Leaky Gut: Is it Becoming an Epidemic?

leaky_gut_progressionLeaky gut is a condition that causes many health problems, yet it’s rarely talked about in the media or in doctors’ offices. As a matter of fact, many people have this condition but have no clue! Here’s a look at what leaky gut is, how it occurs and what you can do to create a healthy gut without the use of pharmaceuticals. Many of the doctors and health practitioners that are talking about and diagnosing leaky gut are saying that almost 80% of the U.S. population has some degree of leaky gut.

The leaky gut issue starts in a very important organ, your small intestine. The small intestine is so important because most of the vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat are absorbed there. In order for the vitamins and minerals to be absorbed, the small intestine contains microscopic pores so the nutrients can be transferred into the bloodstream. Once transferred, the nutrients are then shuttled and deposited all around the body by the blood.

antibody_antigen_complexThe wall of the intestine is considered semi-permeable. This means it only allows certain things to enter the bloodstream and block other things from entering the bloodstream. For instance, specific molecules and nutrients are allowed to pass through but toxins and large undigested food particles are blocked. When you have leaky gut, the pores in your small intestine widen and this allows undigested food particles and toxins, that would normally be blocked, to enter your bloodstream. These particles and toxins aren’t recognized and the immune system goes into attack mode because they are not supposed to be in the blood. In essence, the immune system literally recognizes these undigested particles as dangerous. This can lead to allergies and much worse conditions. These particles that shouldn’t be there cause an immune response and build up antibodies to protect–it is just basically doing its job. The problem is the immune system doesn’t just build up antibodies to the food particles; it attacks your healthy cells, too. This is one of the ways food allergies and autoimmune disorders develop.

Keeping in mind that 70% of our immune system is in our gut, doesn’t it seem important to have a healthy one?

Let’s back up a bit and discuss some of the reasons why we are having a leaky gut epidemic? Why now? What has changed?

processed foodsWhat has changed in the American diet over the last 25 years? We are a country that consumes much processed and fast food. The typical American diet consists of high amounts of sugar (an average of 22 teaspoons per day[i]) and many nutrient deficient foods or foods that are just void of any nutrients. We have become a society of convenience and a society of wanting it right now–and our health is paying a big price for this!  Our food is processed and filled with harmful chemicals and preservatives. Is it any wonder why Diabetes is so rampant in this country? In 2012, 29.1 Million people had Diabetes which is 9.3 percent of the population[ii]. That figure has increased since then and continues to grow daily!

constipationThere are a few different ways you can develop leaky gut. For example, if you are chronically constipated, over time the toxins in your stool will irritate the lining of your intestines. This irritation leads to inflammation which will cause the pores in the small intestine to expand. If the irritation and inflammation are allowed to continue for an extended period of time it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or colitis, as well as other auto-immune diseases. So why are so many people constipated? Could it be a lack of proper nutrition, clean water and stress?

The other common cause of leaky gut is an imbalance of the flora inside our gut. We all have good and bad bacteria in our digestive system. When our gut flora is in balance the bad bacteria poses no threat. But when the bad bacteria outweighs the good, irritation and inflammation occur, again, causing the pores of the intestine to open up.  This creates something called dysbiosis which means that the billions of bacteria in our gut, which consists of good and bad bacteria, is out of balance. When we  have too much of the bad bacteria, it literally creates holes in the lining of the walls of the small intestine and creates a leaky gut. What causes dysbiosis? Could it be stress and poor nutrition?

