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leaky gut syndrome: the most ignored, misunderstood, misrepresented, and misdiagnosed health problem in america


Start today’s post by understanding three very simple pictures. The paving stones represent cells in your small intestine, and the gaps between them represent the “tight junctions” that allow microscopic particles of nutrition into the bloodstream, where it can be transported to the distant regions of the body. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a continuum, where due to various sources of inflammation, the gaps or junctions get wider and wider.

Stick around because the consequences of this are not only beyond devastating to health, the mechanism is completely ignored / disregarded by the medical community portion of the medical community that treats patients (as opposed to researchers). Leaky Gut Syndrome is one of the top three arenas to clearly see this chasm CANYON between what is happening in the medical research community and what actually happens in your doctor’s office.

Cells are tightly packed, having slight spaces in between for tiny particles (nutrition) to pass.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Due to inflammation, the junctions between cells gets wider.  Bigger molecules can enter the bloodstream.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
As the process continues, large gaps form, allowing a vast array of nasties (LARGE nasties) into general circulation.

“A proposed gastrointestinal disorder dubbed ‘leaky gut syndrome’ is currently the topic of numerous debates throughout the medical and natural health communities. Some alternative medicine practitioners claim that leaky gut syndrome is a prevalent problem responsible for ill health in many people. Many practitioners who diagnose patients with leaky gut syndrome claim that a lack of adequate studies does not mean it doesn’t exist.

While this could be possible, diagnosing and treating a disease that we don’t have evidence for can be dangerous, which is why the medical community uses such rigorous testing to scientifically support any new diagnoses, medications, or treatment plans before recommending them to patients.  If you have any more questions or concerns about ‘leaky gut syndrome’ or intestinal permeability, talk to your medical doctor or gastroenterologist.” A cherry-picked section of their position statement on Leaky Gut Syndrome, from the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (Debunking the Myth of ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’)

If I had time to do it, it would have been easy to find hundreds of similar online statements concerning LEAKY GUT SYNDROME.  In light of the thousands upon thousands of peer-reviewed studies on the subject, this has become the biomedical equivalent of denying the Holocaust. 

When you start digging into the research, you quickly realize that the two sides of the coin representing true “Gut Health” (MICROBIOME / DYSBIOSIS and epithelial barrier dysfunction — LGS) have, along with FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTATION, arguably been the hottest topics in health-related research for at least half a decade.  What makes denial that much more egregious is the fact that there are several simple and inexpensive DIY home-tests for Intestinal Permeability.    

As for the reasons for this denial, it’s simple.  The average physician is locked into where they put their faith and what they do — drugs and surgery.  Once one realizes that not only are there not any medications that effectively treat LGS, but that lots of medications — not just ANTIBIOTICS — actually cause (or at least contribute to LGS and dysbiosis — HERE), it’s easy to see why keeping their heads in the sand is the usual modus oporandi. 

Or shutting you down if you bring it up to them.  “Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson; you’ve been surfing Schierling’s quackery-laden website again, haven’t you?

Leaky Gut goes by any number of names in the scientific literature, although it is becoming more common to actually see it referred to as such.   In today’s post we are not going to cover Gut Epithelial Barrier Dysfunction / Intestinal Hyperpermeability (Leaky Gut Syndrome) as it relates to common problems such as DEPRESSION, OBESITY, DIABETES, etc, etc — if you want those, they and numerous other “mainstream” diseases can be found under my previous articles on the topic (see earlier link on LGS). 

Today I am going to show you the weird stuff, using peer-review from the last few months, I want you to see a few of the crazy numbers of crazy health issues that are related to Leaky Gut Syndrome.  What I really want you to pay attention to as you read this is just how far apart mainstream medical practice is from mainstream medical research — a gap I’ve repeatedly said makes the GRAND CANYON LOOK LIKE A DITCH.

(All quotes pertaining to Leaky Gut Syndrome are cherry-picked due to restraints on time and space)….

