Home' Nova West : November 2009 Contents FOR THE uninitiated, a diagnosis of Leaky
Gut Syndrome may sound like more of
an embarrassing personal problem than
the chronic inflammatory disorder that it
actually is, complete with a wide ranging
variety of severe health consequences if it
is not fixed. Leaky Gut Syndrome actually
refers to the increase in permeability seen
in an inflamed and damaged bowel wall,
which allows the transfer of unwanted
molecules into the circulation system,
triggering numerous toxic and immune-
based challenges to the health of the
This is the primary problem with
Leaky Gut Syndrome, the fact that the
circulation, and thus the whole body, is
exposed to endotoxins. These complex
protein-free molecules, otherwise known
as Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), are made
up primarily of a combination of fats
(lipids) and long chains of sugar molecules
(polysaccharides). Released from gram-
negative bacterial cell walls when they break
down, LPS absorbed through the gut wall
and into the circulatory system in even a
small amount can induce both a localised
and systemic chronic inflammatory state.
This can then lead to fatigue, depression,
asthma, allergies, eczema, headaches,
autoimmune disorders, liver disease,
hypertension, Type 1 Diabetes and much
more. Extreme cases can even progress to
induce septic shock.
Another type of molecule that can pass
fairly freely into the circulation when the
selectively permeable gut lining becomes
less selective is antigens. Antigens are
basically small protein containing molecules
or bacterial organisms which can induce
immunological responses to themselves.
These antigenic-induced reactions
can be variously described as being
autoimmune, allergic, infective or just plain
inflammatory, arising as the immune system
attempts to clear the unwanted or foreign
Leaky Gut Syndrome can disrupt
nutrient absorption due to the structural
defects which develop in the inflamed or
damaged mucosal cells lining the small
intestines. Subsequent deficiencies further
complicate the body's ability to manage
The digestive lining, when in a state
of ideal health, is a selectively permeable
membrane which absorbs nutrients that
the body requires from the bowel content,
leaving behind the undesirable wastes and
toxins. Increased permeability in the gut
lining can develop as a result of several
unrelated triggers, including exposure to
excessive levels of alcohol, stress, nutritional
deficiencies, coeliac disease, various
medications, and infectious agents within
the bowel such as parasitic, viral, bacterial
or yeast overgrowths. Exactly what level of
exposure to these that's deemed "excessive"
can vary greatly between individuals.
Over consumption of alcohol is a
common trigger for Leaky Gut Syndrome,
with endotoxins being allowed to leak
into the circulation and pass directly to
the body's filter, the liver, for deactivation
Unfortunately, this deactivation
process also triggers the release of the
inflammation-inducing molecule, Nuclear
factor kappa B (NFkB), which directs genetic
expression of inflammatory pathways
within the body's cells, starting within
the gut and the liver. Recent research has
shown that suppressing the upregulated
inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase (iNOS)
enzyme in the gut lining will prevent the
damaging inflammatory cascade produced
in the liver from alcohol-induced leaky gut.
While there is a genetic link to the
development of autoimmune diseases, a
review published this year in the Annals of
the New York Academy of Sciences noted
that fewer than 10% of those individuals with
a genetic tendency towards autoimmune
disease will progress to the actual illness.
Environmental factors are often
needed as the trigger to induce the genetic
expression needed to develop full-blown
autoimmune diseases. The role of a leaky gut
in the development of such illnesses is now
acknowledged, and with such knowledge
comes the possibility of better management
or even disease reversal through the
removal of the initial initiating factor, that is,
the leaky gut and the absorbed toxic agents.
Other recent research such as that
published last year in Neuroendocrinology
Letters, has found a link between Leaky Gut
Syndrome and lipopolysaccharide-induced
immune activation and chronic fatigue
syndrome, with subsequent improvements
achieved through the use of natural
antiinflammatory and antioxidant agents,
combined with diet therapy.
Stress seems to be able to trigger, worsen
or increase the likelihood of developing
most health complaints and Leaky Gut
Syndrome appears to be no exception.
Several researchers have shown that rodents
housed in often noisy laboratories, or with
inadequate bedding, or in cages without
toys to distract them, are prone to develop
chronic inflammation and leaky gut linings.
Further papers published in
Neuroendocrinology Letters have focused
on the causative role that inflammation
from leaky gut plays in major depressive
disorders. Interestingly, antidepressant
medications exert antiinflammatory actions
on the body.
So, leaky gut can cause depression and
stress, which can induce a leaky gut.
This point strongly emphasises the
importance of a holistic approach to health
and wellbeing and why Naturopathic
intervention so often starts with repairing
Good Health, Jeremy Hill.
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy)
is a Qualified Naturopath
The Enemy Within
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