glyphosate-is-toxic-to-humaSomething else that has changed in our diet over the last 20 years is the introduction of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Currently, 80% of the foods in our mainstream grocery stores are genetically modified. Last year (2014), 89% of U.S. corn, 93% of U.S. soy, and 95% of U.S. sugar beets [iii] were genetically modified for tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.  Repeat  spraying of glyphosate tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops builds residues that can carry over into food products.  Some conventional crops are also sprayed with Roundup in low concentrations to control the timing of the harvest. Roundup is used as a desiccant (drying agent) on oats, Non GMO flax, barley, wheat, edible peas, potatoes, cantaloupe, and sugar cane. Glyphosate (RoundUp) is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It is a patented antibiotic[iv] and a mineral chelator. When Glyphosate gets into our gut, it can bind the beneficial minerals that are needed to maintain that healthy gut flora and makes these minerals unavailable. This creates dysbiosis. Through dysbiosis, the bad bacteria creates holes in the lining of the walls of the small intestine and creates a leaky gut.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a gram-positive soil-dwelling bacterium that has been used as an insecticide since the 1920s. When farmers spray their crops with this bacterium or its insecticidal proteins or spores, insects eat it and they die when their intestines explode. Now with the advent of genetically modified crops, it is difficult to avoid this dangerous toxin. This is because biotech giant Monsanto decided to profit from this pesticide by splicing the Bt gene with corn and cotton. Now these plants have Bt toxin genetically inserted in them. It cannot be washed off, and it does not degrade during the growth cycle. This means that when you ingest BT corn, you are consuming an insecticide which is engineered into every cell of this corn. Bt corn is registered with EPA as an insecticide.

In 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67 percent of non-pregnant women. bt cornThe study authors speculate that the Bt-toxin was likely consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class—which makes sense when you consider that genetically engineered corn is present in the vast majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup. They also suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn, which most livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO, or so-called “factory farms”) are. These shocking results raise the frightening possibility that eating Bt corn might actually turn your intestinal flora into a sort of “living pesticide factory”… essentially manufacturing Bt-toxin from within your digestive system on a continuing basis. If this hypothesis is correct, is it then also possible that the Bt-toxin might damage the integrity of your digestive tract in the same way it damages insects? Could this be another contributing factor to leaky gut?

stressStress can be a factor in creating leaky gut. Severe emotional stress or trauma, drug use, especially antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be a contributing factor. Sometimes they are necessary, for a period of time, but overuse or extended use of antacids (for reflux or heartburn), anti-inflammatory drugs (for pain) and/or antibiotics (for infections) is known to cause leaky gut. Antacids cause leaky gut by suppressing digestion of your food, making it more likely that your immune system will be triggered by the food you eat. Once the immune system starts to react, leaky gut is aggravated each time you eat, even if it is food that you would think is good for you.

Gluten causes leaky gut by increasing levels of a protein called zonulin, which opens up the spaces between the intestinal cells, even if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.

brain-fogWhat are some of the symptoms of leaky gut? Brain fog, anxiety, depression, emotional ups and downs, food allergies, hives, rashes, sinus issues, joint pain, food cravings for artificial fats and sugars (alcohol), autoimmune disease, weight gain, bloating, diarrhea, digestion issues, irritability, cramping, fatigue, headaches or thyroid conditions are some of the issues associated with leaky gut.

What can you do for leaky gut? It is recommended by many health practitioners that those with leaky gut eliminate all dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, GMOs, and seeds from your diet for a period of between 2 weeks to 12 weeks or longer, depending upon the severity. There are leaky gut formulas available online or in your health food stores. It’s best to abstain from alcohol which contains sugar. Also, adding a good probiotic to your daily routine can be beneficial. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are wonderful probiotic foods that contain live cultures and they can assist in creating a healthy gut. Bone broth is also very healing for the gut. You can find recipes for bone broth online.

brain and gutAnother issue is that our gut or microbiome, as it is now called, is very much connected to our brain. When we have an unhealthy gut, we cannot get adequate amounts of tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used by the brain and is converted into serotonin.  Serotonin is important because it controls feelings of hunger, depression, anxiety, thirst and sleep. Tryptophan has also been found to be an important nutrient when it comes to immune system functioning.  Serotonin is one of the four main neurotransmitters that are responsible for our mood. If our serotonin levels fall off we may experience anxiety and depression. Doesn’t this make sense that a leaky gut can cause brain fog, mood swings, depression, apathy and many more brain issues? Could it be the key to having a healthy brain is having a healthy gut?

