What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The lining of our intestines is made up of a wall of cells held tightly together. This wall, also known as a mucosal barrier, measures 9m in length and allows for optimal absorption of nutrients during the digestive process. The barrier is also important because it prevents substances, such as partially digested food, bacteria, and toxins, from passing (or permeating) out of the small intestine into the bloodstream.
When the junctures between cells of the mucosal barrier weaken, intestinal permeability increases. This is known as a ‘leaky gut.’
Fluids, electrolytes, and small food particles can normally pass through the mucosal lining. However, when a "Leaky Gut" develops, toxins, pathogens, and large food particles can also permeate the gut barrier. The body then recognizes these substances as foreign invaders, triggering an inflammatory immune response.
What is Intestinal Permeability?
The digestive system consists of organs that break down and absorb nutrients in the body. Thanks to the intestinal walls, they also protect the body from harmful substances.
Gut permeability describes a carefully regulated function in the gastrointestinal tract that facilitates the absorption of nutrients, water, and electrolytes and acts as a barrier against the movement of toxins and other harmful substances—like foreign antigens and microorganisms—from the intestine into the bloodstream.
Gut permeability is a normal function in a healthy human body. But when there is an increase in permeability, there will be hyper-permeability in the gut—this becomes a health issue.
Although increased gut permeability is not typically diagnosed, many tests can measure the health of a human gut. These tests include gastrointestinal testing (GI testing), the zonulin test (measuring the amount of zonulin in the gut), and a urine test called the lactulose mannitol test.
Some gut permeability is normal, but increases in gut permeability levels can cause many health problems. Once you recognize the symptoms, be sure to consult with an integrative health practitioner so that you can take steps to get your gut back to normal levels of permeability.
What is Zonulin?
Zonulin is a protein molecule synthesized in intestinal and liver cells that helps regulate tight junctions in your intestinal wall. When it connects to specific receptors on the cell surface, the tight junctions open up and therefore increase your intestinal permeability. This can be caused, e.g., by exposure to certain types of bacteria, such as Borrelia, or mycotoxins, such as trichothecene.
Zonulin is one of three ways the FIT test can diagnose a leaky gut and find a sensitivity to Candida and multiple Food Sensitivities. It is estimated that between 50 and 100 percent of food intolerance sufferers have increased intestinal permeability.
Exposure to foreign antigens and cell components can cause immunological reactions and dysregulations. High Zonulin values can typically be observed in cases of Diabetes Type 1, autoimmune diseases, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic diseases.
Increased intestinal permeability can be caused by food allergies and sensitivities, stress, infections, and low stomach acid, among other causes. Elevated levels of Zonulin are associated with Celiac Disease, Autoimmune disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and other chronic illnesses.
A healthy gut has healthy cell junctions and good nutrient absorption. In a leaky gut, however, the Villi are damaged, there is poor absorption, and the cell junctions are loose. This means bacteria and unwanted items can pass through the gut, as seen in the picture.
Gut Toxicity Induced by Antibiotics & Lipophilic Mycotoxins & Industrial Toxins
Since the advent of penicillin during World War II, we have poisoned our food supply with antibiotics. Antibiotics that were intended for medical treatment have unwisely been used for agricultural purposes – poultry, dairy, and stockyard beef production. Because of antibiotic-laden foods, most Americans suffer from an imbalance of the good bacteria that live in our guts or Gastrointestinal Dysbiosis.
This imbalance causes Candida overgrowth. Candida, a type of yeast, naturally exists in our bodies but can be problematic when it overpopulates the digestive system. During Gastrointestinal Dysbiosis there is no limit to how much Candida can grow and spread. This excessive yeast can cause serious damage to vital organs and tissues, including the brain.
Understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome
The brain chemistry research at Sponaugle Wellness has correlated biomarkers with aberrations in brain scan activity. It has proven that antibiotic-induced changes in brain chemistry cause excessive electrical activity in two specific brain regions, as seen in red below.
Patients develop leaky gut syndrome when Gastrointestinal Dysbiosis begins to cause erosion to the gut lining.
A leaky intestinal lining will further distort the delicate biochemical balance of the brain. Homeostasis, or balance, between the immune system, the hormonal system, and the nervous system begins in and is critically dependent on a healthy intestine.
Leaky Gut Syndrome causes chronic inflammation in the gut and throughout the body. It has been linked to various conditions and symptoms such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and more.