Intestinal permeability (commonly heard of as ‘leaky gut’), is associated with several chronic diseases. When symptomatic, one can experience fatigue, headaches, confusion, brain fog, bloating, gas or constipation, skin problems, such as rashes, or eczema, or joint pain, all basically driven by the inflammation that it can create. When we have a damaged or inflamed lining of the intestines, the barrier between the gut and bloodstream is jeopardized and the barriers can be breached. If allowed to continue, harmful bacteria, foodstuff and toxins that your body normally would not allow through can leak into the underlying tissues and bloodstream and cause further inflammation and immune activation along with digestive disturbances and autoimmune conditions.
Intestinal permeability is critical to identify in people who have it. Our body has gating mechanisms that are inborn. When the integrity of our gating mechanism is functioning well, it allows things that are supposed to get in through and blocks what can be harmful to us from getting in. There are two mechanisms that can breakdown with intestinal permeability, paracellular breakdown around/in between the cells and transcellular breakdown which occurs through the cell structure. These breakdowns can occur when our body has taken a toll from stress, poor diet, abusive alcohol consumption, long standing need for antibiotics, or specific foods that may be problematic possibly due to genetic factors.
The blood testing at Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation measures both paracellular and transcellular breakdown processes. Additionally, it will determine if there is something called endotoxemia present, which is the negative effect of certain unfavorable bacteria being present in our microbiome. Maintaining healthy bacteria in your gut, or a healthy microbiome, is critical to healthy immune tolerance. Imbalances in your gut microbiome can trigger the body’s immune response and increase inflammation and intestinal permeability. Our intestines should contain a wide range of healthy bacteria. Healthy bacteria are necessary for protecting the intestinal lining, digestion and supporting a healthy immune system. Proper diet and lifestyle are the principal ways to fortify a diverse and robust microbiome.
One of the most common offending foods that can trigger intestinal permeability are the peptides in wheat know as gliadins, or more commonly known as the blanket term, gluten. For many, these peptides create immune responses in the body that can disrupt the intestinal barriers, causing painless or silent inflammation, and triggering autoimmune processes in the body.
While some may have no symptoms with intestinal permeability, others may experience digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and/or reflux. Others may have no gastrointestinal symptoms but may have systemic or autoimmune conditions developing as a result. Systemic symptoms that can point to intestinal permeability being the cause can be headache, chronic muscle and joint pain, ongoing fatigue, and neurologic symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and/or brain fog. Autoimmune conditions that can have intestinal permeability as a primary cause are many. Some of the more common being thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and Type I Diabetes.
The following are the more common causes of intestinal permeability.
- Dietary factors: refined sugar, high starch diets, processed foods, gluten in grains, caseins in dairy and alcohol
- Medications: antibiotics, NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Lifestyle factors: excessive stress, smoking tobacco
- Gut conditions: dysbiosis, SIBO, yeast overgrowth/Candid albicans, parasites, low gastric acid production
The first step in helping our patients is to utilize the results from our intestinal permeability blood test. Our team of physicians can then, along with a comprehensive consult and examination, most accurately identify the root cause(s) of your condition. Once the root cause has been determined, other interventional protocols such as dietary, nutritional and lifestyle changes may be recommended to help improve gut health and alleviate intestinal permeability symptoms. Our functional medicine doctor may recommend dietary changes that both eliminates certain offending foods and includes foods and supplements containing beneficial nutrients to soothe inflammation and restore the integrity of your gut lining. Adding probiotics and prebiotics to the diet may be suggested as well. We will also take a holistic look to ensure that regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress is being managed to help you avoid chronic disease and preserve your quality of life for years to come.