In summary, leaky gut is the root of many health issues. Now that you are familiar with some of the health issues associated with leaky gut, including common syndromes like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, IBS, and multiple food and chemical sensitivities, as well as asthma, anxiety, autoimmunity, diabetes, and arthritis, you can take steps to create a healthier gut which is so important to your well being and your immune system. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor if you have a doctor who is knowledgeable about leaky gut. Most functional medicine doctors fully understand leaky gut syndrome and can assist you if you have a severe case of leaky gut. I always encourage people to be their own health advocate because only you can heal you!  Be well!

Carol Grieve’ is a Certified Life Coach and Wellness Coach, the host of the Food Integrity Now, a speaker and a writer. For more information on health and wellness coaching or speaking engagements, contact Carol at carol@foodintegritynow.org or call 415-302-7100. Phone or Skype sessions are available.

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[i] http://www.sharecare.com/health/carbohydrates/sugar-consume-every-year
[ii] http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/?referrer=https://www.google.com/
[iii] http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx
[iv] http://www.google.com/patents/US7771736

 

About Carol Grieve'

Carol Grieve' is the Founder, CEO and host of Food Integrity Now. She is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, life coach, food educator, speaker, writer, visionary and artist. To find out more about Carol's wellness coaching and public speaking, contact her at carol@foodintegritynow.org or check out www.foodintegritycoaching.com Phone and Skype sessions are available for coaching!

Comments

  1. Dave Kettenhofen says:

    Excellent information! Well written and easy for the layperson to understand.

  2. Great Article! thank you Carol!

  3. Wow! not one mention of #GMO BT #Pesticide in the article — which is the real cause of the leak gut epidemic headed our way. Consider this… 99% of GMOs are either BT or Roundup Ready toxic crops. BT pesticide is now contaminating our aquifers because GMO plants produce so much of it (30 years ago scientists said this was impossible). BT kills insects by causing their GUTS to rot. So on a macro scale on humans it causing the lining to weaken. The relation to sugar is GMO BT Corn that we plant about the size of France in the US. This corn is used to create High Fructose Corn Syrup which is in all our food these days.

    • There are several factors involved in creating leaky gut! I focused on the most prevalent. I understand that BT Corn could also be a factor!

      • Yvonne Forsman says:

        Yes, there are several factors to why we are all getting killed. The major one is the fact that the US produces eighty thousand tons chemicals every year. Where does it all go? It is in our soil, food, water, air. WHO declared Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup/Glyphosate carcinogenic. It is in our urine, in breast milk, it leads not only to cancer but also other diseases, to physical deformations and infertility. Babies are born with 200 toxins in the umbilical cord unless the mothers detoxed 6 months prior to conception. Statistics predicts that in 10 yrs from now 1 in 2 newborn will have autism. If not born with it, a child can get it from vaccines which contain toxic mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde and neurotoxin MSG, all damaging the brain (and yet California politicians signed mandatory vaccinations into law, but the wealthy are of course not affected b/c they don’t have to send their kids to public schools, they can afford to home school or send their kids to private schools where mandatory vaccinations don’t apply). 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women will get a cancer diagnosis during their life time. Big Pharma and the health care industry continue pushing chemo on all cancer patients although it is understood that chemo helps only 3 types of cancer: testicular, lymphoma and melanoma. All other cancers can be successfully healed with medical cannabis which the federal government has patented and is keeping illegal! Brazil which is a great grower and exporter of GMO crops and thus uses a lot of glyphosate has seen their birth rates drop from six children per woman to less than two children per woman. The whole South America is battling glyphosate caused diseases, not wanting that garbage in their countries but politicians are bribed. We all live in a toxic environment and our government doesn’t care, Monsanto is still in business and thriving, while we are dying! The son of VP just died in cancer! Where did he get it? On planet Earth!!! Glyphosate destroys the gut flora, leading to total chaos inside us. Most ppl do NOT understand this and I am not talking about anybody, I mean even ppl who actually work with food! I was in a store recently where I have not been b/f, checking out their organic foods. Their organic beef was not grass finished, their organic chicken was not pasture raised. This means the cows and chickens were fed GMO crops treated with glyphosate which then end up in our bodies, making us sick! And the professional buyers at that grocery chain do not get this! I buy org whole fat milk to make my own kefir, org butter, org coconut oil, org grass raised AND grass finished beef, organic chicken pasture raised, org eggs pasture raised, raw sauerkraut (not heated, not in a can), I cook my own bone broth and chicken broth, I buy org veggies and org fruit and grow some also. I have been gluten/grain free for 2.5 yrs now. I cook from scratch, do not buy industrial food laden with GMO high fructose corn syrup, neurotoxin MSG, preservatives, colors, taste enhancers and God knows what else. The difference between organic strawberries and not organic is that the organic only contain strawberries, while the non organic contain a long list of chemicals nobody can even pronounce!!! I also make my own chocolate, puddings and desserts. I don’t eat fish or other seafood anymore b/c oceans are so polluted with mercury and other metals and on the west coast also with Fukushima radiation. I filter my water and my indoor air. I cook in porcelain and stainless steel pots. I store food in glass jars in the fridge. I buy fluoride free tooth paste. I wish I had an electric car and solar panels on my roof. I also wish it wasn’t illegal to catch rainwater, grow veggies in front yard, feed the homeless and use medical cannabis. You have to have a lot of knowledge today to survive! Lets help each other to spread the TRUTH!!!!! Trusted sources of information are responsibletechnology.org, greenmed.org, mercola.com, drperlmutter.com, Dr Tom O’bryan at theDr.com.

