Leaky Gut Syndrome & Inflamed Intestines
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) has been reported to account for at least 50 percent of chronic health care complaints in today’s society. In LGS, the epithelium (outer surface of cells) of the small intestine becomes inflamed and irritated, which allows metabolic and microbial toxins of the small intestines to flood into the blood stream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system, and the immune response including the endocrine system.
LGS can be be a primary cause of the following common conditions: asthma, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, eczema, urticaria, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, fungal disorders, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory joint disorders including rheumatoid arthritis. It also contributes to PMS, uterine fibroid, and breast fibroid. Leaky Gut Syndrome may also be the basis for chronic fatigue syndrome and pediatric immune deficiencies.
LGS is a modern phenomenon. Historically, the only way bowel toxins entered the blood stream was through trauma, for example by sword or spear. This quickly led to septicemia that might be treatable, or more probably, ended in death. Outside of trauma, the body maintained a wonderfully effective selective barrier in the small intestine, one that allowed nutrients to enter, but kept out metabolic wastes and microbial toxins rampant in the intestines.
What modern event allowed such a breakdown? Primarily it has been antibiotics, secondarily non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are commonly taken for various pains, and include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). They are quite damaging to the small intestine mucosa lining. Since their entry into mainstream medicine in 1939, antibiotic use accelerated. Among other conditions, they have been heavily prescribed for pediatric ear infection, bronchitis, and sore throat. It is sadly ironic that many of these infections are viral in nature — not only are the antibiotics damaging, they are also unnecessary for viral infections.
Antibiotics create their damage in two ways. The first is by destroying beneficial bacteria. The small intestine and large intestine host over five hundred different kinds of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria perform hundreds of functions required for healthy metabolism and immune response. Through enzyme secretions, bacteria transform metabolic and microbial wastes before the body discharges them. These wastes include cellular debris, hormones, chemical wastes, bile, pus accumulations, viral toxins, bacterial toxins, etc.
For example, the body creates bile not only as a lubricant to flush wastes out of the liver, but also, by its cold and bitter nature, to detoxify many of the poisons accumulating in the liver. Bile, however, is extremely caustic to large intestine epithelium. When bile enters the small intestine via the common bile duct, beneficial bacteria break the bile salts down into a less caustic compound, making it non-dangerous by the time it reaches the large intestine. When you take antibiotics you destroy these bacteria and the bile salts freely enter and damage the large intestine. I believe this contributes significantly to the high incidence of colon cancer plaguing today’s society.
Beneficial bacteria also break down hormone secretions that are discharged from the liver to the small intestine. If you lack the bacteria to break down estrogen and the intestinal permeability has been altered, the patient is now reabsorbing estrogens in their original state. The body will deposit these in estrogen-sensitive areas such as the breast, uterus, or ovaries, contributing, if not causing, fibroids and tumors. The same scenario is responsible for premenstrual syndrome.
Healthy mucosa allows nutrients to pass the barrier while blocking the entry of toxins.
Antibiotics Promote the Growth of Fungus
The second way antibiotics damage the intestines is by fostering the growth of Candida albicans and other pathogenic fungi and yeast. This event, more than any other, precipitates Leaky Gut Syndrome. In a healthy situation, the small intestine epithelium maintains tight cell junctions, which contribute to the physical barrier involved in intestinal absorption. In addition to the physical barrier, there is an important chemical barrier within the mucus. This barrier contains immune agents that neutralize any toxin that comes in contact.
Candida exudes an aldehyde secretion that causes small intestine epithelial cells to shrink. This allows intestinal toxins to infiltrate through the epithelium and into the blood. The secondary barriers, immune agents in the epithelial mucus, remain the sole agent for neutralization. Eventually, the immune system becomes exhausted rising to this challenge.
Many people have an erroneous belief that the Candida itself enters the blood stream, allowing it to be deposited elsewhere, such as the brain. Unless the immune response is completely depleted, as in AIDS, Candida is quickly destroyed in the blood. The real damage done by Candida is to the intestinal epithelial barrier, allowing the absorption of serious toxic agents and chemicals, which then enter the blood and affect numerous organs, including the brain.
Food Allergies: The Complicating Factor
When the integrity of the intestinal barrier has been compromised, intestinal toxins are not the only pathogens to be absorbed. The barrier, in a healthy state, selectively allows digested nutrients to enter the small intestine when all is ready. With leaky gut, nutrients can be absorbed before they are fully digested. The body’s immune response, through specific antigen-antibody markers, will tag some of these foods as foreign irritants. Every time that particular food touches the epithelia, an inflammatory immune response is mounted, further damaging the epithelial lining. What started as a Candida irritation with shrinking of the cells has now been complicated with active inflammation every time a particular food is eaten. Food allergies are a common secondary problem to Candida, and if present, will maintain the leaky gut continuously, even if the Candida is eradicated.
The most common food allergies are dairy, eggs, gluten grains (wheat, oats, rye), corn, beans (especially soy), and nuts. There are seldom real allergies to meat, rice, millet, vegetables, or fruit, although an allergy to garlic is not uncommon. We have to distinguish a real allergy — that which causes a histamine inflammatory reaction at the site of the small intestine (SI) epithelia — from sensitivity, which may cause uncomfortable symptoms, but seldom is damaging. Sensitivities are usually due to low stomach acid or pancreatic enzyme secretion, that is, poor digestion.
In the healing of the intestinal lining, exposure to a significant allergy can sabotage the treatment. For example, one may be very good at restricting wheat, dairy and eggs, but then compromises the treatment by taking garlic tablets.