“Leakey Gut Syndrome”
Just recently someone was reading about a previous blog of mine about Crohn’s Disease. More and more people have been inquiring about Crohn’s disease. It was one my first blogs. Actually, it was this disease that launched my blogging ambitions. You see, while on an airline, once the flight attendants found out I was a food scientist, they started asking me about food and nutrition. One of the big topics that popped up was Crohn’s disease. An airline attendant’s son was suffering from this disease and wanted to learn more about it and how best to treat it. They were so fascinated; they urged me to start a blog about my research on food and nutrition. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the disease and therefore started to research it.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel (IBD) or gastrointestinal disease that involves inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. This usually occurs in the intestines but can affect different areas of the digestive tract anywhere from the mouth to rectum. Symptoms range from abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, and even malnutrition.
The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Like ulcerative colitis, another common IBD, Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications [Mayo Clinic Staff]. In severe cases people may have a section of their colon surgically removed. And even then, patients have complained of continued intestinal spasms and gut pain after eating.
In my previous article, I mentioned that the medical community, in general, claims it’s a genetic disease. Not caused by diet or stress. They claim that there is no cure, only therapies that alleviate the symptoms. I wanted to revisit this notion based on new findings.
The key word is inflammation! I’ve mentioned inflammation in previous correspondents such as the Paleo Diet and the Fungus Link. Inflammation is now being recognized as a major factor in many diseases, such as strokes and arthritis (inflammation & immune response). The big question not yet answered by the medical community is – “What causes the inflammation”? If you know the cause, you’re in a better position to treat or cure the ailment.
For example, arteriosclerosis which is the hardening of arteries from plaque build-up, creates a stroke when the inflamed artery causes the plaque to burst. What caused the inflammation? According to the author of the Fungal Link, the inflammation is a direct cause of fungal overgrowth in our gut and or the toxic mycotoxins in our food supply. The fungal overgrowth is associated with an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in the gut, most likely due to an over use of antibiotics.
The digestive tract and your immune system are intertwined.
LEAKY GUT SYNDROME
Now this leads into the “leaky gut” syndrome, which is not recognized by mainstream medical practitioners. I first learned about the leaky gut syndrome while researching the Paleo Diet. The leaky gut syndrome occurs when the intestinal lining is abnormally permeable or structurally damaged, leaving the small intestine unable to do its job of nutrient absorption while maintaining an inside / outside order or barrier. The key word here is “permeable”. As a result, some bacteria, fungus and their toxins, undigested food, and waste may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream, triggering an immune reaction. This is an example of how your digestive tract and immune system are related.
Can you see where we are going and how this relates to Crohn’s disease?
LEAKY GUT SYNDROME & DIGESTION
To better understand the “leaky gut” syndrome – Let’s take a closer look on how we digest our foods. Most people are familiar with the basic components of the digestive system which comprise of the stomach, the small intestines, and large intestines. First, once you take a bite of food, as you chew, enzymes from your saliva start the digestion process by breaking down carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Secondly, the food makes its way to your stomach where proteins begin to be broken down into smaller pieces. As a note, fats and carbohydrates are not digested in your stomach.
Thirdly, the foods then flow into your small intestine. Here digestive enzymes, bile salts, and pancreatic enzymes assist in breaking the food down even further. The carbohydrates are completely broken down into individual sugars; smaller protein molecules are broken down into peptides or amino acids; fats are broken down into glycerol and fatty acids.
Now that everything is broken down, most of the useful components are absorbed through the lining of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. This is the primary means of nutrients being transported from place to place.
The remainder of your meal then passes into your large intestine, where water and some minerals are re absorbed. The rest of the material is excreted.