    • Heather says:

      I also was surprised by no mention of Bt in this article. As a person with 2 autoimmune diseases and myriad food sensitivities, I have researched this topic endlessly. In my opinion, although gluten and others aggravate a leaky gut, the actual cause is most likely Bt.

  4. Great work Carol, clear, complete and concise. Well done and important.

  5. Thank you for sharing this information!! It is very specific but also simple to understand. Well done!!

  6. Thank you for sharing this information!!

  7. Karin Ebner says:

    Great article, best one I’ve come across. My question is… what’s bad about legumes, why eliminate them as well? First time I heard about eliminating beans and lentils…

    • Karin, it is recommended by many health practitioners to elimate legumes while you are healing your leaky gut. They contain lectins which can cause digestive problems in your intestines. Not everyone is the same and we all have different dietary needs. Once you complete the leaky gut diet, you can start reintroducing them and see how you feel. I have found, in doing this diet myself, that when you have a healthy gut then you are able to feel or discern what foods are good for you by the way they make you feel.

  8. What precisely is the Leaky gut diet?

  9. The Paleo Diet is very helpful with this problem. I have done my own research because I have this problem… Between the Paleo diet and Gluten Free diet, basically it is clean eating… Only fresh fruits and vegetables, no dairy, only grass fed animals, corn fed chickens and fish. In other words a CAVE MAN diet, Don’t eat anything processed or wheat, flour so much is involved. It’s really a learning process. Besides having Hyperthyroidism and other auto immune diseases this is a good start. It is not easy and only gets worse without treatment. Good Luck to all who need to manage this, but it can be done! God Bless You!

  10. Carol, thank you for taking the time to write a very comprehensive article. We all know that the environment we live is ever changing and it interacts with ever changing human body which has “one in the world” type of genetics. As you pointed out, the subject matter is evolving and clinicians in Functional medicine are gradually getting more effective at addressing the medical conditions. Thank you again for the comprehensive article…………… 🙂

  11. Yvonne Forsman says:

    Re gluten, which contributes greatly to leaky gut and other health problems, the industrial gluten free products are not gluten free! They are free from wheat gluten but contain other gluten proteins in the flours they are made of, such as rice etc. Here is an impressively long (200?) list of gluten related health problems, listed in Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN, book “Recognizing Celiac Disease”. Although celiac disease has symptoms in the gut, gluten sensitivity can manifest health problems anywhere in the body, including brain. According to Dr Alessio Fasano, MD, no human can digest gluten, and never has, ever. I remember reading an article about a 5.300 yr old mummy which our modern day scientists diagnosed with atherosclerosis, caused by gluten. Our agrarian society is only 10.000 yrs old. B/f then, humans did not consume gluten. Humanity is 200.000 yrs old. Imagine we survived w/o grains for that long but now ppl say they can’t live w/o pizza and doughnuts. Haha. Let’s change our perspective!
    http://www.recognizingceliacdisease.com/21.html

  12. Thank you for the article. A few mentioned BT. What exactly is BT?

    • BT is bacillus thuringiensis. BT Corn is corn is engineered with its own insecticide so that every cell of the corn has BT in it. When worms eat the corn it explodes their stomachs and they die. Can you imagine what it does to our gut? BT Corn is registered with the EPA as an insecticide!