  • ROOT CANALS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  I’ve shown you previously how many experts believe ROOT CANALS act as reservoirs of occult infection.  Just last week, the journal Molecular Neurobiology (Increased Root Canal Endotoxin Levels are Associated with Chronic Apical Periodontitis, Increased Oxidative and Nitrosative Stress, Major Depression, Severity of Depression, and a Lowered Quality of Life) revealed that, “Evidence indicates that major depression is accompanied by increased translocation of gut commensal Gram-negative bacteria (leaky gut) and consequent activation of oxidative and nitrosative (O&NS) pathways.  There were significant and positive associations between CAP (chronic apical periodontitis) or root canal endotoxin with the vegetative and physio-somatic symptoms of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale as well as a significant inverse association between root canal endotoxin and quality of life with strong effects on psychological, environmental, and social domains. It is concluded that increased root canal lipopolysaccharide accompanying CAP may cause depression and a lowered quality of life, which may be partly explained by activated O&NS pathways, especially NOx thereby enhancing hypernitrosylation and thus neuroprogressive processes. Dental health and “leaky teeth” may be intimately linked to the etiology and course of depression, while significantly impacting quality of life.”  Just click the link to see that this thought process is becoming mainstream, even though experts on natural health (that both happened to be renowned dentists — Drs. LEE & PRICE) were talking about this dilemma 80 years ago. Hang with me because we’ll talk more about lipopolysaccharides (endotoxins) momentarily
  • INTESTINAL HYPERPERMEABILITY (LEAKY GUT SYNDROME) IS A KNOWN LINK BETWEEN METABOLIC SYNDROME AND MOOD DISORDERS:  One of the drums that I’ve beat over and over again is that numerous health issues — particularly CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROMES, CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASES, and AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES — should be viewed systemically, as whole body health issues.  Listen to what the journal Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry (Shared Metabolic and Immune-Inflammatory, Oxidative and Nitrosative Stress Pathways in the Metabolic Syndrome and Mood Disorders) said just two short weeks ago. “This review examines the shared immune-inflammatory, oxidative and nitrosative stress and metabolic pathways underpinning metabolic syndrome, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Shared pathways in both metabolic syndrome and mood disorders are low grade inflammation….. and increased bacterial translocation (leaky gut).  Mood disorders should be viewed as systemic neuro-metabolic disorders.”  Bacterial translocation simply means that the tight junctions between the epithelial cells of the Gut lining have gotten loose enough to start allowing bacteria through.  Not pleasant or healthy.  It’s caused by inflammation.  Figure out what’s driving your inflammation, solve your Leaky Gut!
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME CONTRIBUTES TO ALCOHOLISM AND VICE VERSA:  Last month’s issue of Neuropharmacology (A Role for the Peripheral Immune System in the Development of Alcohol Use Disorders?) concluded that, “Preclinical studies have largely supported that alcohol-consumption induces the development of an important neuro-inflammation and this neuro-inflammation contributes to alcohol-drinking behaviors. Ethanol in particular interacts with the intestine to develop a gut dysbiosis and an increase in gut permeability, that allows the liberation of bacterial fragments to the systemic circulation and induces a pro-inflammatory response in the systemic circulation and peripheral organs, and in particular the liver. Peripheral cytokines or activated peripheral cells may cross the blood-brain barrier and activate neuro-inflammation. In humans, peripheral inflammation and intestinal dysbiosis are related to symptoms of alcohol use disorders, such as depression, anxiety and alcohol-craving, However, the dysbiosis, could also participate in a different manner to the symptomatology of the addiction, possibly by interacting with the stress system, by interfering with the sleep processes and altering the abilities for social interactions. The role of the gut suggests that interventions with probiotics or prebiotics might in the future be of interest for the treatment of the addiction.”   We shouldn’t be surprised considering what we know about dysbiosis as related to sugar consumption (it’s the fuel), and the fact that alcohol is metabolized in the body like sugar.  Speaking of sugar…..
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; SUGAR CONSUMPTION CAUSES INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY:  Why should we be surprised considering sugar feeds both cancer and infection (HERE and HERE)?  In a March study from the Journal of Nutrition (Intestinal Barrier Function and the Gut Microbiome Are Differentially Affected in Mice Fed a Western-Style Diet or Drinking Water Supplemented with Fructose) we see just how bad sugar affects the Gut.  “High fructose intake increased endotoxin translocation 2.6 and 3.8 fold in the groups fed the control diet + fructose and Western Style Diet + fructose, respectively, compared with the control group.”  Among an array of other problems you can read about if you want to, this diet caused certain strains of bacteria to increase by 33,000% (not a misprint) — the ultimate definition of dysbiosis.  “The consumption of a Western Style Diet or high fructose intake differentially affects gut permeability and the microbiome.”  Never forget that as bad as white sugar is, HFCS is worse.