The small intestine is key to a healthy digestive tract. The small intestine functions as a “holding tank”, keeping your food in place until it’s fully digested, but it’s most important job is to help you effectively absorb nutrients. [Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, It Starts with Food, pg 65]
I’d like to drive this point home by stating that your small intestine is very similar in nature to your skin. The skin is your first line of defense from bacteria and viruses. Just like your skin, the small intestine acts as a barrier by keeping the bad stuff from passing into your bloodstream; this is why your digestive tract is so critical to your immune system.
Here is another critical point – The entire process of digestion takes place while food is still in the long tube that passes from one end of your digestive tract to the other. If undigested food somehow finds its way into the blood stream, it is most likely harmful and cannot be used by the body. Keeping the right stuff in and the wrong stuff out is critical to a healthy gut.
Let’s take a step back and look at the skin again. Think about what would happen if your skin was “leaky”; for example, you get hurt and scratch or tear your skin. The good stuff (blood) would be leaking out of your body (you don’t want to bleed to death). The bad stuff like bacteria, fungus, and viruses would have a chance of creating an infection, for which your immune system would have to deal with.
A similar thing could happen if your gut was damaged and “leaky”‘ to the extent it was no longer able to keep the bad stuff out. Once again your immune system would have to fight off the foreign material that doesn’t belong there.
The good news is that a healthy gut is well adapted to filtering out the bad guys while absorbing the stuff from your food that you need.
Increased gut permeability – “leaky gut” – is always a problem because it means your body no longer has control over what comes in and what stays out. Increased gut permeability (and the ensuring inflammatory chaos) is linked not only to intestinal inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but also chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, hypersensitivities like asthma and allergies, and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes. “Leaky gut” and inflammation can also lead to obesity, but that’s another article all together.
WHAT’S TO BLAME?
Poor food choices! That’s right, poor food choice bring in the bad stuff, overwhelming your immune system. You create this condition of increased gut permeability, digestive stress, and systemic inflammation just by choosing the wrong foods.
FOODS TO AVOID
- Processed Sugar
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Seed Oils
- Grains & Legumes
Dairy products, cereals, and yeast have been implicated time and again in the development of Crohn’s disease. [Loren Cordain, Ph.D, The Paleo Diet p92]
Sweeteners – There are so many reasons why excess sugar and artificial sweeteners are bad for you. Some are as followed – unhealthy hormonal responses, obesity, alters the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, and promotes inflammation. I’d like to mention that both sugar and artificial sweeteners promote overgrowth of Candida “bad” yeast.
Seed Oils ( peanuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds )- these sources of vegetable oils all have common denominators – polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) & large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids. I’d like to mention that omega 6 fatty acids are needed for healthy brain function and metabolism, however too much promotes inflammation.
THE RIGHT FOODS!
- Vegetables & Fruits
- Good Fats
Meat, Seafood, Eggs – simply put they are made up of protein which is made up of amino acids. There are 21 amino acids, nine which are essential (cannot be synthesized by the body) and must be obtained from food. All animal proteins are complete, while plant based proteins are incomplete. I always encourage people to consume grass fed livestock, wild fish, and free range vegetarian fed chickens.
Vegetables & Fruits are distinctly anti-inflammatory. They are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
“One of our most powerful therapies to calm down the inflammation of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is to prescribe fish oil capsules – an excellent source of omega 3 fats”.[Loren Cordain, Ph.D, The Paleo Diet p92]
“Amazingly, almost 80% of patients achieve complete remission while on elemental diets with absolutely no drug therapy”. [Loren Cordain, Ph.D, The Paleo Diet p92]
Who wants to drink their meals for the rest of their lives? Once again, we see that eating a balanced nutritious diet has the propensity to treat and or cure those chronic diseases that have been plaguing you such as Crohn’s disease.
A) Poor Food Choices
B) Leaky Gut Syndrome
C) Immune response
E) Crohn’s disease!
Good Source of Fish Oil (Omega 3 Fatty Acids)
• OmegaPlex (product info)
Good Source of Probiotics (helps maintain balanced intestinal microflora)
• ProBiotic RESTORE ULTRA (product info)