  13. Good article. Actually i think it s all about 2 things:1.Gluten danger 2.Lyme.
    REALLY !!!!!!
    Of course No milk.sugar. etc
    NO vaccinations of course.Never.Any.
    Include the work from Dr Hamer
    Go to specialists like dr Klinghardt
    Protect for Wifi etc

  14. Beware of increasing serotonin too much if certain gene SNPs are there, such as MAO A. Can cause serotonin storms and at a lower level of issues, more anxiety etc. Same reasons as why SSRI are not recommended for MAO A people.

  15. Ernestine Guzman says:

    Very informative material. Thank- you. I dont havve. Celiac disease hiwever I was told that I am celiac sensitive. Ha! After reading this, who isn’t. I was diagnoised with Fibromyslgia and I am hypothyroid. I suffer from all the above and I have barrets esophagus. Heidle hernia and a small divert. I drink kambucha. What is your opioion on this. What about chia seeds? I am beginning to drink juiced wheat grass and I’m taking pill form enzines and zinc, and began s daily probiotic. Digestion is a big issue for me at this time.

  16. I have hypothyroidism and had a host of other conditions related to LGS, spent thousands of dollars on supplements, diets, medications, nutritionist therapies and personal trainers, doctors, and none of those addressed LGS. They said, I had hormone issues, and insulin resistance, and inflammation, and gluten sensitivity, and infections, but literally not ONE PERSON put it together as intestinal permeability for over 10 years. Not only is it an epidemic, it’s an insidious one that even doctors are unaware of. I am so glad that I found Plexus, it was the only thing that brought it all together for me and healed my body without me restricting everything out of my diet. I was GF for 3 years, back when there wasn’t anything GF in the grocery store and found that to be a highly impractical way to live. Yes, I did feel better, but I would get inadvertently “glutened” all the time. It hides in so many things you would never think it is in and getting glutened was the worst! Now, I limit gluten, eat only non GMO’s, try to buy organic if possible, only use healthy oils in my cooking like olive, coconut and grapeseed. Use only natural forms of sugar like stevia, organic cane or agave. And don’t go out to dinner or purchase fast food often. And I didn’t see anything about the detox symptoms of going through a diet as stringent as the one described either. It’s not unusual to have extreme emotional responses to a diet like that, weight gain due to bloating, migraines, flu like symptoms. If you follow this type of plan be prepared, drink a lot of water and add something to cleanse your digestive system. Remember, your whole body becomes “toxic” while you “detox.” And it doesn’t end. You don’t get rid of hostile organisms in your gut, you abate them. God designed you to have them, they are there for a reason but our diets and all the other things listed in the article put us out of balance. LGS isn’s something like a headache you just take a pill for, it’s something you must continually address. That is why a crazy diet is not likely to succeed. Who could live like that long term in our society? You’ve got to go to dinner with your parents from time to time. I personally prefer to do it easily while healing my body gently! #BePlexus

  17. Pamela Dillon says:

    Heather is correct. Bt is the main cause of leaky gut. It is designed to punch holes in an insects intestines to paralyze them. For humans it moves about the body living off our oxygen, iron, protein and glucose. It cannot be stopped. It multiplies in the body. It crosses the blood brain barrier where it punches holes in the brain, causing prions to unfold improperly. I believe it is causing Alzheimer’s disease.

  18. can this cause lymph node swelling in groin and above/ Was undiagnosed coeliac for years. now got leaky gut symptoms.

  19. I love this article. Thank you Carol. Being a ambassador with Plexus Worldwide which focuses on helping balance sugar levels, cholesterol, and lipid levels has help me to rid my body my leaky gut and get my body back on track. Thanks again for this article.

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