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; OVERWEIGHT PREGNANCY CAUSES INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY   Last month’s issue of Metabolism (Increased Intestinal Permeability, Measured by Serum Zonulin, is Associated with Metabolic Risk Markers in Overweight Pregnant Women) revealed that, “Increased intestinal permeability with subsequent metabolic endotoxemia (elevated circulating levels of bacterial lipopolysaccharide), has been introduced as a novel initiator of obesity related metabolic disturbances in non-pregnant individuals.  Serum zonulin was analyzed using ELISA, and markers for metabolic endotoxemia (LPS), inflammation (high-sensitive C-reactive protein and glycoprotein acetylation GlyA), glucose metabolism (fasting glucose and insulin), and lipid metabolism were measured.  Higher serum zonulin concentration associated positively with LPS, inflammatory markers, insulin, insulin resistance, and triglycerides, and negatively with insulin sensitivity.  Increased intestinal permeability contributes to metabolic endotoxemia, systemic inflammation, and insulin resistance in overweight pregnant women.
  • LOSING WEIGHT HAS BENEFICIAL EFFECTS ON LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  The most common cause of Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Seatosis) is obesity.  January’s issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Gut Permeability is Related to Body Weight, Fatty Liver Disease, and Insulin Resistance in Obese Individuals Undergoing Weight Reduction) concluded that, “Intestinal permeability is increased in obese patients with steatosis compared with obese patients without. The increased permeability fell to within the previously reported normal range after weight reduction.”  In other words, the more obese one is, the greater the chances of both a Leaky Gut and a Fatty Liver.  The cool thing is that both can be effectively dealt with via WEIGHT LOSS.
  • WESTERN DIET, ENDOTOXEMIA, AND LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:   Endotoxemia is defined by Dictionary dot com as “The presence of endotoxins in the blood, which, if derived from gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria, may cause hemorrhages, necrosis of the kidneys, and shock.”  We’ve talked a couple of times about lipopolysaccharides.  Just realize that they are synonymous with the word endotoxin. In other words, the whole mess is essentially the result of dysbiosis.  Last month’s issue of the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (Western-Diet Consumption Induces Alteration of Barrier Function Mechanisms in the Ileum that Correlates with Metabolic Endotoxemia…..) bore this out when it concluded that diet is related to dysbiosis, and that, “ileal mucosal defense impairment induced by Western Diet feeding contributes to metabolic endotoxemia.”  The study’s title shows exactly how this is related to a Leaky Gut (altered barrier function).
  • ANOREXIA NERVOSA RELATED TO LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  January’s issue of the European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Food Matters: How the Microbiome and Gut–Brain Interaction Might Impact the Development and Course of Anorexia Nervosa) starts out by saying, “Anorexia nervosa (AN) is one of the most common chronic illnesses in female adolescents and exhibits the highest mortality risk of all psychiatric disorders (less than 50% of patients with AN fully recover). Evidence for the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic or psychopharmacological interventions is weak.”  After talking extensively about the Gut / Brain / Endocrine System Axis (read about it on ENDOGUT) the authors concluded that, “There is growing evidence that the gut microbiota influences weight regulation and psychopathology, such as anxiety and depression.  A “leaky gut”, characterized by antigens traversing the intestinal wall, was demonstrated in an animal model of AN, and could underlie the low-grade inflammation and increased risk of autoimmune diseases found in AN.  The so-called “leaky gut” (increased intestinal permeability) might facilitate the transfer of potentially pathogenic members of the microbiota (i.e. “pathobionts”), metabolites, toxins or lipopolysaccharides from the gut lumen to the lamina propria and on to the mesenteric lymph nodes, from which they may reach systemic circulation, especially in the case of an aberrant immune response Moreover, starvation has a substantial impact on the gut microbiome…… This review discusses how consideration of gut–brain interactions may be important for treatment regarding the determination of target weight, rapidity of weight gain, refeeding methods and composition of the diet which might all be of importance to improve long-term outcome of one of the most chronic psychiatric disorders of adolescence.”  Incredible study, although it leans toward veganism as opposed to the types of diet I prefer my chronically sick patients to eat (GAPS, PALEO, KETOGENIC, etc).  Plainly stated, anorexic individuals need quality protein and plenty of it.  Not impossible, but certainly tougher to do without eggs, fish, RED MEAT, etc, etc, not to mention the beneficial effects of animal fats on the brain (HERE).
