchers are finding is once these tight junction proteins get compromised, there is such immune zealousness and activation, this whole immune self-tolerance is lost, resulting in autoimmunity:
“In all cases, increased permeability appears to precede disease and causes an abnormality in antigen delivery that triggers the multiorgan process leading to the autoimmune response.”5
“Together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, the intestinal epithelial barrier, with its intercellular tight junctions, controls the equilibrium between tolerance and immunity to non-self antigens. When the finely-tuned trafficking of macromolecules is dysregulated in individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune disorders can occur.”6
A recent article published in a well-respected medical journal hypothesized that intestinal permeability is a necessary condition for the development of autoimmunity:
“There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases. Therefore, we hypothesize that loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity Tight junctions, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity: celiac disease and type 1 diabetes paradigms.”7
Malabsorption is Common in Leaky Gut
The other consequence of intestinal permeability is malabsorption of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, Iron, fat soluble vitamin (A,D,E,K) and various B vitamins. Many of these leaky gut patients develop malabsorption due to LPS bacterial toxins and the inflammation that results. The mucus makes it difficult for small micronutrients to penetrate the intestinal epithelial cells.
Autoimmunity Itself Tends to Cause Further Intestinal Permeability
Autoimmunity begets intestinal permeability, which in turn spawns further autoimmune response. With each flare up, the intestinal lining takes another hit and the cycle continues. Using the “4R Protocol”, you can stop the cycle and start healing your gut.
4R Protocol to Better Gut Health:
- Remove the bad. Get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections such as yeast overgrowth and SIBO.
- Restore the good. Add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption, such as digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria. Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical.
- Repair the gut. Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. L-glutamine is an amino acid that will help mend your gut lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen will also help to heal your gut, as will supplementing with Repairvite, omega-3s, zinc, and herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera
If you suspect you are suffering from an autoimmune disease and you think you have a leaky gut syndrome, Dr. Hagmeyer can help support your body naturally. At DrHagmeyer.com, we strive to fully understand the needs and concerns of our patients and we will work closely with you to ensure your good health is restored.
We know how frustrating it is to try and go through this alone. To help ensure your health is improved, we offer extensive testing and customized treatment programs as well as an overriding dedication to helping you get better. Contact our office to schedule your initial consultation today.
Learn more about Autoimmune Disease and Other Triggers:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Autoimmune Disease and Functional Medicine
- Identifying Your Autoimmune Triggers
- Trigger II: Eliminate Food Senstivities
- Trigger III: Toxins, Heavy Metals, BPA
- Trigger IV: Infections, Parasites, and Lyme Disease
- Trigger V: Balance and Optimize Hormones
- Trigger VI: Dampen the Inflammatory Response
- Trigger VII: Identify Individual Nutritional Deficiencies
Other Related Articles:
1. The Journal of Immunology,2005, 175: 4119–4126.
2. NIH. Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Comm. Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan. 2006
3. NAT CLIN PRAC GASTRO & HEP SEPT 2005 VOL 2 NO 9
4. Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D.; Metagenics Educational Programs. 2006
5. ACTA BIO MEDICA 2003; 74; 9-33
6. Elimination of dietary gluten and development of type 1 diabetes in high-risk subjects. Rev Diabet. Stud. 2004 Spring;1(1):39-41
7. Thyroid disorders in Brazilian patients with CD. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan;40(1):33-6
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