Leaky Gut Wall
The gut has many functions:
- it digests food
- absorbs small food particles to be converted into energy
- vitamins and minerals attached to carrier proteins are taken across the gut lining into the blood stream
- helps to detoxify the body
- contains antibodies that act as the first line of defence against infections
The lining of your small intestine is like a sieve that, when working well, allows small particles of food such as amino acids, carbohydrates and essential fatty acids to pass through to your blood stream and on to other cells in the body, but it blocks other larger food molecules and toxins or bacteria that might cause harm. However if the lining is damaged it becomes a colander rather than a sieve and allows larger food molecules, toxins and bacteria to get through, triggering the production of antibodies that can lead to allergies and alter the bacterial composition of the gut allowing the overgrowth of fungal yeasts. The other things that can cause a ‘leaky gut’ are chemotherapy, radiotherapy, alcohol abuse, amalgam fillings, recreational drugs and prescribed drugs such as non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAID), and steroids.
A ‘leaky gut’ does not absorb food and nutrients properly and therefore fatigue and bloating occurs. If you are suffering from periodic hives or dermatitis, acne or psoriasis, a thrush type infection, joint problems or IBS you could have a ‘leaky gut’.
How can you diagnose this?
You can take the ‘lactulose/mannitol challenge test, a urine test. Neither of these sugars are metabolised in a healthy gut and so should be excreted in the urine after 6 hours. If more sugar than normal is taken up then you have got a gut that leaks.
What to do next:
Make sure you chew your food well because it releases epidermal growth factore (EGF), a polypeptide that stimulates the growth and repair of the walls of the small intestine.
Don’t overdo the insoluble fibre such as whole wheat, whole grains and wheat bran as they can increase gut permeability.
Take supplements to help heal the gut wall such as:
- Probiotics or ‘good bacteria’ have long been shown to improve gut permeability, and there are lots of different strains. Choose lactobachilli, bifidobacteria, or sacchoromyces boulardi a gut friendly yeast originally isolated from the skins of lychee fruits and used to help bouts of diarrhoea and colitis.
- L-Glutamine, is an amino acid essential for a sound gut wall, and good at repairing the mucosal lining, especially when damaged by chemotherapy and radiation.
- Fish oils can protect the body against toxins produced in the gut and act as an anti inflammatory. Fish oils are also good to prevent injury to the gut wall caused by the drug methotrexate.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine and a powerful supplement. It is a potent antioxidant and helps to detoxify toxins produced by intestinal yeast/bacterial overgrowth. It also stimulates immune function in the gut lining, increasing white blood cell numbers. Another benefit is that NAC enhances liver function through the production of glutathione, the body’s main detoxifying chemical. This helps heal the gut as the liver can cope better with toxins, and fewer will spill into the bile to irritate the lining of the small intestine.
- N-Acetyl-Glucosamine (NAG) is an ‘amino-sugar’, a combination of an amino acid and glucose. NAG is essential for the secretion of the mucus that creates a protective lining on top of the cells of the gut.
- Vitamin A is important for the growth and repair of cells that line both the small and large intestine.
- B vitamins and vitamin C, E, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and molybdenum are all important for the integrity of the gut wall.
- Antioxidants such as flavonoids, pycnogenols and proteolytic enzymes can help to block allergic reactions that increase gut permeability and also to prevent oxidative stress that causes inflammation within the gut.