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; EXERCISE AFFECTS INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY IN TWO DISTINCT WAYS:  Two months ago, the March issue of Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity published an amazing and detailed study called Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects, with a bio alone that was worth the price of admission.  While the authors showed that exercise is undoubtedly beneficial as far as GUT HEALTH is concerned, they provided a caveat that I have warned people about (particularly hardcore runners) for a long time — that too much exercise can actually cause intestinal hyperpermeability. “Prolonged exercise also determines an increase of intestinal permeability, compromising gut-barrier function and resulting in bacterial translocation from the colon [into the blood stream].”  Conversely, “Low intensity exercise can influence the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the transient stool time [making you regular] and thus the contact time between the pathogens and the gastrointestinal mucus layer. As a consequence, it seems that exercise has protective effects, reducing the risk of colon cancer, diverticulosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.  Collectively, the available data strongly support that exercise appears to determine changes in the qualitative and quantitative gut microbial composition with possible benefits for the host. In fact, stable and enriched microflora diversity is indispensable to the homeostasis and normal gut physiology [is your Gut leaky or not?] contributing also to suitable signaling along the brain-gut axis and to the healthy status of the individual. Exercise is able to enrich the microflora diversity; to improve the Bacteroidetes-Firmicutes ratio which could potentially contribute to reducing weight, obesity-associated pathologies, and gastrointestinal disorders; to stimulate the proliferation of bacteria which can modulate mucosal immunity and improve barrier functions [LGS], resulting in reduction in the incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases; and to stimulate bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer.
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME AND GULF WAR SYNDROME:  I have heard any number of theories about what causes Gulf War Syndrome — exposure of DIET SODA in ALUMINUM CANS to extreme heat, freaky numbers of freaky VACCINATIONS, chemical warfare, etc, etc, etc.  Without getting into that debate, the March issue of PLoS One carried a study called Altered Gut Microbiome in a Mouse Model of Gulf War Illness Causes Neuroinflammation and Intestinal Injury Via Leaky Gut and TLR4 Activation.  This rather amazing study by a team of 16 MD / Ph.D researchers concluded that, “Many of the symptoms of Gulf War Illness that include neurological abnormalities, neuroinflammation, chronic fatigue and gastrointestinal disturbances have been traced to Gulf War chemical exposure.  Using an established rodent model of Gulf War Illness, we show that chemical exposure caused significant dysbiosis in the gut that included increased abundance of phylum Firmicutes and Tenericutes, and decreased abundance of Bacteroidetes.  Altered microbiome caused significant decrease in tight junction protein Occludin with a concomitant increase in Claudin-2, a signature of a leaky gut.  These events signified that gut dysbiosis with simultaneous leaky gut and systemic endotoxemia-induced TLR4 activation contributes to Gulf War chemical-induced neuroinflammation and gastrointestinal disturbances.”  Whatever chemical(s) caused this crap; the resultant Dysbiosis and subsequent sequelae have proved a nightmare for many who were exposed.
  • STRESS LEADS TO INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY (LEAKY GUT SYNDROME):  A study done by a team of 15 researchers working for our military and published in the American Journal of Physiology: GI and Liver Physiology (Changes in Intestinal Microbiota Composition and Metabolism Coincide with Increased Intestinal Permeability In Young Adults Under Prolonged Physiologic Stress) showed yet another way that stress fouls up the system.  “Findings demonstrate that a multiple-stressor military training environment induced increases in intestinal permeability that were associated with alterations in markers of inflammation, and with intestinal microbiota composition and metabolism.”  Yes, it’s true; living in a state of SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE is bad news for your Gut.  The cool thing is, there are actually ways to measure this stress (HERE), and do something about it (more to come momentarily).
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME RELATED TO FEMALE INFERTILITY / PCOS:  Far and away, the number one cause of INFERTILITY in America is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).  The January issue of PLoS One (Alterations in Gut Microbiome Composition and Barrier Function Are Associated with Reproductive and Metabolic Defects in Women with PCOS) concluded that, “Women with PCOS frequently display overweight, insulin resistance, and systemic low-grade inflammation.  To date, no published data on the gut microbiome in human PCOS patients exist, though there have been recent reports of alterations in the fecal microbiome in PCOS rodent models. Data on gut permeability in PCOS patients are likewise scarce, though an increase in serum zonulin, a regulator of tight junction function, has been reported. We found significant or borderline significant increases in several parameters of intestinal barrier dysfunction and inflammation in PCOS patients. Zonulin is a regulator of tight junction function in humans and serum levels correlate with in vivo gut permeability assessed by lactulose/mannitol test. The serum zonulin increase observed in our study is in accordance with recent studies in PCOS patients and obese individuals, where serum zonulin was correlated with measures of insulin resistance and fecal bacterial colony count.  Zonulin, calprotectin, LPS, and blood lymphocytes were associated with gut microbiome parameters, indicating support for the gut barrier-endotoxemia-inflammation mechanism…. Similar to the gut microbiome, gut barrier changes may become more pronounced in specific PCOS phenotypes, such as those with more pronounced insulin resistance and/or obesity.”  Want to get pregnant but are having trouble?  Before spending tens of thousands on IVF, click the links above.
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; ANIMAL STUDIES GALORE:  I’ll not delve into these here, but I saw study after study on Leaky Gut Syndrome in all manner of farm animals, including cattle (both beef and dairy) as well as chickens.
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; CERTAIN PARASITES MIGHT BE PART OF A NORMAL MICROBIOME AND HAVE A BENEFICIAL AFFECT ON INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY:   A January study published in Tissue Barriers (Helminths and Intestinal Barrier Function) concluded, “The data available on direct effects of helminths on epithelial permeability are scant, fragmentary and pales in comparison with knowledge of mobilization of immune reactions and effector cells in response to helminth parasites and how these impact intestinal barrier function.” The study talked about helminths in relationship to Autoimmune Diseases.  Although it’s not difficult to find studies showing how PARASITES cause problems, there are actually a large number of studies showing the benefits of treating certain INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISORDERS with helminths (parasitic worms). 
  • AGING’S EFFECTS ON INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY / LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  Last month’s issue of Cell Host and Microbe (Age-Associated Microbial Dysbiosis Promotes Intestinal Permeability, Systemic Inflammation, and Macrophage Dysfunction) concluded that, “Although there were no gross differences in intestinal architecture, permeability was higher in the colons of old mice. Consistent with evidence of increased permeability in the colon, where bacterial numbers are highest, levels of the bacterial cell wall component muramyl dipeptide were also significantly higher in the plasma of old mice compared to young mice. Thus, increased leakiness of the gut is a consequence of aging.”  Fix your Gut and not only will you live better, you will likely live longer.
  • PROTEASES AND INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY / LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  Proteases, also known as ‘Proteolytic Enzymes,’ break down proteins to peptides and amino acids via a process known as hydrolysis. Six short weeks ago, the World Journal of Gastroenterology (Regulation of Intestinal Permeability: The Role of Proteases) came to some interesting conclusions concerning proteases.  “The gastrointestinal barrier is the body’s largest surface separating the external environment from the internal. This barrier serves a dual function: permitting the absorption of nutrients, water and electrolytes on the one hand, while limiting host contact with noxious luminal antigens on the other hand. To maintain this selective barrier, junction protein complexes seal the intercellular space between adjacent epithelial cells and regulate the paracellular transport. Increased intestinal permeability is associated with and suggested as a player in the pathophysiology of various gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. The gastrointestinal tract is exposed to high levels of endogenous and exogenous proteases, both in the lumen and in the mucosa. There is increasing evidence to suggest that a dysregulation of the protease/antiprotease balance in the gut contributes to epithelial damage and increased permeability. Excessive proteolysis leads to direct cleavage of intercellular junction proteins, or to opening of the junction proteins via activation of protease activated receptors. In addition, proteases regulate the activity and availability of cytokines and growth factors, which are also known modulators of intestinal permeability.”  I’ll be anxiously awaiting more studies because many people are helped with their chronic conditions by supplementing with proteolytic enzymes.
  • HERBS, BOTANICALS, COLOSTRUM, AND PROBIOTICS HAVE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS ON GUT PERMEABILTY / LEAKY GUT SYNDROME:  There are scores of studies on various PLANTS and PROBIOTICS, showing their mostly positive effect on LGS (I say mostly because even though most of these studies show benefit, some show no effect — not sure I’ve seen any studies on people getting worse).
  • LEAKY GUT SYNDROME; OTHERS:  Truth be known, I found studies linking Leaky Gut to all manner of physical ailment. 

Those in the field of natural health have been proven correct time and time again — when it comes to restoration of health, it all starts with healing the Gut.  Furthermore, there’s not a day go by that I don’t see people using these timeless truths to solve their chronic health problems.  HERE is a post on how to get started. And by golly, if you appreciate this sort of material, like, share or follow on FACEBOOK so that you can more easily reach the people you love and care about most.


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